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EFCC Grills Bank Chiefs: More Heads to Roll in Ongoing Investigation

January 10, 2024

The ongoing probe into the underhand financial dealings in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation may claim many high profile casualties.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday widened its drag net in the ongoing investigations of corrupt practices by questioning 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.

The questioning of the bank chiefs came just as the Executive Chairman of the EFCC, Ola Olukoyede assured Nigerians that there will be no hiding place for the corrupt, given President Bola Tinubu’s political to frontally tackle economic and financial crimes.

Daily Times gathered that the bank Chief 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.

It was also learnt that the bank chiefs were asked to shed light on what they knew about the social register which was created for cash transfers and other social investment programmes.

The anti graft agency, it was further gathered wanted 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.

Thirdly, their banks’ roles in the alleged payments to the beneficiaries of N3 billion contracts for the verification of list of vulnerable persons in the country and the alleged disbursement of about N37 billion to supposed vulnerable Nigerians.

Zenith Bank’s CEO Ebenezer Onyeagwu left the anti graft agency’s office immediately after answering preliminary questions. Sources said he may be invited again for further clarifications.

The anti graft agency is seeking the maximum cooperation of the bank chiefs to unravel the alleged
mismanagement of at least N37 billion in public funds designated for the conditional cash transfer programme in the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

Speaking on Tuesday when the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, Dr. Musa Adamu Aliyu, SAN, paid him a courtesy visit the EFCC chair said President Tinubu was offering the right atmosphere for anti-graft activities, both for the EFCC and the ICPC and that no Nigerian is immune to investigations for corrupt practices.

“We believe that with the kind of President we have, who is ready and willing to do the right thing and from what we have seen in recent times and in the last 48 hours, it is clear that he has provided the political will and leadership and created the atmosphere for us to work.

“So there is no hiding place for the corrupt. We must give our best, we must be committed and give the President the right support he needs. Nobody is too big to be investigated in this country. Once you are not playing according to the rules, we will investigate you”, he said.

Olukoyede added that the enormity of cases both agencies are handling justified their independent existence. “Even with five anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria, we hardly can do more than scratch the surface”, he said.

President Tinubu on Tuesday summoned the Interior Minister, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo for allegedly collecting N438 million from the suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Dr Betta Edu.

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 by a Nigerian foreign based independent journalist to have benefitted from the slush 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.

Similarly, 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.

The EFCC had, on Tuesday, grilled the suspended Humanitarian Affairs Minister, Betta Edu over her involvement in an alleged diversion of N585 million meant for vulnerable groups in Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Lagos and Ogun states.

Edu, who was appointed Minister in August 2023, and who succeeded Umar-Farouq, was suspended by President Tinubu on Monday.

While the EFCC is grilling Umar-Farouq over her involvement in an alleged laundering of over N37 billion during her tenure as minister, Edu is answering questions on alleged diversion of public funds into private accounts.

There were unconfirmed reports Tuesday night that the ongoing investigation might be extended to a few highly placed officials in the Tinubu administration in the days ahead.

It would be recalled that the EFCC had, last week, quizzed and detained the National Co-ordinator and Chief Executive Officer of the National Social Investment Programme Agency, Halima Shehu in connection with the alleged laundering of N37 billion under Umar-Farouq’s watch.

Shehu was a former National Coordinator of the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme under the Ministry.



Credit: Daily Times

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