How Betta Edu wrote Accountant General, wanted over N66Billion ‘warehoused’ few days before 2023 financial year end

Dr Betta Edu, the suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation last December asked the AccountantGeneral of the Federation, Mrs Oluwatoyin Sakirat Madein to warehouse over N66 billion unspent in 2023 for the ministry.

A letter from the Office of the Honourable Minister, Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation to the AccountantGeneral, made the request less than two weeks before the end of the 2023 financial year.

The letter exclusively obtained by SaharaReporters was dated December 20, 2023 and signed by Edu.

It was titled, ‘Warehousing of Unspent Balance Fund from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation NSIP Account (NSIO) for Year 2023 Financial Year.’

The letter read, “From 2020 to date, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation has in its budget line the National Social Investment Office which runs the National Social Investment Programme saddled with the responsibilities of ensuring social Investment towards enhancing the livelihood of the people which is in line with the renew hope agenda of the present administration.

“The NSIPA is facing some challenge in disbursing and processing payment to our beneficiaries and considering the year is coming to an end by 31″ December, 2023; we have balances in various accounts as follows,

1) NSIO/ Special Intervention 0020208461637 (CBN): N65,828,891,947.58

2) NSIO 0020208461077 (CBN): N500,000,000.00

“Sequel to the above, we crave the indulgence of the Accountant General of the Federation to kindly warehouse the Funds above to enable us discharge our obligations and pay all our expenditure accordingly, as we already have approvals from the President to implement.”

“Please accept my warmest regards,” Edu added. 

The total amount that Edu requested the AccountantGeneral to ‘warehouse’ by the end of the 2023 financial year amounted to N66,328,891,947.58 (N65,828,891,947.58 and N500,000,000.00).

On January 8, 2024, President Bola Tinubu suspended Betta Edu from office with immediate effect.

The President further directed the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to conduct a thorough investigation into all aspects of the financial transactions involving the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, as well as one or more agencies thereunder.

Tinubu further directed Edu to fully cooperate with the investigating authorities as they conduct their investigation.

Edu’s suspension followed reports of alleged misappropriation of funds against her as poverty alleviation minister.

SaharaReporters earlier reported how Edu had asked the Accountant General of the Federation, Mrs Madein to send public funds to a private account.

According to a letter obtained by SaharaReporters, 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 read, “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.

SaharaReporters also reported how N226,188,500 million was moved to Kogi, Bayelsa and Imo states through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation ahead of the November 11, 2023 governorship elections in the states.

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

In the election characterised by irregularities including vote-buying, thuggery and pre-recorded results, the candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) were declared victorious in Imo and Kogi states while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate and incumbent Governor of Bayelsa State secured re-election in his state.

However, documents obtained by SaharaReporters showed that the funds were moved to the states a few days before the elections in the name of providing palliatives for indigent and underprivileged people.

But government sources told SaharaReporters that the funds were mobilised to the states days before the elections to buy votes under the cover of catering for vulnerable people there.

“It was all a ruse to buy votes for APC and their candidates in the elections using the programme for vulnerable people as cover; that was why the events were done a few days before the governorship elections in the three states,” one of the sources had said.

A breakdown of the disbursement of the funds showed 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.

Also on November 6, the ministry approved and moved N72,423,250 million to Bayelsa State under the ministry’s 2023 grant for vulnerable groups programmes.

On November 3, 2023, a total of N81,390,750 million was moved to Imo State under the same guise of providing grants to vulnerable groups, just seven days before the governorship election.

According to the documents, the Minster of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr Betta Edu personally approved the moving of the funds to the three states.

On October 31, 2023, the Nigerian House of Representatives summoned Edu to brief the chamber on the status of the federal government’s conditional cash transfer programme to 15 million households.

In a motion of urgent public importance, the House expressed concern over the handling of the programme, citing a lack of transparency and alleged fraudulent practices.

The lawmakers asked the minister to provide details on the collation of data and the distribution of funds.