President Tinubu on Monday wielded the big stick suspending his Minister for Humanitarian Affairs following a gale of corruption scandals rocking his government in the last few days. The suspension is in response to a clamour by Nigerians for the President to restore credibility to his government on the fight against corruption by taking drastic
President Tinubu on Monday wielded the big stick suspending his Minister for Humanitarian Affairs following a gale of corruption scandals rocking his government in the last few days. The suspension is in response to a clamour by Nigerians for the President to restore credibility to his government on the fight against corruption by taking drastic action against corrupt officials in his cabinet.
President Tinubu also directed the Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to conduct a thorough investigation into all aspects of the financial transactions involving the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, as well as one or more agencies thereunder.
The statement reads in full: “In line with his avowed commitment to uphold the highest standards of integrity, transparency, and accountability in the management of the commonwealth of Nigerians, President Bola Tinubu suspends the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Betta Edu, from office with immediate effect.
“The President further directs the Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) 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 one or more agencies thereunder.
“The suspended Minister is hereby directed to hand over to the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, and she is further directed by the President to fully cooperate with the investigating authorities as they conduct their investigation.
“Furthermore, the President has tasked a panel that is headed by the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance to, among other functions, conduct a comprehensive diagnostic on the financial architecture and framework of the social investment programmes with a view to conclusively 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.
“These directives of the President take immediate effect.”
Series of Corruption Scandals Involving Women
These are not the best of times for some female past and present political office holders as the antigraft agency is currently using the binoculars to look into the activities of Former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouq, her successor in office, Mrs Betta Edu and the National Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Social Investment Programme Agency (NSIPA), Halima Shehu.
The trio have links with the Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation which is purportedly retaining negative reputation as the cesspool of corruption in the previous and present governments. The Federal government through a statement issued on Sunday had said it was investigating the influential member of the Federal Executive Council (FEC),Mrs Edu.
A statement by the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Alhaji Mohammed Idris said: “The Federal Government, under the leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is transparent and accountable to the people, and committed to ensuring that public funds are allocated and utilized effectively and efficiently to address the needs of Nigerians.
“In light of recent events, the President has directed that a thorough and comprehensive investigation be conducted to ascertain the accuracy and validity of the reported details. The government is determined to unravel the truth as it relates to this matter, and assures that appropriate action will be taken to ensure that any breaches and infractions are identified and decisively punished, in line with the Administration’s commitment to public accountability and due process”, he stressed.
The minister’s travails may have started when the National Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Social Investment Programme Agency (NSIPA), Halima Shehu, was picked up last week in connection with the movement of N44 billion from NSIPA account to some suspicious accounts within the last four days in December 2023.
But the dust generated by the alleged transfer had barely settled down when a leaked memo she authored in December 2023 directing the Accountant General of the Federal (AGF) Mrs Oluwatoyin Madein, to transfer N585.2 million from the National Social Investment office account to the UBA account of one Ms. Bridget Oniyelu, the designated project accountant of a federal government poverty intervention project called Grants for Vulnerable Groups surfaced online.
The AGF admitted that her office had received Mrs Edu’s request for a transfer of the N585.2 million to Ms Oniyelu’s private account, but that she refused to honour it. Analysts said she ought to have done more by reporting that infraction to either the President or the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
The AGF exercised discretion, in her words: “The Ministry was advised on the appropriate steps to take in making such payments in line with the established payment procedure,” she said. “No bulk payment is supposed to be made to an individual’s account in the name of the Project Accountant.”
She said payments like the N585.2 million which Mrs Edu wanted to be transferred “are usually processed by the affected ministries as self-accounting entities”, stressing that:”such payment should be sent to the beneficiaries through their verified bank accounts,” the statement stated.
Mrs Edu, countered this. In a statement from her media aide, Mr. Rasheed Zubair, last Friday, said the payment of the N585.2 million into a private account was legal in the country’s civil service. His words: “It is legal in civil service for a staff, the project accountant, to be paid and use the same funds legally and retire same with all receipts and evidence after the project or programme is completed.”
While this was already gathering negative reactions, another leaked memo dated November 6, 2023 from the Minister also showed that she allegedly approved monies running into millions for her staff for flight tickets and airport taxis for the ministry’s staff to Kogi State — a state with no airport.
The memo issued by the national programme manager, requesting the total sum of N72,374,500, was titled: ‘The Disbursement Under the 2023 Grant for Vulnerable Groups Programmes in Kogi State, 2023’, was approved by the minister. In the memo, the sum is appropriated for the minister’s “advanced team” to travel by air for an “event” in Kogi.
Each of the minister’s “advanced team” members, including aides, received the sum of N200,000 for flight tickets, N20,000 for airport taxi, and local running expenses and DTA depending on grade level — all amounting to N72,374,500. The Minister was also a beneficiary as the sum of N300,000 was earmarked for her air ticket even though Kogi state has no airport.
Different Stroke from Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouq’s Case
Her case is slightly different from that of her predecessor Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouq who was to appear before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) last week. She could not honour the invitation on health grounds but her counsel, Mr. Oladipo Okpeseyi, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) requested the antigraft agency for a new date.
She was invited by the EFCC to answer questions bordering on N37.1bn fraud last week Wednesday. The antigraft body is probing the alleged laundering of N37.1bn through a contractor named Mr. James Okwete when Hajiya Umar-Farouq was minister.
In a tweet, the former minister stated: “James Okwete neither worked for, nor represented me in any way whatsoever. The linkages and associations to my person are spurious.
“While I resist the urge to engage in any media trial whatsoever, I have however contacted my legal team to explore possible options to seek redress on the malicious attack on my person.
Also, the National Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Social Investment Programme Agency (NSIPA), Hajiya Halima Shehu, was picked up last week by EFCC in connection with the movement of N44 billion from NSIPA account to some suspicious accounts within the last four days in December 2023.
NSIPA was created in 2016 under the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari to address socio-economic inequalities and alleviate poverty among Nigerians. The programme was founded on four pillars namely the N-POWER Programme, the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme and the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme.
Each of the pillars was designed to empower the poorest and most vulnerable Nigerians to attain an acceptable standard of living irrespective of their locations nationwide.