By Stephen Asaba-se
Ex-presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, has thanked President Bola Tinubu on the suspension of the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu.
According to a statement by his Special Assistant, Public Communication, Phrank Shaibu, on Tuesday, said the suspension of the minister was commendable but not enough.
It would be recalled that President Bola Tinubu, on Monday, directed the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ola Olukoyede, to investigate all financial transactions involving the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.
Congress learnt Edu came under criticism after a leaked memo on December 20, 2023, revealed that she directed the Accountant-General of the Federation, Oluwatoyin Madein, to transfer N585 million to a private account owned by one Oniyelu Bridget, who the ministry claimed currently serves as the Project Accountant, Grants for Vulnerable Groups.
The former Vice President noted that it was unfortunate that a programme that was designed to lift over 100 million Nigerians out of extreme poverty had allegedly become a cash cow for successive All Progressives Congress governments.
Atiku 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?”
“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 added 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.
“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.”