The Director of the Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts, Dr. Sam Amadi, has criticized the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu, over her alleged involvement in two financial scandals.
In an interview on Arise News on Sunday night, Dr. Amadi said the minister had admitted to violating the public financial Act by putting public money in a private account, which he described as a “strict liability” offence.
According to a leaked memo dated December 20, 2023, instructions were given by the Minister for a payment that allegedly involved the diversion of hundreds of millions of naira intended for the welfare of impoverished Nigerians.
Dr. Amadi described this action by the minister as contravening the right procedure and amounted to fraud.
He said the ministry of humanitarian affairs and poverty alleviation was a “slash fund” that was created to siphon public resources, and called for its abolition.
He said, “This is two kind of scandals rolled into one. There is the issue of contravention, alleged or arguably, contravention of the public financial Act, which clearly is strict liability, you ought not to put public money in private account, it’s no longer alleged, the minister accepted that she did it.
“But then, it’s clear, the head of service or whoever should interpret it and it’s very clear. So, let’s now see if there is a supervening presidential order that gives her the right to do that. Some of her handlers have argued around practices, the gaps in the law. I was chief executive and I know that once you are in that position of public service, the financial guidelines are strict liability, they are important because they are the backbone of public finance management.”
He urged the government to follow the internal rules of public finance management, and to ensure transparency and accountability in the use of public funds.
He said, “In Africa actually, the problem has always been failure to follow internal rules, and I’ve argued that before you look at the oversight of the National Assembly, of auditor general, accountant general, the internal rules are the rules that are been flaunted often.
“Then the minister wrote directly to the accountant general to ask for, in that memo, the cash to be transfered to a private account. Now, in the first place, the accountant general has reported back to say that, no! They didn’t agree, they said they wouldn’t agree, but that totally contravenes procedure. So, that’s one issue around contravention of process, which I don’t know the minister can lawyer that to say that’s the proper thing to do.
“The second issue is around this one we are talking about asking for money for flight…but the memo requesting for funds asked for fund for flight. Apart from the fact that this is clearly fraud on the face of it, the idea of requisition in public office, you ask for exactly what you need.
“But look at the bigger picture here, it tells you that efforts to provide for the poor, once it’s bureaucratized, you begin to see that a large chunk of that fund is taken by bureaucrats and technocrats.
“Now, you want to do intervention for four or three states and you housed the funds with one person as a coordinator,…first the entitlement should be clear by law and rule, who is entitled? The data for who ought to collect it should have been proven, written and so from the accountant general’s office or a central government portal you transfer the money to everybody. Even those who don’t have bank account, the commission be that they should open a bank account. So, government is running on inclusivity, so, the notion that government will say some people don’t have bank account doesn’t make any sense.
“So, that’s why some of us have argued that actually the continuous retention of this kind of ministry is actually slash fund. Day one, once government creates that kind of humanitarian department of ministry and funds it for dispatch it is a slash fund.”
Edu has faced heavy criticism after the emergence of the memo in which she reportedly instructed the Accountant-General of the Federation, Oluwatoyin Madein, to transfer N585 million to a private account belonging to an individual named Oniyelu Bridget.
The ministry claims that Bridget currently serves as the Project Accountant for Grants for Vulnerable Groups.
Premium Politics had also reported that the Peoples Democratic Party had called on President Bola Tinubu to immediately dismiss and prosecute the minister following the allegations.