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Court Orders Okowa To Account For Over N200bn Education Funds, Allocations

Gov Okowa

The immediate past governor of Delta state, Ifeanyi Okowa has been ordered by the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to give an account of over N200bn public funds collected by his administration from the Universal Basic Education Commission [UBEC] fund and allocations from the Federation Accounts.

The court ordered the Delta governor, 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.

In the letter dated 29 July 2023 sent to Oborevwori on the judgment and signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) said the judgment was delivered by Honourable Justice Daniel Osiagor, following a Freedom of Information suit number: FHC/L/CS/803/2019,

In his judgment, Justice Osiagor held that SERAP has the 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.

Justice Osiagor also stated that “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.”

Justice 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.

SERAP’s suit followed the case of seven-year-old Success Adegor, who was sent home because her parents could not pay the illegal school fee/levy of N900 and the poor quality of her Okotie-Eboh Primary School 1.

Justice Osiagor ordered the government to disclose details of the primary schools that have benefited from the projects carried out on access to free and quality primary education in Delta State and information on indirect costs, including uniforms, exercise books, and transport costs to students and their parents.

Justice Osiagor also ordered the government to disclose specific details of the steps Delta State Government is taking to improve the overall welfare of children in primary schools across Delta State, including details of the government’s fee-free programme, if any, across primary schools in Delta State.

Justice Osiagor dismissed all the objections raised by the Delta State government, Universal Basic Education Commission [UBEC] and the Delta State Universal Basic Education Board and upheld SERAP’s arguments. Consequently, the court entered judgment in favour of SERAP against the three respondents.

SERAP’s letter read in part: “We note your stated commitment in your inaugural speech ‘to deliver good governance to our people.’ We, therefore, urge you to obey and respect the judgment of the Court immediately.”

“We urge you to invite the former State governor Ifeanyi Okowa and to direct the Delta State Universal Basic Education Board to explain the spending of the education funds and to immediately compile and disclose the spending details of the funds as ordered by the court.”

“By immediately complying with the judgment, your government will be sending a powerful message to politicians and others that they will be held to account even when out of office.”