• Tuesday, March 05, 2024
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BusinessDay

Edu, Umar-Farouq barred from international travel over fraud investigation

The Betta Edu scandal: Tackle incentives for official corruption in Nigeria

The EFCC confiscated the passports of Betta Edu and her predecessor, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, amidst ongoing investigations into ministry scandals. This move effectively bars the individuals from any international travel until the documents are returned to them.

Edu was questioned at the EFCC headquarters in Abuja from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday regarding a N44 billion fraud in the ministry.

Three bank managing directors were also questioned and made to submit transaction documents of the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry on Tuesday in connection with the alleged fraud.

 

The scandal emerged after a leaked memo showed Edu directing the transfer of N585 million to a private account, supposedly for vulnerable groups in four states.

Edu defended the payment, citing civil service protocols allowing such transfers to staff accounts.

The president’s suspension of Edu followed public pressure, instructing her to hand over to the ministry’s permanent secretary.

EFCC sources confirmed the probe of senior bank executives, revealing their deep involvement in the investigated fraud.

The source who spoke with Punch 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 N44 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.’’

Former Vice President and 2023 presidential hopeful of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, criticised the All Progressives Congress (APC), alleging the exploitation of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation for political gain. He commended the suspension of Minister Edu but deemed it insufficient.

Atiku, speaking through his Special Assistant, Public Communication, Phrank Shaibu, expressed dismay that a programme intended to uplift millions out of poverty allegedly became a funding source for the APC.

He questioned Edu’s appointment, citing her qualifications compared to other overlooked candidates.

“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,” Atiku stated.

He pressed for a broader inquiry, insisting that others benefiting from funds meant for the poor must be identified and prosecuted. Atiku emphasised the urgent need to overhaul the ministry, citing previous probes involving former Minister Sadiya Umar Farouq.

“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,” Atiku explained.

In a separate development, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) urged the President to suspend and investigate Minister Tunji-Ojo over an alleged contract tied to Edu. Tunji-Ojo denied any involvement, clarifying that his visit to the Presidential Villa was pre-scheduled and not related to the scandal.

Former Kano State Governor Ibrahim Shekarau praised President Tinubu for suspending Minister Edu during an interview on Channels Television.