Court Orders Former Minister Sadia Umar-Farouk to Account for N729 Billion Payments to Millions of Poor Nigerians

In a landmark ruling, a Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered Ms. Sadia Umar-Farouk, the former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, to provide a comprehensive account of N729 billion disbursed to 24.3 million poor Nigerians over six months. The court also mandated the former minister to furnish details of the beneficiaries, including their states and individual payments.

Former Minister Sadia Umar-Farouk

The judgment, delivered by Hon. Justice Deinde Isaac Dipeolu, was in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) suit filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP). The court’s decision underscores the imperative of transparency and accountability in the management of public funds, particularly those earmarked for socs.

Details of the Court’s Ruling

Justice Dipeolu, in his ruling, emphasized the obligations imposed by the FOI Act on public officials to provide requested information. “The former minister is compelled by the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act to give information to any person including SERAP,” he stated. The judge granted an order of mandamus directing the former minister to disclose the specifics of the N729 billion expenditure.

The court’s directive includes providing SERAP with the list of beneficiaries, the selection criteria, and the mechanisms used for the disbursement of funds. Additionally, the former minister is required to justify the rationale behind allocating N5,000 to each of the 24.3 million beneficiaries, a figure that constitutes five per cent of Nigeria’s 2021 budget of N13.6 trillion.

Justice Dipeolu noted the former minister's failure to justify her refusal to disclose the requested details. “SERAP has reeled out the relevant sections of the Freedom of Information Act 2011 that the minister contravened and has in line with sections 20 and 25(1) of the Act prayed this Court for an order of mandamus to direct and compel the minister to provide the information sought,” the judge remarked.

The Case Against the Minister

The court’s judgment dated June 27, 2024, also addressed and dismissed the preliminary objections raised by the minister’s counsel. The objections centred on the timeliness and jurisdiction of SERAP’s suit. The minister argued that SERAP’s application was statute-barred, having been filed beyond the 30-day window stipulated by the FOI Act for requesting judicial review following a deemed denial of information.

However, SERAP’s counsel countered this argument, explaining that the suit was initiated via a motion ex parte dated July 13, 2021, and filed on July 15, 2021, within the permissible period after the expiration of the seven-day response window required by the FOI Act. Justice Dipeolu upheld SERAP’s position, confirming that the suit was filed in compliance with the FOI Act and was therefore not statute-barred.

Reactions to the Judgment

The judgment has been widely hailed as a significant victory for transparency and accountability in Nigeria. Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP’s deputy director, described the ruling as “a victory for transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds.” He urged the government to comply with the court’s order promptly.

Renowned human rights lawyer Femi Falana, SAN, commended SERAP for its diligence in pursuing the case. “SERAP deserves the commendation of all well-meaning people that have agonised over reports of systemic corruption in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, and in other MDAs,” Falana said. He called on the Tinubu administration to use the judgment as a foundation for addressing corruption comprehensively within the ministry and other government departments.

Implications for the Tinubu Administration

Following the court’s ruling, SERAP sent a letter to President Bola Tinubu, urging his administration to respect and implement the judgment. The letter, signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, emphasized the need for immediate action. “We urge you to direct the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation to immediately compile and release the spending details of the N729 billion as ordered by the court,” the letter read.

SERAP highlighted that the enforcement of the judgment would demonstrate the administration’s commitment to the rule of law and accountability. “The immediate enforcement and implementation of the judgment by your government will be a victory for the rule of law, transparency, and accountability in the governance processes and management of public resources including the N729 billion,” the organization stated.

Background of the Case

The case stems from the disbursement of N729 billion as part of the Nigerian government’s social welfare program aimed at alleviating poverty. The program, overseen by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, purportedly distributed funds to millions of poor Nigerians. However, questions arose regarding the transparency and effectiveness of the program, prompting SERAP to seek detailed information under the FOI Act.

The former minister’s reluctance to disclose the requested information led SERAP to file a suit in the Federal High Court. The case underscores the critical role of civil society organizations in holding government officials accountable and ensuring that public funds are used for their intended purposes.


The Federal High Court’s ruling represents a pivotal moment in the ongoing efforts to promote transparency and accountability in Nigeria. By ordering the former minister to account for the N729 billion payments, the court has reinforced the importance of adhering to the provisions of the FOI Act and the principles of good governance.

As the Tinubu administration considers its next steps, the judgment offers an opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to transparency and the rule of law. By complying with the court’s order, the government can set a precedent for accountability and ensure that public resources are managed effectively for the benefit of all Nigerians. #TrendingNews #Bulletin1247

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