The Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Betta Edu, finds herself entangled in a web of criticism and calls for investigation as anger mounts over a memo instructing the transfer of N585 million into the private bank account of a project accountant in her ministry, Bridget Oniyelu. Opposition parties, including the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party, are vehemently calling for her sacking, branding the move as a case of money laundering.
The memo, signed by Dr. Edu, instructed the Accountant-General of the Federation, Dr. Oluwatoyin Madein, to make the payment into the UBA account of Oniyelu Bridget Mojisola, citing the funds as a grant for vulnerable groups in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ogun, and Lagos states. The uproar coincides with ongoing probes into financial mismanagement within the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs under former Minister Sadiya Umar-Farouk.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has already made arrests and interrogated officials linked to the alleged laundering of N37 billion by the ministry. Simultaneously, three other ministers who served under former President Muhammadu Buhari are under investigation for graft totaling an estimated N150 billion.
The opposition parties are demanding a comprehensive audit of the ministry’s activities from its inception, raising questions about the transparency and accountability of the ministry’s financial transactions. In the memo, the minister allocated specific amounts for grants in each state, emphasizing that the payment should be deducted from the National Investment Office’s account.
While Dr. Edu maintains that the payment to Oniyelu’s private account is legal, opposition voices argue otherwise. The Accountant-General’s office refutes making the payment, stating that it did not honor the request to transfer N585 million into a private account, emphasizing that ministries are responsible for their payments.
Anti-corruption activists and civil society organizations are pushing for accountability and transparency, condemning the transfer of funds into a private account, which violates financial regulations. Calls for the minister’s sacking, thorough investigations, and an overhaul of the ministry are intensifying, with concerns about the possibility of the funds being misappropriated or used for political purposes.
As the controversy unfolds, the focus shifts beyond the method of payment to scrutinizing how the funds were spent, with demands for a paper trail indicating the money’s journey from the government coffers to private accounts. The minister’s fate hangs in the balance, subject to the outcome of investigations and the determination of whether due process was followed in handling public funds.