Former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, has shunned an invitation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission probing the N37.1 billion allegedly laundered during her tenure in office through a contractor, James Okwete.
According to The PUNCH, Umar-Farouq kept interrogators waiting for over eight hours on Wednesday without an official communication to the commission as to why she didn’t honour the invitation.
She was asked to appear before investigators at the EFCC headquarters, Jabi, Abuja on Wednesday, January 3, 2024, at about 10:00 am, to give an account of the alleged fraud that took place under her watch.
However, according to the publication, who reported that between 9 am and 6.30 pm, investigators waited but the former minister did not show up at the anti-graft agency’s office for interrogation.
An interrogator, who spoke with The PUNCH on condition of anonymity, said the interrogation team had to close from work at about 6pm when they were certain that the former minister was not going to show up.
“We just closed from work now because she didn’t show up today, and it’s 6pm already. It’s certain that she’s never going to show up today,” the source said.
The EFCC had invited the former minister to answer questions concerning an ongoing investigation into an alleged ₦37.1bn fraud uncovered in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs.
The document by the anti graft commission partly read, “The commission is investigating a case of money laundering involving the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development during your time as Minister.
“In view of the above, you are requested to kindly report for an interview with the undersigned. Scheduled as follows: Wednesday, January 3, 2024. 10:00 am. This request is made pursuant to Section 38 (I) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2004 and Section 21 of Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.”
Meanwhile, Umar-Farouk had earlier denied knowing the contractor, Okwete, who is still being held by the EFCC.
Responding to the development in a tweet on Monday, Umar-Farouk said, “There have been a number of reports linking me to a purported investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission into the activities of one James Okwete, someone completely unknown to me.
“James Okwete neither worked for, nor represented me in any way whatsoever. The linkages and associations to my person are spurious. While I resist the urge to engage in any media trial whatsoever, I have however contacted my Legal Team to explore possible options to seek redress on the malicious attack on my person.
“I remain proud to have served my country as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with every sense of responsibility and would defend my actions, stewardship and programmes during my tenure whenever I am called upon to do so.”
The spokesperson for the EFCC, Dele Oyewale, declined comments.
“I’m not around at the moment, and I can’t speak on that, please,” Oyewale said.
EFCC arrested Okwete in connection with the ongoing probe into the N37.1bn allegedly laundered by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development under the former minister, Umar-Farouk.
In an earlier report, Premium Politics had reported that the contractor had made useful statements concerning Umar-Farouk and former director-generals of the ministry.
The development coincides with the probe of three other ministers, who served under former President Muhammadu Buhari, for graft estimated at N150bn.
Umar-Farouq was the pioneer Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.
She was appointed by former President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2019.