Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have raised significant concerns regarding a memo from Betta Edu, Humanitarian Affairs Minister, directing the payment of N585 million into a private account, sparking widespread demand for an investigation into the matter. The controversy centers around a directive issued to Oluwatoyin Madein, the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) for transferring these funds, which were reportedly intended for vulnerable groups in several Nigerian states.
In a detailed breakdown, the memo revealed specific allocations for each state, totaling N585,189,500, intended for various social investment programs. The Media Assistant to Minister Edu insisted that such payments to private accounts of staff, especially project accountants, are customary in civil service and legally permissible.
However, the AGF refuted this claim, stating that her office did not honour the request for payment into a private account. Madein emphasized the importance of maintaining transparency and accountability in handling public finances and advised ministries to follow established payment procedures.
Edu defended the transaction, claiming it was for the benefit of vulnerable groups in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ogun, and Lagos states. However, her justification has been met with skepticism, especially considering previous allegations of money laundering involving the ministry.
This controversy has put the spotlight on the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and its handling of public funds, with calls for increased scrutiny and transparency.
CSOs and legal experts weighed in, criticising the minister’s decision to transfer such a significant sum into a private account. “This move blatantly violates federal financial regulations and raises a red flag regarding the potential for misappropriation of funds,” said Adegoke Rasheed, SAN, a prominent lawyer in a report by Punch.
Also, Friday Odeh, country director, The Accountability Lab Nigeria, emphasised the need for immediate action. “We demand the resignation or dismissal of Minister Edu. The public needs to be kept in the loop about all developments in this case,” Odeh insisted.
In addition, Timothy Osadolor, the deputy national youth leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), in s statement, accused the Federal Government of systemic corruption. “We demand a comprehensive audit and investigation into the ministry’s finances, stretching back to its inception. The people of Nigeria deserve transparency and accountability,” Osadolor asserted.
Echoing these sentiments in the report, Obiora Ifoh. Labour Party’s national publicity secretary, called for drastic measures. “It’s time to disband the ministry. It has become a conduit for diverting public funds,” Ifoh stated.