Halima Shehu, the National Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Social Investment Programme Agency (NSIPA), has been taken into custody by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) shortly after her suspension. The detention is linked to the suspected movement of N17 billion from NSIPA’s account to several dubious accounts within a week.
The investigation stems from alleged transactions involving billions of naira made by the agency without the necessary presidential approval. Reports suggest that the EFCC intercepted and recovered the cash as part of efforts to address financial irregularities.
Shehu’s suspension, initiated following a preliminary investigation, aims to facilitate an unrestricted inquiry into the alleged financial misconduct. Speculations surround the possibility that the EFCC recommended the suspension to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The detention and subsequent probe underscore the importance of ensuring transparency and accountability in social investment programs. As the story unfolds, more details are expected to emerge regarding the specific nature of the financial transactions and the potential implications for the National Social Investment Programme.
Shehu was arrested at about 8pm yesterday, January 2. After searching her home and office, she was taken into custody at about 9pm for interrogation.
It was also learnt that the EFCC was closing in on a director of the agency, who was allegedly complicit in the huge payments into the suspicious accounts.
Some crack operatives of the EFCC will today interrogate a former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, for allegedly laundering N37, 170,855,753.44 during her tenure through a contractor, James Okwete.
Investigation confirmed that the President wielded the big stick yesterday because Halima Shehu had earlier defied a presidential directive to work with the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Betta Edu, to pay the outstanding and statutory stipends to beneficiaries of the N-Power programme before Christmas.
The N-Power programme was created by ex-President Muhammadu Buhari to address youth unemployment with the beneficiaries earning N30,000 monthly. About 400,000 beneficiaries have not received monthly stipends in the past few months.
A source told the publication;
“The EFCC raised a red flag on the suspicious payments of billions of Naira into some individual and corporate accounts. Preliminary investigation showed that there was no presidential approval for the payment of such humongous funds.
“Pre-emptive steps were immediately put in place to track the suspicious funds. So far, about N17 billion has been intercepted and recovered from some accounts by this commission.
“Our team is working round the clock to trace the remaining billions of Naira suspected to have been laundered from the Social Investment cash.
“Shortly after her suspension, EFCC operatives laid siege to her office in Maitama District but it took almost two hours to arrest her. While the siege lasted, the EFCC chairman directed that the operatives should not break into her office or her residence.
“Eventually, she was arrested and detained by our team. Her grilling immediately started based on preliminary findings.
“The suspended National Coordinator did not work with the minister as expected on N-Power. Following the defiance of the presidential directive, the presidency asked the minister to liaise with the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation to pay the N-Power beneficiaries.
“In the midst of this challenge, the EFCC intercepted suspicious payments by NSIPA. The president had no choice than to approve her suspension as requested by the EFCC.”