What a coincidence for Sadiya Farouk and Betta Edu

By Taiwo Olapade

The suspension of the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Betta Edu, over alleged financial impropriety comes as a surprise to many, especially because of the passion and zeal demonstrated so far.

Although the embattled suspended Minister, Edu remains innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law, the evidence against her seems heavy, but it is only a matter of time for the matter to be seen to a logical conclusion.

Coincidentally, Betta Edu was suspended by President Bola Tinubu on a day her predecessor in office, Sadiyah Umar Farouk, was being questioned by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged mismanagement of #37.1bn.

Sadiya Farouk was later granted bail after several hours of interrogation in the presence of her lawyer at the EFCC headquarters, Abuja. She was instructed to write a statement on the corruption allegations against her.

As expected, Betta Edu is also currently with the EFCC, at least to clear herself from the barrage of financial misconduct leveled against her.

We hear that the President has also mandated the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Mr. Wale Edun, to carry out an independent investigation on the disbursement of Social Intervention funds.

For now, it has been established that the action carried out by Betta Edu in a leaked Memo of December 20,2023 was contrary to the Financial Regulation Law of the country.

Edu had requested in the Memo that the Accountant General of the Federation, Oliwatoyin Maidein approves the transfer of #585m from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation to a private account but was turned down.

Betta Edu had requested payment of #585m into a private bank account of Oniyelu Bridget Mojisola. She is the Project Accountant for the Vulnerable Grants. The money in question is meant for the Vulnerable residents in Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Ogun states.

You will recall that the suspended Minister was instrumental to the suspension the Chief Executive of the National Social Intervention Programme, Halimah Shehu for alleged laundering of #37.1bn into a private account of one James Okwete, a contractor with the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management under Sadiya Umar Farouq.

News also emerged that Betta Edu authorized the payment of #72.3m to some officials of the Ministry, her personal aides and herself for Return Tickets, Accommodation and Airport Taxis to Kogi state during the distribution of funds to vulnerable citizens of the state last year.

It later emerged that Kogi State has no functioning public Airport except two that are private and that the trip to Kogi by the Minister and her team was done via the road.

Can we say that the prediction of possible diversion by some Nigerians that funds allocated by the Federal Government under the palliatives scheme to ameliorate the sufferings of the poorest among the poor after fuel subsidy removal had come to pass with these emerging developments?

The Minister of Interior, Olubbunmi Tunji-Ojo, has also come out to clarify the involvement of a company in which he is a shareholder in the handling of a contract awarded by Betta Edu under the new National Social Register.

Tunji-Ojo disclosed that since 2019, he had ceased to be the owner of the New Planet Project Limited, which was awarded a contract worth #438.1m by the Ministry.

The Conditional Cash Transfer is one of the global best practices in reaching out to the vulnerable at a time when government policies are seen to be having a negative impact on the lives of the citizens.

It usually serves as a temporary relief for the vulnerable citizens.

The question is, can we say that Nigeria over time has abused the use of the initiative with recurring scandals rocking it?

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