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EFCC probes N30b and 50 accounts linked to humanitarian ministry

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is probing 50 bank accounts as it recovered  N30bn in the alleged scandals in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.

The EFCC Chairman, Ola Olukoyede, who disclosed this in an interview published in the March edition of EFCC Alert, an in-house magazine of the anti-graft agency, also called for special courts for corruption cases.

Olukoyode, in the publication obtained by The PUNCH on  Monday, said the recovered fund was in the Federal Government’s coffers.

The EFCC is currently investigating alleged scandals in the humanitarian affairs ministry involving the  suspended   minister, Betta Edu, her predecessor,   Sadiya Umar-Farouq, and Ms Halima Shehu, the National Coordinator  of the National Social Investment Programme, an agency under the humanitarian ministry,

In January, Edu was suspended by President Bola Tinubu following an alleged fraud in her ministry.

She was subsequently interrogated by the EFCC after a leaked memo revealed that the suspended minister directed the Accountant-General of the Federation, Oluwatoyin Madein, to transfer N585m 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 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 Olarewaju, said in a statement that it was legal within the civil service for such payments to be made into private accounts of staff members, especially project accountants.

Edu’s predecessor, Umar-Farouq, was also quizzed by the EFCC  investigators in January in connection with the probe into the N37.1bn allegedly laundered during her tenure in office, through a contractor, James Okwete.

Apart from Edu and  Umar-Farouq,  the National Coordinator of the NSIPA  is similarly being probed over alleged scandals in the ministry.

Shehu was arrested and questioned by the EFCC in connection with the movement of N44bn from the NSIPA account to some suspicious private and corporate accounts within the last four days in December 2023.

Giving an update on the probe, the EFCC chairman stated,  “We have laws and regulations guiding our investigations. Nigerians will also know that they (Edu and Shehu) are already on suspension and this is based on the investigations we have done, and President Bola Tinubu has proved to Nigerians that he is ready to fight corruption.“Moreover, with respect to this particular case, we have recovered over N30bn, which is already in the coffers of the Federal Government.“It takes time to conclude investigations. We started this matter less than six weeks ago. There are cases that take years to investigate. There are so many angles to it, and we need to follow through with some of the discoveries that we have seen. Nigerians should give us time on this matter; we have professionals on this case and they need to do things right. There are so many leads here and there.

“As it is now, we are investigating over 50 bank accounts that we have traced money into. That is no child’s play. That’s a big deal. Then you ask about my staff strength.”

 Explaining why the probe would take time, Olukoyede stated, “And again, we have thousands of other cases that we are working on. Nigerians have seen the impact of what we have done so far, by way of some people being placed on suspension and by way of the recoveries that we have made. You have seen that the programme itself has been suspended. We are exploring so many discoveries that we have stumbled upon in our investigation.

“If it is about seeing people in jail, well let them wait, everything has a process to follow. So Nigerians should wait and give us the benefit of the doubt.”

The EFCC chairman urged the judiciary and the National Assembly to aid the commission in its anti-corruption fight.

Olukoyede added, “Nobody can fight the corruption war alone. So, we want Nigerians to believe in our capacity to fight this battle. We must also come together and agree that corruption is bad, and so when we are prosecuting corrupt persons, Nigerians should believe in it.”

He noted that all Nigerians could see the negative impacts of corruption.

”Every Nigerian must be a corruption fighter. When you see something wrong, say something. Challenge corrupt politicians in your locality. Take them up. Take your governors up on the allocations they receive and make them accountable,” he added.

Olukayode added because of the magnitude of corruption in Nigeria there should be special courts for graft cases.

He stated, ”If we agree that corruption has contributed greatly to underdevelopment, then we must adopt extraordinary means to fight it. And, one of the things we can do is by setting up special courts to deal with the issue of corruption, so that corruption cases will be adjudicated expeditiously and also timely.

”Of course, when we do this, the speed of getting justice will be increased. Even for those that we prosecute, it is good for them to also get justice on time. Like they say, justice delayed is justice denied.

”I have always been an advocate for the creation of special courts, and I will continue to be. I believe that the time has come for this, and I also appeal to the members of the National Assembly to help us in facilitating this. This will be a great boost to the corruption fight in Nigeria. ”


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