EFCC seizes Betta Edu, Sadiya Umar-Farouq’ passports amidst ongoing probe

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has taken a significant step in its investigation into financial scandals within the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, as it seized the passports of the suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu, and her predecessor, Sadiya Umar-Farouq. The move is aimed at preventing the officials from leaving the country during the ongoing investigations.

Edu, who appeared at the EFCC headquarters in Abuja on Tuesday, has been undergoing intense questioning regarding the alleged N44 billion fraud uncovered in the ministry. Simultaneously, managing directors of three commercial banks were also interrogated on the same day in connection with the financial irregularities.

The scandal involving Edu emerged following a leaked memo suggesting her involvement in directing the transfer of N585 million to a private account owned by Oniyelu Bridget, the Project Accountant for Grants for Vulnerable Groups. Edu has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, claiming the funds were intended for vulnerable groups in specific states.

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Despite the media assistant to Edu, Rasheed Olarewaju, asserting that such transactions were legal within the civil service, the EFCC proceeded with the investigation, resulting in President’s suspension of Edu on Monday. The President directed her to hand over to the permanent secretary in the ministry.

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Edu, complying with the EFCC’s invitation, underwent prolonged interrogation on Tuesday, during which her personal and official passports were confiscated. This action is part of the EFCC’s strategy to prevent any attempts by the suspended minister to leave the country while investigations are ongoing.

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Umar-Farouq, Edu’s predecessor, also faced a twelve-hour questioning session on Monday over the alleged N37.1 billion laundered during her tenure. Her passport was similarly seized as part of her bail conditions.

An EFCC source, whille speaking to Punch Newspaper, emphasized the preventive nature of seizing the passports, stating, “The commission does not want to risk having any of them leave the country while they still have questions to answer.”

In addition to Edu and Umar-Farouq, Ms Halima Shehu, the National Coordinator and CEO of the National Social Investment Programme, has been indefinitely suspended over alleged financial misappropriation. Shehu has been reporting daily to the EFCC as part of her bail conditions, following her arrest in connection with the movement of N44 billion without presidential approval.

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Senior bank executives were also reportedly questioned by the EFCC, indicating their deep involvement in the ongoing fraud investigation. The MDs of the banks were grilled at the EFCC headquarters on Tuesday.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, in response to the unfolding scandals, accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) of using the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation as a financial asset. Atiku commended the suspension of Minister Edu but called for a comprehensive reform of the ministry to address systemic issues.

The EFCC investigation continues, with both current and former officials providing new revelations during their interrogations. The agency is determined to uncover the truth behind the alleged financial misconduct within the ministry.

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