Connect with us

News

EFCC seizes Betta Edu, Umar-Farouq passports

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) has seized the passports of the suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu, and her predecessor, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, over the ongoing investigations into scandals in the ministry.

Edu, who arrived at the EFCC headquarters, Abuja at 10 am on Tuesday, was still being quizzed by the commission’s investigators as of the time of filing this report at 7 pm.

As the EFCC interrogated the suspended minister over the N44 billion fraud uncovered in the ministry, it was learnt that managing directors of three commercial banks were also questioned on Tuesday over the fraud.

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 N585 million 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 N585 million payment was meant for vulnerable groups in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ogun, and Lagos states, describing the allegations against her as baseless.

In a statement, the Media Assistant to the minister, Rasheed Olarewaju, said that it was legal within the civil service for such payments to be made into private accounts of staff members, especially project accountants.

In deference to public pressure, the President on Monday suspended Edu and directed her to hand over to the permanent secretary in the ministry.

On Tuesday, Edu honoured the EFCC invitation and she was subjected to marathon interrogation by investigators.

It was learnt that her personal and official passports were taken away by detectives and she was barred from travelling out of the country.

Her predecessor, Umar-Farouq, had been quizzed by investigators for 12 hours on Monday in connection with the probe into the N37.1 billion allegedly laundered during her tenure in office, through a contractor, James Okwete.

The ex-minister’s passport was also seized as part of her bail conditions before she was subsequently released late Monday night.

An impeccable EFCC source said the passports of Edu and the former minister were seized to deter them from fleeing the country while the investigation subsists.

“The commission has seized the passports of the two ministers, Sadiya Shehu and Betta Edu. We have also seized Mrs Halima Shehu’s passport pending the conclusion of investigations. The commission does not want to risk having any of them leave the country while they still have questions to answer”, the source said.

The lawyer to the former minister, Dipo Okpeseyi, SAN, could not be reached for comment on his client’s ordeal as he did not respond to phone calls. He also did not respond to a message seeking his comment. Also, efforts to get Edu did not succeed

We could not really confirm whether she was released on Tuesday night.

Apart from Edu, the National Coordinator and CEO of the National Social Investment Programme (NSIPA), an agency under the humanitarian ministry, Ms Halima Shehu had been similarly suspended indefinitely over alleged financial misappropriation.

Shehu had been arrested and questioned by the EFCC in connection with the movement of N44 billion from the NSIPA account to some suspicious private and corporate accounts within the last four days in December 2023.

The huge sum was reportedly moved without presidential approval.

As part of her bail conditions, Shehu has been reporting to the EFCC office every day to assist investigators.

Before her appointment, Shehu worked as the National Coordinator of the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme under former President Muhammadu Buhari.

Top EFCC sources confirmed the probe of the senior bank executives on Tuesday.

An impeccable EFCC source revealed that the banks were deeply involved in the fraud under investigation.

The source revealed, “The MDs of the banks were grilled by our interrogators at the EFCC headquarters on Tuesday. They were invited and are being probed in connection with the uncovered 44 billion fraud and the N585 million involving Halima Shehu and Betta Edu.

“The suspended minister and the coordinator have both given new revelations during their interrogations, and the investigation is still ongoing’’.

Giving his opinion on the unfolding scandals, the 2023 presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) of using the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and poverty alleviation as a cash cow for successive governments.

Atiku said the suspension of the minister, Edu, was commendable, but not enough.

In a statement by his Special Assistant, Public Communication, Phrank Shaibu, Tuesday, described it as unfortunate that a programme that was designed to lift over 100 million Nigerians out of extreme poverty had allegedly become a cash cow for successive APC governments.

He said, “While President Tinubu deserves commendation for suspending Edu, we believe this is a belated move. Firstly, he had no business appointing her as a minister of such a sensitive ministry in the first place. Tinubu put politics ahead of competence, hence this scandal.

“What experience did Betta have in the development sector? How was Imaan Ibrahim, with her wealth of experience, overlooked? How did the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, stand as Betta Edu’s referee during her clearance at the Senate?”

Atiku who called for reform of the Ministry, alleged that it was not only Edu that was involved in the transactions.

“Betta Edu should not be the fall guy. Others who have remotely and wickedly benefitted from money that was meant for poor Nigerians ought to be fished out, probed, and prosecuted too. It is demonic and tendentiously wicked to steal in the name of the poor, he stated.

The statement read in part, “There is a need for the government to reform the humanitarian affairs ministry and other interventionist programmes that had become an ATM and POS for those in power.

“He noted that the fact that the previous Humanitarian Affairs Minister, Sadiya Umar Farouq, was also being probed for N37 billion fraud was evidence that immediate and urgent actions need to be taken to reform the ministry.

“Even during the COVID-19 lockdown, Umar-Farouq continued to implement the school feeding programme. She ridiculously claimed that the food would be delivered to the students at home since schools were shut.

“Today, Betta Edu claims that over three million households got N20,000 each during the Yuletide. Sadly, there is no evidence of millions of Nigerians getting such money. This shows that money has just been going into private pockets.

“The scandal that we are contending with is not about Betta Edu, nor about Halima Shehu, or any other rogue element for that matter. It is about a problem of systemic corruption through which the APC continues to bleed the treasury, ironically, asphyxiating the poor and vulnerable segment of the country, all in the name of caring for them.

“The APC has weaponized poverty and hunger to control the minds of the vulnerable masses, and it is even worse that they have devised a method to use poverty as an instrument of official corruption”.

Reacting, the APC Director of Publicity, Bala Ibrahim, cautioned the former vice president against jumping to conclusions, noting that Edu is not guilty until the allegations against her are proven.

He berated Atiku and the PDP, saying they faced more corrupt allegations than Edu and the APC.

Ibrahim stated, “Atiku, from his record, it was said somewhere that he read elementary law. And if indeed he read law at whatever level, even if it is a kindergarten level, ought to know that the presumption of the law on an accused is that he is innocent until proven guilty’’.

The APC official noted that the way President Tinubu responded to the allegations showed that ‘’he is a president that listens to the yearnings of Nigeria and that will act by the provision of the law.m’’.

He added, “At the stage, we are now, a thorough investigation has been directed; it will be wrong for anyone to jump to the conclusion that there is theft or that the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs is a conduit that is made to siphon public funds for APC governments.

“If it is, the investigations will not have been directed, and the government would not have acted swiftly and appropriately it did”.

On the allegation that the APC is a corrupt party, Ibrahim clarified, “If you say because a few people in the APC who are accused of wrongdoing are to limit wrongdoings to the APC, then, one is not being fair to the composition of parties”.

He continued, “In Nigeria, and I am sure like in other countries of the world, there is no party that is composed of saints, there is no party that can beat its chest and say its members are infallible.

“What is important is to see that the party they belong to has the willingness, the desire, and the courage to call them to order when they go wrong. The APC and the President of the country, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, have demonstrated that willingness.

“If on the basis of allegations you will jump to conclusion, the PDP will not be in a position to talk because ever since the formation of the party in Nigeria, there has not been any party that has faced allegations of corruption like the PDP”.

In a related development, the PDP has asked the President to suspend and investigate the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo over his alleged involvement in a N438 million contract awarded by Edu.

Tunji-Ojo had denied involvement in the consultancy contract awarded to New Planet Project Limited, a company in which he was a former director.

The minister explained that he resigned as a director of the firm in 2019.

In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, Tuesday, the opposition party asked the President to take immediate action “to protect the resources meant for the wellbeing of poor Nigerians from further plundering by suspending the Interior minister over the alleged fraud and hand him over to the EFCC for investigation like his suspended counterpart’’.

Interior minister

Meanwhile, Tunji-Ojo has dismissed reports claiming he was summoned to the Presidential Villa over allegations of involvement in the humanitarian ministry scandal.

Rather, the minister said he was at the State House to brief President Tinubu on the outcome of the recently launched online passport portal.

In a statement on Tuesday, the media aide to the minister, Tunde Alao said Tunji-Ojo’s visit to Aso Rock was to keep an earlier scheduled meeting with the president, stressing that he was not summoned as speculated.

“The minister only visited Aso Rock to keep an earlier scheduled meeting with President Tinubu. The sensational social media headline that says the minister was summoned to Aso Rock was quite misleading and should be discountenanced by Nigerians’’, he said.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

News

Bauchi pays N3.418bn in outstanding gratuities

The Bauchi State Pensions Board has announced that, from May 2019 to date, the state government has paid N3,418,288,11.68 in outstanding gratuities owed to retired civil servants.

The Chairman of the Board, Senator Bala Adamu Kariya, made the disclosure at the ongoing ministerial press briefing in Bauchi, held at the State Secretariat.

Although Senator Kariya did not specify the total gratuity backlog, he noted that it exceeds N20 billion.

He stated that since the inception of the current Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led administration in 2019, a total of 4,273 people have retired, and 677 have died while in service, out of 4,948 files processed.

“The Board processes the files of civil servants due for retirement. We are the custodians of the processed files of all state civil servants who have retired,” the chairman stated.

Senator Adamu, however, said that in order to avoid further accumulation of pension and gratuity liabilities, the state government intends to commence the implementation of the proposed contributory pension scheme on June 30, 2021.

“As a sign of commitment, His Excellency, the Executive Governor, Sen. Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir, appointed a 20-member committee, including a staff member of Messrs Premium Pension Ltd for technical guidance under the chairmanship of Mr. Abdon Dalla Gin (Special Adviser on Civil Service Matters).”

“In line with the Terms of Reference to the Committee, a final report with a draft bill has been carefully produced, tapping from the 2004 Act, 2014 revised Act, and previous efforts of successive state administrations like the 2005 and 2017 draft bills, and was presented to His Excellency, the Executive Governor, Sen. Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir, as appropriate.”

He recalled that Governor Bala Mohammed had presented the report to the State Executive Council for consideration and approval, following which a draft bill was forwarded to the State House of Assembly for further legislative process in line with the laid down constitutional procedure.

“After gathering the necessary stakeholders’ input, the State House of Assembly then ratified the draft and returned the same to the Executive Governor for assent. Consequently, on August 5, 2022, His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Bauchi State, assented to the bill enacted by the State House of Assembly.”

“It was named the Bauchi State and Local Government Contributory Pension Scheme. The law also provided for the establishment of the Bauchi State and Local Government Contributory Pension Commission.”

“The state governor approved the constitution of another high-powered committee under the chairmanship of Ibrahim Muhammad Kashim, the Secretary to the State Government, to facilitate the full implementation process of the new scheme in the state.”

Kariya further explained that prior to this development, the state government appointed two firms of Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs), who have now engaged stakeholders in a massive sensitization, advocacy, and enlightenment of the scheme across the state.

Continue Reading

News

Two-storey building collapses in Abuja

A two-storey residential building in Phase 2, site 2, Kubwa Abuja has collapsed

The building collapsed on Saturday morning at about 7:00am.

It was learnt that the building was formerly a hotel, Al-Hilal, but was converted to a residential apartment.

It was gathered that several people are currently trapped in the rubble.

As at time of filing this report, emergency responders and security personnel were at the scene.

 

Continue Reading

News

Police to enforce e-CMR compliance from July 29

The Nigeria Police Force have given all motor users 14 days to register their vehicles with the newly-introduced digitalized Central Motor Registration (e-CMR), which will end on July 29, to begin the enforcement of its compliance in order to checkmate the rate of vehicle-related crimes and other offenses.

In a press release, the Force Public Relations Officer, ACP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, informed that the move is part of the efforts of the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Kayode Egbetokun, to enhance the security of lives and property and significantly boost the nation’s safety.

The release further stated that the exercise is an advanced form of helping security agencies, mostly the Police Force, in their investigations and operational activities to combat vehicle-related crimes, including terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, and other social vices.

It also stated that the introduction of the e-CMR digitalized system will help streamline the documentation and verification process for vehicle ownership and related transactions.

“Following the directives of the IGP, services such as change of ownership, change of license number, change of engine, and change of chassis/body would become seamless as the e-CMR system would ensure the validation of vehicle genuineness and ownership, enhancing the ability to track and recover stolen vehicles effectively, and preventing the purchase of stolen vehicles by innocent buyers.

“Prior to the enforcement itself, the IGP has ordered full publicity of the e-CMR and its enforcement to all members of the public, intimating them of the requirements, processes, and the enforcement procedures. Members of the public are urged to obtain the digitalized CMR certificate online at https://cmris.npf.gov.ng.

‘For further inquiries, individuals can contact the CMR Command Centre at FHQ Abuja (08117777666, 09169892000) and FHQ Annex Lagos (08117777555, 09169891000). Technical support is also available at cmftech@npfcmr.ng,” the release partly stated.

Following this new development, the Nigeria Police have enjoined members of the public to participate in the exercise by ensuring that all vehicle users comply with the new directive, maintaining that the initiative, which is in line with modern technology, remains a strategic approach to enhance public safety and national security.

ACP Adejobi further stated that the enforcement of the e-CMR is necessary to ensure a safer and more secure environment for vehicle ownership and to decimate the trend of vehicle theft by greatly reducing the possibility of selling stolen vehicles in the country.

“We therefore urge all vehicle owners and users to embrace and participate in this initiative promptly for optimum safety and security,” he stated.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending