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Court Orders Buhari’s Minister To Account For N729bn Payment To Poor Nigerians

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The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development, Sadia Umar-Farouk, to account for payments of N729bn to 24.3 million poor Nigerians for six months.

The court also ordered the former minister to provide the list and details of the beneficiaries who received the payments, the number of states covered and the payments per state.

The judgment was delivered last month by Hon. Justice Deinde Isaac Dipeolu following a Freedom of Information suit number: FHC/L/CS/853/2021, brought by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).

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This was disclosed in a statement by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, who noted that the certified true copy of the judgment was obtained last Friday.

He stated that in his judgment, Justice Dipeolu held that, “The former minister is compelled by the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act to give information to any person including SERAP. I therefore grant an order of mandamus directing and compelling the minister to provide the spending details of N729 billion to 24.3 million poor Nigerians in 2021.”

Justice Dipeolu ordered the minister to “provide SERAP with details of how the beneficiaries have been selected and the mechanisms for the payments to the beneficiaries.”

The judge also ordered the minister to “explain the rationale for paying N5,000 to 24.3 million poor Nigerians, which translates to five percent of Nigeria’s budget of N13.6 trillion for 2021.”

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Justice Dipeolu also stated that, “The minister did not give any reason for the refusal to disclose the details sought by SERAP. 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 dismissed the objections raised by the minister’s counsel and upheld SERAP’s arguments. Consequently, the court entered judgment in favour of SERAP against the minister.

Justice Dipeolu’s judgment, dated 27 June, 2024, read in part: “where a statute clearly provides for a particular act to be done or performed in a particular way, failure to perform the act as provided will not only be interpreted as a delinquent conduct but will be interpreted as not complying with the statutory provision.”

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“The minister filed a preliminary objection to this suit dated the 4th of October 2022 and a counter-affidavit to SERAP’s motion on notice. I will first deal with the minister’s preliminary objection because it bothers on the jurisdiction of this Court to entertain this suit.”

“The grounds upon which the preliminary objection was filed are: whether this suit is not incompetent having not been commenced within 30 days after SERAP’s request for information was deemed to have been denied.”

“Having not complied with the provision of section 20 of the Freedom of Information, whether this Court can assume jurisdiction to entertain SERAP’s application.”

“As arguments on both issues, the minister’s counsel submitted that by the provision of section 4,7(4) and 20 of the Freedom of Information Act, subject to lawful exceptions within the Act, a public institution has 7 days to grant a request for information, failure of which would be deemed denial.”

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“SERAP’s request was deemed denied on 6th July, which is the expiration of 7 days. Therefore, SERAP has 30 days pursuant to section 20 of the Act to apply to this Court.”

“SERAP’s 30 days within which to bring this suit expired on 5th of August 2021, whilst the motion on notice was filed on the 9th of November 2021, outside the 30 days stipulated by the Act. Consequently, this suit is statute barred.”

“In response, SERAP’s counsel argued that this suit was not commenced via the motion of notice dated 8th November 2021. This suit was initiated by a motion exparte dated 13th July 2021 but filed on the 15th of July 2021, after the expiration of the 7 days period required of the minister to respond to the FOI request by SERAP.”

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“This is in compliance with section 20 of the Freedom of Information Act and Order 34 Rule 3(1) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019.”

“The above are the submissions of counsel as regards the preliminary objection by the minister. I agree with SERAP’s counsel that the minister did not carry out a proper search of the casefile before filing the preliminary objection.”

“It is obvious that SERAP commenced this suit via a motion exparte dated 13th of July 2021 but filed 15th of July 2021, which is well within the time to file this action after the denial of the information requested from the minister.”

“SERAP complied with section 20 of the Freedom of Information Act in filing this suit. Therefore, this suit is not statute barred and I dismiss the minister’s preliminary objection. I so hold.”

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SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said: “This ground-breaking judgment is a victory for transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds.”

“Justice Dipeolu’s judgment shows the urgent need for the Tinubu government to genuinely address the systemic allegations of corruption in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development and other ministries, departments and agencies, as documented by the Auditor-General of the Federation.”

“We commend Justice Dipeolu for her courage and wisdom, and urge President Bola Tinubu to immediately obey the court orders.”

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Femi Falana, SAN said on the judgment: “SERAP deserves the commendation of all well-meaning people that have agonised over reports of systemic corruption in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development and in other MDAs.”

“This is one of the most patriotic public interest litigation ever undertaken in Nigeria. We call on the Tinubu government to use the judgment as the basis for comprehensively addressing cases of corruption in the ministry and bringing to justice those suspected to be responsible as well as recovering proceeds of corruption.”

In the letter dated 6 July 2024 sent to President Bola Tinubu on the judgment, and signed by SERAP deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said, “We urge you to demonstrate your expressed commitment to the rule of law by immediately obeying and respecting the judgment of the Court.”

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SERAP’s letter, read in part: “We urge you to direct the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters 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 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.”

“By immediately complying with the judgment, your government will be demonstrating to Nigerians that it is different from the Buhari government, which persistently and brazenly defied the country’s judiciary, and sending a powerful message to politicians and others that there will be no impunity for grand corruption.”

“Immediately implementing the judgment will restore trust and confidence in the independence of Nigeria’s judiciary. SERAP urges you to make a clean break with the past and take clear and decisive steps that demonstrate your commitment to the rule of law, transparency and accountability in the governance processes.”

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“SERAP trusts that you will see compliance with this judgment as a central aspect of the rule of law; an essential stepping stone to constructing a basic institutional framework for legality and constitutionality. We therefore look forward to your positive response and action on the judgment.”

The suit was filed against the former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development. The suit followed the minister’s decision in January 2021 to “pay about 24.3 million poor Nigerians N5,000 each for a period of six months to provide help to those impoverished by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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JUST IN: Heavy Gunshots Erupt At Benin Airport As Shaibu Arrives

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There were heavy gunshots at Benin Airport today, Thursday 18, 2024 as political thugs took over the place.

It was the occasion of the arrival of the reinstated Edo State Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu in Benin, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship candidate, Senator Monday Okpebholo.

The duo were leaving the Airport on arrival when the shooting occurred.

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The gunmen had stationed themselves at the exit gate of the Airport in a Sienna vehicle and opened fire targeted at Shaibu and Okpebholo’s convoys.

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Shaibu was said to have arrived at the Airport alongside the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the September 21st election.

The gun fire targeted at Okpebholo and Shaibu resulted a reprisal gunshot by armed security details attached to the APC candidate and Deputy governor Phillip Shaibu.

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Some unidentified persons were seriously injured, one person was feared dead.

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The shots, audible inside the Airport Arrival Hall and along Airport Road, near the Miracle Centre of the Church of God Mission, caused widespread panic.

Businesses closed, and drivers abandoned their vehicles in a rush to escape.

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It took the intervention of the Mobile Squad of the Nigeria Police to bring the situation under control.

Meanwhile, several officers continued shooting to disperse the said attackers as they fled in a Toyota Sienna bus.

The shooting occurred just one day after a Federal Court ordered the Inspector General of Police to restore the security detail of Philip Shaibu as Deputy Governor of Edo State, following the nullification of his impeachment.

 

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BREAKING: NASU, SSANU Protest Four-month Withheld Salaries

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The Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU) have commenced a one day nationwide protest over their four-month withheld salaries.

Their protest has led to disruption in administrative work in universities and inter – university Centres.

As early as 7:30am, the union members converged on the popular Unity Fountain, Abuja from where they would march on the Federal Ministries of Education and Labour and Employment.

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General Secretary of NASU, Peters Adeyemi said letters would be presented to both ministries.

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The workers are asking the Federal Government to pay “us what you owe us.”

The unions said meetings with the government over the withheld salaries have not yielded positive results.

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Former Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen Chris Ngige invoked the ‘No work, no pay’ policy when the four university based unions embarked on a prolonged strike in 2022.

READ ALSO: BREAKING: Protest Rocks University Of Ibadan Over Fee Hike

Salaries of members of the university-based unions who participated in the strike were withheld by the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari.

But President Bola Tinubu in October 2023 granted amnesty to the university workers and directed that four months of the withheld salaries be paid to them.

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Details Shortly…

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APC Destroyed Nigerian Economy, All Institutions Built For 16 Years – PDP Governors

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Governor elected on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party, PPD, have accused the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, of running down the nation’s economy and inflicting untold hardship on Nigerians.

The governors, under the umbrella body of PDP Governors, expressed dismay and grave concern over what they called “unprecedented hardship faced by the majority of Nigerians as a result of the dismal performance of the APC-led federal government”.

They frowned at the long delay in the minimum wage negotiations.

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Rising from a meeting hosted by Enugu State Governor, Peter Mbah, the governors welcomed the autonomy granted Local Government Councils, and said that they believe in the efficacy of the Local Government system which ensures that governance is taken closer to the people as enshrined in the constitution.

The Forum also frowned at what it called the destruction of good institutions and developments put in place by the party when it was in power at the federal level by the ruling APC.

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The Forum expressed strong support for the Governor of Rivers State in his political battle and said that a political solution that would bring peace to the state would be initiated.

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A communique from the meeting read by the Forum’s Chairman, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State said:
“The meeting deliberated on a wide range of issues bordering on critical national interest. The unprecedented hardship faced by the majority of Nigerians as a result of the dismal performance of the APC led federal government, the minimum wage negotiations and the recurring issue of intergovernmental relations with special reference to local government autonomy and funding.

Following an exhaustive discussion and consultations with all the organs of the party as you can see here, the national Working committee of the party.

Upcoming congresses

“In the spirit of the founding fathers of our great party who adopted internal democracy as a fundamental principle on which our party was built, the congresses leading to the elections of the party leaders at the various tiers must be all-inclusive, transparent, fair and in compliance with the constitution of our party. To ensure the successful conduct of the congresses of the 36 states of the federation and the federal capital territory”.

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Off-season election.

“Of the off-season elections in Edo and Ondo, the Forum admonishes all parties in the election to ensure that campaigns are issue-based, violence-free and in strict compliance with the provision of the electoral act. The forum urges the Independent Electoral Commission INEC to provide a level playing field that guarantees transparent, fair and peaceful elections as any act of bias will be resisted. The forum urges the president to show leadership as a true democrat by refraining from making any statement suggesting political interference in the entire process”.

The economy

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“The Forum notes with dismay and grave concern the mismanagement of the economy by the APC led federal government”.

The Minimum wage

“The Minimum wage negotiations are becoming unduly protracted in the face of the attendant unprecedented hardship and impoverishment of the people. The forum resolves as follows: The Labour’s demand for a substantial salary raise is eminently justified and therefore commands total support of the forum. While the forum supports Labour’s demand, agreement must take into consideration the ability to pay by the sub-nationals, the federal government and the third tier of government.

“While negotiations are ongoing, we appeal for restraint in both utterances and actions that could lead to a complete breakdown of law and order and ultimately the collapse of the economy”.

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Supreme court ruling on LG autonomy

“The forum believes in the efficacy of the local government system which ensures that governance comes closer to the people as provided in the constitution. The forum will also support the autonomy of the local government as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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Restoring the Nation’s Past Glory

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“The forum regrets that the 16 years of the tremendous development of the PDP-led federal government during which the country with single-digit inflation, the establishment of the existing anti-corruption institutions and higher standard of living by the majority of Nigerians has been eroded during the lifespan of the lacklustre APC led federal government.

“The forum identifies with the Nigerian populace in these troubling times and promises to bring back those good old days of low inflation rates, affordable food, fuel and transportation, steady FDI influx resulting in high Naira value and great quality of human life that was recorded.

“In that regard, the meeting commended the Governors of the PDP-controlled states for their innovative approach to governance in many fields, especially infrastructure, education, health, women and youth initiatives and the timely delivery of developmental projects across the country.

“The forum notes the crisis in Rivers State of the party and commits to supporting the governor of Rivers State and also resolved that the issue could be done through the political solution that will be required and other measures that all the leaders of the organs of the party will be committed so that we can go together and resolve this issue with minimal friction, division or rancour.

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“The forum therefore calls on all Nigerians to refrain from any anarchy as we all march towards the return of the PDP to power in 2027”.

Earlier the chairman of the Forum described the meeting as “an extraordinary meeting of the PDP Governors Forum and some of our major stakeholders, including our National Working Committee and various organs of the party. This meeting is very unique and auspicious because we are here to showcase our history as a party. We have been leading in this country as a party. We have all the structures established before the commencement of the APC administration”.

The governors in attendance were Siminalayi Fubara of Rivers State, Seyi Makinde of Oyo, Umo Eno of Akwa-Ibom, Sheriff Oborevwori of Delta, Godwin Obaseki of Edo, Caleb Mutfwang of Plateau, Agbu Kefas of Taraba, Dauda Lawal of Zamfara, and Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa, Douye Diri of Bayelsa, and the host governor, Peter Mbah.

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Also in attendance were the Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Senator Adolphus Wabara and the Acting National Chairman of the party, represented by the Deputy National Chairman, South, Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja, former governor of Kaduna State and former Acting National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, and former governor of Niger State, Dr Babangida Aliyu.

 

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