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Sunday, February 25, 2024

EFCC uncovers N37 billion fraud linked to ministry of humanitarian affairs

Ongoing Probe Reveals Massive Funds Transfer, Luxury Purchases, and Potential Misappropriation

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In a recent revelation, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) unearthed a staggering sum of N37,170,855,753.44 allegedly laundered within the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs during the tenure of former minister Sadiya Umar-Farouk.

According to reports from the ongoing probe, the funds were purportedly transferred from the Federal Government’s coffers to 38 different bank accounts associated with a contractor, James Okwete. The accused contractor is alleged to have engaged in various transactions, including transferring N6,746,034,000.00 to Bureau De Change Operators, withdrawing N540,000,000.00 in cash, acquiring luxury cars with N288,348,600.00, and purchasing high-end properties in Abuja and Enugu State with N2,195,115,000.00.

Okwete is reported to have links with 53 companies, using 47 of them to secure Federal Government contracts totaling N27,423,824,339.86. Intriguingly, checks with the Corporate Affairs Commission revealed that Okwete is officially a director in only 11 of these companies, raising questions about the remaining 42 entities.

The EFCC’s document alleges that between 2018 and 2023, Okwete received the significant sum from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development. The funds were distributed across 38 bank accounts in five legacy commercial banks, with various transactions attracting attention.

This revelation follows previous instances of financial discrepancies within the ministry. In 2020, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) uncovered N2.67 billion intended for the ministry’s school feeding program in private bank accounts. The former ICPC Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, disclosed the discovery, including 18 buildings, 12 business premises, and 25 plots of land.

Despite these findings, calls for transparency and accountability have intensified. The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged former Minister Umar-Farouq to publish details of those suspected to be responsible or face legal action. SERAP emphasizes the violation of rights, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and insists on accountability to maintain public trust.

The EFCC, when contacted, neither confirmed nor denied the reports, stating, “No comments on that.” As discussions on the alleged corruption unfold, there are growing calls for a comprehensive probe of various administrations, emphasizing the need for accountability and justice.

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