Provide N535.8m School Feeding Details, Court Orders Minister

A Federal High Court in Abuja has directed the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Dr Betta Edu, to disclose how the ministry spent N535.8 million on feeding schoolchildren during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Justice Nkeonye Maha gave the order on October 30 in a suit filed by a civil society group, the Incorporated Trustees of Kingdom Human Rights Foundation International, which sought information on the school feeding programme under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011.

The judge held that the minister and the ministry violated the FOI Act by failing to respond to the group’s letter dated August 6, 2020 or give reasons for the refusal. She ordered them to provide the information requested by the group within 21 days.

The group had alleged that the school feeding programme was a scam and a cover-up to embezzle public funds. It claimed that its independent investigation and information revealed that the programme was not implemented as claimed by the minister.

The group sued the minister, the ministry and the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 as the first, second and third defendants respectively. It also joined the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and the Independent Corrupt Practice and other related offences Commission (ICPC) as the fourth and fifth defendants.

However, the judge struck out the names of the third, fourth and fifth defendants from the suit, saying that the group did not show any cause of action against them.