Former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, failed to appear before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday, defying an invitation to address the alleged N37.1bn fraud during her tenure. The former minister left interrogators waiting for over eight hours without official communication, raising questions about her compliance with the ongoing investigation.
Umar-Farouq was summoned to the EFCC headquarters in Jabi, Abuja, on January 3, 2024, to provide insights into the alleged money laundering that occurred under her watch. Despite the specific appointment time of 10:00 am, the former minister did not show up, prompting the interrogation team to conclude their work at 6 pm.
Newsmen who were present at the EFCC headquarters throughout the day, reported the absence of Umar-Farouq. The ministry is under investigation for a suspected fraud of N37.1bn.
Efforts to reach the former minister and her media aide, Nneka Ikem, for comments proved unsuccessful. Umar-Farouq had previously denied any association with the implicated contractor, James Okwete, who remains in EFCC custody.
In a statement on Monday, Umar-Farouq dismissed the allegations, stating, “James Okwete neither worked for, nor represented me in any way whatsoever.” She expressed her intention to seek legal redress against what she termed a “malicious attack” on her reputation.
The EFCC, while confirming the arrest of Okwete, hinted at his cooperation, stating he provided valuable information about Umar-Farouq and former director-generals of the ministry. This revelation aligns with an ongoing investigation involving three other former ministers under President Muhammadu Buhari, facing allegations of graft totaling N150bn.
The scandal comes at a time when Umar-Farouq, appointed by Buhari in July 2019, served as the pioneer Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development. The EFCC spokesperson, Dele Oyewale, declined to comment on the matter.