Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the Delta State Government to disclose details of how over N200billion in education funds was spent under the administration of immediate past governor Ifeanyi Okowa.
The funds were collected by Okowa’s government from the Universal Basic Education Commission between 2015 and 2019.
On July 17, presiding judge, Justice Daniel Osiagor, delivered the ruling, following a freedom of information (FIO) suit marked FHC/L/CS/803/2019 filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project.
SERAP had asked Okowa’s government in 2019 to account for the spending of the UBEC funds but his administration declined at the time.
The anti-corruption group subsequently filed an FIO lawsuit, among other things, seeking to compel the Delta government to “explain the disparity between budgetary allocations to primary education and the reality that several of the 1,124 primary schools across the state are in shambles, and with very poor teaching facilities”.
In the judgement, the court ordered the Governor of Delta State, Sheriff Oborevwori, to “disclose details of budgetary allocations and actual spending by the Okowa government between 2015 and 2019, including specific projects carried out to improve primary education in Delta state, and the locations of such projects.”
The judge held that SERAP has a “cognizable legal right to inquire and know the way and manner public institutions manage public funds.
“I must say that every citizen has a duty to demand transparency and accountability in the governance of public institutions.
“Why should a request for details of disbursement and spending of public funds between 2015-2019 by Delta State be a cause of litigation for four years? Public officials are fast developing a state of anomie and cold feet when confronted with requests for audit reports of public duties and budgets.”
Osiagor ordered the Delta State Government to “disclose how the Okowa government spent over N7.28 billion, received from UBEC between 2015 and 2017, and N213 billion received from the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) in 2018, at an average of N17.8 billion monthly”.
The state government is also to disclose “details of the primary schools that have benefited from the projects carried out on access to free and quality primary education”, including information on indirect costs, uniforms, exercise books, and transport costs to students and their parents.
The court further ordered the government to disclose steps taken by the state government to improve the overall welfare of children in primary schools, “including details of the government’s fee-free programme, if any, across primary schools in Delta state”.
In upholding SERAP’s suit, the judge dismissed all the objections raised by the respondents — the Delta State Government, Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and the Delta State Universal Basic Education Board.