Nigeria suspends minister of humanitarian affairs and poverty alleviation News
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Nigeria suspends minister of humanitarian affairs and poverty alleviation

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu suspended on Monday the country’s Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Betta Edu, with immediate effect over allegations of transferring funds related to the government’s social welfare program into a private bank account.

The suspension order issued by the Special Advisor to the President on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, is in tandem with the president’s commitment to “uphold the highest standards of integrity, transparency, and accountability in the management of the commonwealth of Nigerians.” The president further ordered the Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to conduct a thorough investigation into the alleged financial transactions, and the minister was directed to “cooperate with the investigating authorities.” A panel headed by the coordinating minister of the economy and minister of finance was formed to thoroughly examine the present social investment programs to reform them to remove any institutional weakness and gain public trust. 

The arrest comes on the heels of a leaked memo which revealed that Edu requested the Accountant General of the Federation, Oluwatoyin Madein, to transfer public funds of about N985 million from the National Social Investment office account to the personal account of Bridget Oniyelu, the accountant of a federal government poverty intervention project called Grants for Vulnerable Groups which was under Edu’s ministry. Further, the minister said in the memo that N219.4 million is to be transferred to the vulnerable people in Akwa Ibom State, N73.8 million to Cross River State, N219.4 million to Lagos State, and N72.4 million to Ogun State.

Betta Edu denied the allegations, stating that it was a plan to “tarnish the image of administration” and added that under her watch, “no one will embezzle Government funds as before.” Oluwatoyin Madei countered Betta’s statement as, on Saturday, she admitted that the office received Edu’s request for the transfer, which, however, was not honoured.

Under Nigeria’s Financial Regulations 2009, which are meant to prevent fraud and corruption, chapter seven, section 713 states that “personal money shall in no circumstances be paid into a government bank account, nor shall any public money be paid into a private account.” The section further states that any officer found guilty of the act “is deemed to have done so with fraudulent intention.”

Edu’s arrest over misappropriation of public funds follows the EFCC investigation of the suspended National Coordinator of the National Social Investment Programme Agency (NSIPA), Halima Shehu, over alleged N37.1 billion fraud in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. In addition, Edu’s predecessor, Sadiya Umar Farouq, is being investigated by the EFCC for alleged fraud. This taints the reputation of the present government, which came to power in 2023 on the promise of removing chronic corruption and poverty from the country.