President Tinubu orders N2tn poverty relief funds probe, as Edu faces EFCC today
By Faith Awa Maji
President Bola Tinubu has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to launch a full-blown investigation into the finances of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.
Tinubu handed down the directive in a statement on Monday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, who also announced the suspension of the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu, over her involvement in the N585m scandal in the Ministry.
According to the statement “President Tinubu suspends Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation from office”.
Edu’s suspension came in hours as her predecessor, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, was grilled for about 12 hours by the EFCC detectives over the ongoing probe into the N37.1bn allegedly laundered during her tenure in office, through a contractor, James Okwete.
The ex-Minister was questioned from 11am to 11pm by investigators seeking information on how the huge sum was allegedly laundered by top officials who served under her.
Data from the Budget Office indicate that the ministry, erstwhile known as Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, had a N2.38tn budget from 2020 to 2024.
In compliance with the presidential directive, the EFCC has also summoned Edu to appear before its detectives on today Tuesday.
The statement said the President directed the EFCC Chairman, Ola Olukoyede, to conduct a thorough investigation into all aspects of the financial transactions involving the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, as well as the agencies under it.
Furthermore, the President tasked a panel headed by the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Wale Edun, to conduct a comprehensive diagnostic of the financial architecture and framework of the social investment programmes.
This was aimed at reforming the relevant institutions and programmes in a determined bid to eliminate all institutional frailties for the exclusive benefit of disadvantaged households and win back lost public confidence in the initiative.
The scandal involving Edu burst open after a leaked memo revealed that the suspended minister directed the Accountant-General of the Federation, Oluwatoyin Madein, to transfer N585m to a private account owned by one Oniyelu Bridget, who the ministry claimed currently serves as the Project Accountant, Grants for Vulnerable Groups.
The Minister had claimed that the N585m payment was meant for vulnerable groups in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ogun, and Lagos States, describing the allegations against her as baseless.
The Media Assistant to the Minister, Rasheed Olarewaju, said in a statement that it was legal within the civil service for such payments to be made into private accounts of staff members, especially project accountants.
Unimpressed by her defence, several groups and individuals including the Peoples Democratic Party, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Femi Falana, SAN; the Yoruba Youth Assembly, and other civil society groups had demanded Edu’s suspension and an unfettered probe of the leaked memo.
In deference to public pressure, the President suspended Edu and directed her to hand over to the permanent secretary in the Ministry.
Consequently, the anti-graft agency on Monday, directed the suspended Minister to report at its Jabi, Abuja headquarters today for questioning. Punch.