Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, has praised President Bola Tinubu for taking decisive action in suspending the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu. In a statement released by his Special Assistant, Public Communication, Phrank Shaibu, on Tuesday, Atiku acknowledged the commendable move but emphasized that more steps should be taken.
President Tinubu, on Monday, instructed the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ola Olukoyede, to probe all financial transactions related to the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.
The minister, Betta Edu, faced criticism following a leaked memo on December 20, 2023, which exposed her directive to transfer N585 million to a private account owned by Oniyelu Bridget. The ministry claimed that Bridget currently serves as the Project Accountant for Grants for Vulnerable Groups.
Expressing his concerns, the former Vice President lamented the unfortunate situation where a program designed to uplift over 100 million Nigerians out of extreme poverty allegedly turned into a lucrative venture for successive All Progressives Congress governments.
He said, “While Tinubu deserves commendation for suspending Edu, we believe this is a belated move. First, he had no business appointing her as a minister of such a sensitive ministry in the first place. Tinubu put politics ahead of competence, hence this scandal.
“What experience did Betta have in the development sector? How was Imaan Ibrahim, with her wealth of experience, overlooked? How did the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, stand as Betta Edu’s referee during her clearance at the Senate?”
Atiku who called for reform of the ministry, alleged that it was not only Betta Edu that was involved in the transactions.
“Betta Edu should not be the fall guy. Others who have remotely and wickedly benefitted from money that was meant for poor Nigerians ought to be fished out, probed, and prosecuted too. It is demonic and tendentiously wicked to steal in the name of the poor.
“There is a need for the government to reform the humanitarian affairs ministry and other interventionist programmes that had become an ATM and POS for those in power,” he said.
He noted that the fact that the previous Humanitarian Affairs Minister, Sadiya Umar Farouq, is also being probed for N37bn fraud was evidence that immediate and urgent actions need to be taken to reform the ministry.
The statement added, “Even during the COVID-19 lockdown, Farouq continued to implement the school feeding programme. She ridiculously claimed that the food would be delivered to the students at home since schools were shut.
“Today, Betta Edu claims that over three million households got N20,000 each during the Yuletide. Sadly, there is no evidence of millions of Nigerians getting such money. This shows that money has just been going into private pockets.
“The scandal that we are contending with is not about Betta Edu, nor about Halima Shehu, or any other person for that matter.
“It is about a problem of systemic corruption through which the APC continues to bleed the treasury, ironically, asphyxiating the poor and vulnerable segment of the country, all in the name of caring for them.
“The APC has weaponised poverty and hunger to control the minds of the vulnerable masses, and it is even worse that they have devised a method to use poverty as an instrument of official corruption.”