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Pardon for Betta Edu stalled as fresh discoveries emerge

..Funds allegedly traced to 50 bank accounts

By Phillip Onome

Chances of pardon and possible recall of Dr. Betta Edu, the suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs are increasingly getting slimmer. And this is traceable to fresh allegations emanating from the current probe by security agencies. New discoveries are pointing to huge amounts of money traced to several bank accounts used in moving the alleged funds.

Sunday Times sources learnt that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has unearthed 50 bank accounts used to move the funds to private accounts belonging to those linked in the fraud allegedly involving the minister during the ongoing investigations into the transfer of N585.2 million in the ministry.

As expected, some of the indicted officials of the Accountant General of the Federation’s office and also more members of staff of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation are still reporting at the Jabi office of the Commission.

On Wednesday, March 13, 2024, the Executive Chairman of the EFCC, had in a live session of the EFCC CONNECT, on Facebook and X, while answering questions from followers on the latest on Dr Betta Edu, revealed that 50 bank accounts have been traced to the fraud and were used in the alleged scam.

He disclosed that investigations are ongoing and that the issue had not been abandoned by the EFCC, like some Nigerians were insinuating.

Recall that the Accountant General of the Federation, AGF, was quizzed by EFCC interrogators for several hours at the anti-graft agency’s headquarters, Jabi, Abuja but was later released.

The Commission queried had Madein over the payment of N585.2 million of government funds from the ministry into the private bank accounts of a government official.

Madein had told interrogators that she didn’t approve the memo from the minister for the payment into a private account.

EFCC equally questioned Madein over the payment of N585.2m from the National Social Investment Office (NSIO) account to the UBA account of Bridget Oniyelu.

Also, the Chief Executive Officers of Zenith Bank, Ebenezer Onyeagwu and his two other counter parts in Providus Bank and Jaiz Bank, Walter Akpani and Haruna Musa, respectively were quizzed and released.

Sunday Times gathered that the bank executives were asked to make clarifications on the N585m allegedly diverted by the suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr.Betta Edu and N3 billion allegedly paid out under her predecessor, Sadiya Umar- Farouq.

A source said: “The bank executives were thoroughly questioned on the role of their banks about the social register which was created for cash transfers and other social investment programmes. The reason for the EFCC’s query was to ascertain the authenticity of claims that a company owned by the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo was paid N438.1 million by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation under Betta Edu for consultancy services.”

It would be recalled also the President Tinubu summoned the Interior Minister, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo for allegedly collecting N438 million from the suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Dr Betta Edu.

According to the EFCC, the Minister was reported to have received the money through New Planet Project Limited, a company founded by him and in which he has substantial interests.

Other companies listed to have benefitted from the funds included a local accounting firm -N419.5million; another consulting firm – N558.8 million, while yet another local enterprise received -N277.8 million; one another consulting firm receiving N277 million.

Two other firms were reported to have received N275.8 million each as payment for “verification of 11 million homes of vulnerable groups in Nigeria” within a period of less than four weeks.

Edu, who was appointed Minister in August 2023, and succeeded Umar-Farouq, before her suspension by President Tinubu.

Although President Bola Tinubu had suspended the Minister, our correspondent gathered that some powerful interests have been pleading on behalf of the suspended minister for a possible recall, especially as her post is yet to be filled, but these new discoveries, may have put spanners in the wheel of progress.

Last Wednesday the House of Representatives expressed dismay that the minister’s suspension had resulted in the discontinuation of the Social Investment Programme, affecting those in dire need of assistance.

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The House of Representatives tasked the presidency to speed up its probe into the allegations leveled against the suspended Betta Edu.

The lawmakers made the observation during discussions in the Green Chambers and raised concerns concerning the negative effects of pausing these crucial programs amidst rising hunger and inflation rates in the country.

The House also said it’s not comfortable by the proposal to transfer the management of the Social Investment Programme to the Minister of Finance, Olawale Edun.

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