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Tinubu Orders The Investigation of Humanitarian Affairs Minister, Betta Edu. She is Accused of Mishandling Public Funds in Fake Airport Scandal.

January 8, 2024

 

Documents obtained by SaharaReporters show how the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) moved N226,188,500 million to Kogi, Bayelsa and Imo states through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation ahead of the November 11, 2023 governorship elections.

The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation under Betta Edu in November 2023 approved funds for flight tickets and airport taxis for the minister’s teams from Abuja to Kogi State, even though the latter has no airport.

Documents obtained by SaharaReporters show how the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) moved N226,188,500 million to Kogi, Bayelsa and Imo states through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation ahead of the November 11, 2023 governorship elections.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) held governorship elections in Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa states on November 11, 2023.

A breakdown of the disbursement of the funds shows that N72,374,500 was moved to Kogi State on November 6, 2023, through the Director of Finance Account, National Social Investment Agency, just five days before the governorship election.

The minister’s advanced team received N2,515,000 for DTA for five nights, local running @30% of DTA, for flight tickets and airport taxis.

Each of the minister’s advanced team members comprising Hon Thalis Olonite Apalowo (NPM, GVG), Mrs Oniyelu Bridget Mojisola (Project Accountant), Ibrahim Adamu (Department of State Services), Adejumo Olusegun Agbailu (TTL, GVG)), Mr Iyanda Abiodun (Protocol Officer), Chime Jessica Ginika (ONPM) and Salami Surajudeen Ojo (Driver) received N200,000 for flight ticket and N20,000 for airport taxi, amounting to N1.54 million.

Similarly, the minister’s (main) team received N2,159,500 for DTA for five nights, local running @30% of DTA, for flight tickets and airport taxis. Each of them apart from the minister also received N200,000 for flight ticket and N20,000 for airport taxi.

Edu received N300,000 for flight ticket while nothing was recorded under her name for airport taxi.

 

The members of the ministers (main) team are Caroline Nelson (SA Strategy), Abdulrasheed Olariwaju (SA Media), Mamman Mohammed Sanusi (SA Protocol), Agbor Smart Edim, Felix A. David (Chief Details) and Ibrahim Adamu (Department of State Services).

Findings by SaharaReporters show that while Kogi State has no airport, the nearest airport to it is in Akure, the Ondo State capital, which is about five hours by road. Abuja to Lokoja is about three hours by road so people often travel from Abuja to Kogi by road. Other airports around Kogi are in Owerri, Imo State; Enugu, Enugu State and Asaba, Delta State, but they are all farther than Akure from Lokoja.

Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State – who frequents Abuja – travels by road.

Indeed, in November 2020, Bello called for the support of the Federal Government to establish an airport in his state.

Bello disclosed to journalists after a closed-door meeting with then-President Muhammadu Buhari that he had “made a demand to the President that he should please ensure that the pronounced airport to be established in Kogi State be looked into”.

“When funds would be released, let Kogi be the first,” he had added.

The then-Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, had also made a case for an airport in Kogi, along with some other states.

While appearing before the Senate Committee on Aviation for the 2021 budget defence by the ministry and its agencies in October 2022, Sirika said that new airports would be constructed in Lokoja, the Kogi state capital, Benue, Ebonyi, Ekiti and other states.

“There are airports coming up in Benue, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Lafia, Damaturu, Anambra and so forth. All of these show that civil aviation is growing during this administration.

 

“So, we have about 10 new airports coming up, that is almost half the number of airports we used to have in Nigeria. So we are adding 50 per cent of the number of airports,” he had said.

Regarding having an airport in Lokoja, Kogi, as an alternative to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, Sirika said, “Lokoja is an important Northern town.

 

“Lokoja is a cosmopolitan town, it’s a mini-Nigeria and it is extremely very important in the growth and development of our country.

 

“We have a lot of agricultural activities around there. There is the fishery, there is perishable item production and so on.

 

“So siting an airport there is quite apt. For me, it is something we should have done long ago for its importance.”

 

In 2021, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Aviation, Senator Smart Adeyemi, made a case for the upgrade of the Ajaokuta airstrip, saying that when in operation, it would ensure the movement of people from Kogi State to Abuja and other parts of the country.

However, the upgrade has not been done yet.

Last week, SaharaReporters reported that documents obtained during the week showed that the funds were moved to Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa states in November 2023 in the name of providing palliatives for indigent and underprivileged people.

SaharaReporters also reported how Betta Edu asked the Accountant General of the Federation, Mrs Oluwatoyin Sakirat Madein to send public funds to a private account.

 

The private account belonged to Oniyelu Bridget Mojisola, identified as a project manager by the minister.

 

A letter from the minister with reference number: FMHAPA/HQ/OHM/S.208 to the Accountant General of the Federation, Mrs Madein dated December 20, 2023, asked that over N585 million should be sent to a private account.

 

The letter signed by the minister, Dr Edu, is titled ‘Mandate for Payment of Grant for Vulnerable Groups in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Lagos and Ogun States Respectively’.

 

It reads, “I hereby approve the payment of the cumulative sum of five hundred and eighty-five million, one hundred and eighty-nine thousand, five hundred naira (N585,189,500.00). These are payments for programmes and activities of the Renewed Hope Grant for Vulnerable Groups.”

 

The details show that N219,429,750.00 was for 2023 Grant for Vulnerable Groups in Akwa Ibom State; N73,828,750.00 was for 2023 Grant for Vulnerable Groups in Cross River State; N219,462,250.00 was for 2023 Grant for Vulnerable Groups in Lagos State while N72,468,750.00 was for 2023 Grant for Vulnerable Groups in Ogun State.

 

The letter said the payment of N585,189,500.00 –the total sum – should be made to a UBA account: 2003682151 belonging to Oniyelu Bridget Mojisola.

 

“This payment should be made from the National Social Investment Officer account with account number: 0020208461037 to the Project Accountant’s details listed above,” it added.

Meanwhile, according by the Federal Government Financial Regulations Chapter 7, “Personal money shall in no circumstances be paid into a government bank account, nor shall any public money be paid into a private bank account. An officer who pays public money into a private account is deemed to have done so with fraudulent intention.”

Sources told SaharaReporters that a system that allows the Accountant General of the Federation to send public funds into private accounts based on requests by ministers encourages corruption.

 

“If a minister can ask the Accountant General of the Federation to move public funds into a private account and the AGF will do it, then it is no wonder the last AGF stole plenty of money,” a source said.

 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting former Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris and Geoffrey Akindele alongside Mohammed Usman and Gezawa Commodity Market & Exchange Limited on charges of fraudulent diversion of public funds to the tune of N109.5 million.

 

Idris and Akindele were accused of committing criminal breach of trust while being entrusted with certain property, to wit N84,390,000,000 between February and November 2021 by “dishonestly receiving the said amount from the Federal Government through Godfrey Olusegun Akindele, trading under the name and style of Olusegun Akindele & Co”.

 

As a public servant, Idris was also accused of collecting an equivalent of N15.1 million from Akindele between February and December 2021 to accelerate the payment of 13 per cent derivation to nine oil-rich states in the country through the Office of the AGF.

 

However, efforts to reach the minister failed as she did not answer calls from SaharaReporters. She also did not reply to text messages sent to her mobile line.

 

Curled from Sahara Reporters

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