The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has intensified its investigation into alleged financial misconduct within the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation by seizing the passports of the suspended Minister, Betta Edu, and her predecessor, Sadiya Umar-Farouq.
Edu, who presented herself at the EFCC headquarters in Abuja on Tuesday, faced extensive questioning regarding her alleged involvement in a N44 billion fraud within the ministry. Simultaneously, managing directors of three commercial banks were interrogated over their roles in the financial irregularities.
The scandal surfaced after a leaked memo implicated Edu in directing a N585 million transfer to a private account. Edu has denied any wrongdoing, asserting that the funds were earmarked for vulnerable groups in specific states.
Despite claims by Edu’s media assistant that such transactions were legally permissible within the civil service, the EFCC pressed on with the investigation. On Monday, the President suspended Edu and directed her to hand over to the ministry’s permanent secretary.
Complying with the EFCC’s invitation on Tuesday, Edu underwent an extended interrogation session during which her personal and official passports were confiscated. This measure aims to prevent any attempt by the suspended minister to leave the country while investigations are ongoing.
Umar-Farouq, Edu’s predecessor, also faced a twelve-hour questioning session on Monday over the alleged laundering of N37.1 billion during her tenure. Her passport was similarly seized as part of her bail conditions.
An EFCC source 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.
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, responding 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.