President Bola Tinubu has suspended the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Betta Edu, from office with immediate effect.
The suspension, according to the statement issued by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale was in line with his avowed commitment to uphold the highest standards of integrity, transparency, and accountability in the management of the commonwealth of Nigerians.
The statement said, “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.”
Earlier, Tinubu had directed a comprehensive inquiry into the alleged N585m scandal in the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.He vowed to “decisively punish” those involved in any breaches and infractions unravelled during the investigations.
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 Olarenwaju, in a statement, said that it was legal within the civil service for such payments to be made into private accounts of staff members, especially project accountants.
“Oniyelu Bridget is the Project Accountant for the GVG (grant for vulnerable groups) from the Department of Finance, and it is legal in civil service for a staffer, the project accountant, to be paid and use the same funds legally and retire the same with all receipts and evidence after the project or programme is completed,” he had said.
However, the Accountant-General of the Federation, Dr Oluwatoyin Madein, denied that her office honoured the request to pay N585m into a private account as directed by the minister.
The Director of Press in the OAGF, Mr. Jacob Mokwa, in a statement on Saturday, said the AGF does not make payments on behalf of MDAs.Madein stated that her office received the minister’s request as contained in a letter referenced FMHAPA/HQ/S.208 and dated December 20, 2023, but did not honour the request.
But addressing the public indignation over the revelation, the information minister said, “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 Ministry of Information and National Orientation acknowledges the concerns raised by the public regarding the alleged payment of funds into a private account by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.
“We are aware of the narratives circulating widely and wish to assure Nigerians that the government takes these issues most seriously.
“The Federal Government, under the leadership of President Bola Tinubu, is transparent and accountable to the people, and committed to ensuring that public funds are allocated and utilised effectively and efficiently to address the needs of Nigerians.”