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N-power: Buhari’s humanitarian minister denies alleged money laundering

Former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Socal Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, has alleged that some people were linking her to a purported investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission into the activities of James Okwete.


In a statement titled, ‘The Attack on my Person’ posted via her X handle on Christmas Day, Farouq, said such unfounded allegations were malicious attacks on her person and vowed to take legal actions.


While saying she knew nothing about Okwete, the ex-minister also said she was proud to have served the country.


She wrote, “There have been a number of reports linking me to a purported investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) 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.”


This was coming from the former minister days after President Bola Tinubu directed the immediate payment of the backlog of stipends owed to NPower beneficiaries across the country.


Farouq was in charge of the NPower, a federal government scheme designed by the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari to move Nigerians from poverty and address youth unemployment in the country.


The scheme, however, was hit with a lot of setbacks as beneficiaries lamented non-payment of their stipends, resulting in a series of protests in Abuja and other parts of the country.


In addressing the lingering issue before Christmas, Tinubu made a directive on Wednesday last week that over 400,000 beneficiaries of the NPower across the country should be paid their stipends.


On behalf of the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty, Dr Betta Edu, her Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Rasheed Olanrewaju Zubair, issued a statement on Friday.


He said, “Announcing the release of funds, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty, Dr Betta Edu, said it was indeed a renewed hope for the Nigerian youths for the Christmas and New Year festivities.


“The minister pointed out that President Tinubu’s interest in Nigerian youths was evidenced by the numerous policies and programmes of his administration largely tailored toward providing opportunities for them.


“I stayed awake with the NPOWER team till 3 am at the office to ensure NPOWER beneficiaries get paid before Christmas in line with the directive of the President.


“Now, I can confirm to you that the payment of NPower beneficiaries has commenced and the evidence is in their bank accounts.”


Meanwhile, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has arrested a contractor by the name James Okwete in connection with the ongoing probe of N37 billion allegedly laundered by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development.


According to The PUNCH, a top EFCC official, on Sunday, said the contractor had made useful statements concerning Umar-Farouk and former directors-general 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.


“It is not only Umar-Farouk we are investigating. Three other former ministers are also under probe. They were allegedly involved in graft to the tune of N150bn,’’ a credible source in the EFCC said.


Sources said Umar-Farouk and some former agencies’ directors-general under the ministry might be arrested by the anti-graft commission following the details of the financial misappropriation so far revealed to investigators by the contractor.


Investigation revealed that the N37.1bn was transferred from the Federal Government’s coffers and sent to 38 different bank accounts domiciled in five legacy commercial banks belonging to or connected with Okwete.


Impeccable sources had confirmed to The PUNCH on Sunday that Okwete, who is being held at the EFCC Headquarters, Jabi, Abuja, had been cooperating with investigators.


A source said, “The contractor, Mr Okwete, who was used in laundering the money had been arrested by the commission. He is currently detained in our custody and has been giving investigators more details that have indicted the former Minister, Sadiya and some DGs under the ministry, and they may be brought in anytime soon too.”

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