The Federal High Court in Abuja has issued an order demanding that Dr. Betta Edu, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, disclose the details of the utilization of ₦535.8 million allocated for the feeding of school children during the COVID-19 lockdown.
This order follows a judgment by Justice Nkeonye Maha, who directed the minister and the ministry to provide a civil society group with specific information under Section 25(1) of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011.
Justice Maha ruled that the minister’s failure to respond to the group’s inquiry and the lack of explanation for refusing to comply with the FOI Act violated the provisions of Section 4(a) and (b) of the act.
In her verdict, she mandated the minister and the ministry to furnish the plaintiff with the requested information outlined in Reliefs 3(a), (b), (c), and (d) within 21 days of receiving the court’s orders.
However, she declined to grant “Reliefs 3(e), (f), and (g) of the plaintiff.”
The lawsuit, initiated by the Incorporated Trustees of Kingdom Human Rights Foundation International, stemmed from the alleged non-response by the then Minister, Hajia Sadiya Umar-Farouq, and her ministry to the information sought.
The group claimed that their investigation suggested the school feeding program during the COVID-19 lockdown was a scam and an attempt to misappropriate public funds, contradicting the minister’s statements.
The court also dismissed the names of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) from the suit, as the plaintiff failed to establish a cause of action against them.
Justice Maha’s decision, delivered on October 30, emphasized that while certain requests were granted, there was a lack of evidence on how the allocated funds were distributed, stating that the defendants failed to prove the disbursement of ₦535,873,800 to the beneficiaries.
The judge highlighted that the defendants’ statements lacked supporting evidence, and the court does not act on speculation but on material evidence presented.