•AGF says didn’t honour the Minister’s request
•NSIPA, Arewa group defend Edu, say she is above board in dealings
The controversy over the payment of Federal Government’s N585.198 million into a private account by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Betta Edu, took a new twist, yesterday, as the Accountant General of the Federation, AGF, Mrs. Olwatoyin Madein, said her office didn’t grant the request for the payment to be made.
Her clarification followed the minister’s claim that the decision to lodge the money into a private account had the blessing of the AGF.
Edu in a statement by her Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Rasheed Zubair, said the payment of the grant to the account of Oniyelu Bridget was because the fellow currently serves as the Project Accountant of Grants for Vulnerable Groups.
He said the minister made the request to Madein to send public funds to the private account and was granted permission.
Zubair said: “The said N585m was approved, and it is meant to implement grants to vulnerable groups in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ogun and Lagos states.
“We must note that GVG was first launched in Kogi State, where recipients testified. Akwa Ibom and Cross River were launched in December 2023. Kogi already happened in November, and others will be launched in the coming weeks.
“The general public is invited to note that the Renewed Hope Grant for Vulnerable Groups is one of the social intervention schemes of the Federal Government, which the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation is implementing.
“Oniyelu Bridget is the Project Accountant for GVG from the Department of Finance, and it is legal in civil service for a staff, the project accountant, to be paid and use the same funds legally and retire the same with all receipts and evidence after the project or programme is completed.”
However, the AGF, dismissed Edu’s justification for such an action, saying making payments for projects and programmes on behalf of Ministries, Departments and Agencies,MDAs, is not the responsibility of the minister.
Madein, who said this in a statement by the Director of Press, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, AGF, Bawa Mokwa, said allocations are released to self-accounting MDAs.
She added that such MDAs are responsible for the implementation of their projects and payments for such projects, adding that the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation was advised on the appropriate steps to take in making such payments in line with the established payment procedure.
“The AGF noted that in such situations, payments are usually processed by the affected ministries as self-accounting entities and no bulk payment is supposed to be made to an individual’s account in the name of Project Accountant.
She added that such payment should be sent to the beneficiaries through their verified bank accounts.
“Dr. Madein reiterated her determination to uphold the principles of accountability and transparency in the management of public finances. She advised MDAs to always ensure that the requisite steps are taken in carrying out financial transactions,” the statement said.
A document, which has gone viral on social media, revealed that N585.198 million designated as grants for vulnerable Nigerians in four states of the federation was paid to the account of Oniyelu Bridget Mojisola.
In the letter titled: ‘Mandate for Payment of Grant for Vulnerable Groups in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Lagos and Ogun States Respectively,’ Edu requested the OAGF to send public funds to the private account.
Meanwhile, the Communications Office of National Social Investment Programme Agency, NSIPA, has distanced itself from any claim linking Edu with alleged financial impropriety or any wrongdoing in the agency.
A statement by the National Communications Manager of NSIPA, Jamaludeen Kabir, said the minister is being blackmailed for exposing N44.8bn fraud in NSIPA.
It added that NSIPA is actively cooperating and working under the guidance of the acting National Coordinator and CEO, Dr. Akindele Egbuwalo, demonstrating full support and collaboration within the agency.
The statement reads: “The integrity and commitment of NSIPA to serving vulnerable communities in Nigeria remain steadfast. The agency operates with strict adherence to due process and prudent financial management in line with the regulations outlined in our establishment act and directives of the Federal Executive Council.
“It is paramount to ensure the dissemination of accurate information and avoid spreading baseless allegations that could unfairly tarnish the reputation of individuals or institutions. NSIPA urges the public and media outlets to verify facts before making assertions and refrain from associating the Honourable Minister with the ongoing investigations, as she holds no responsibility for the current circumstances at NSIPA.
“The agency remains steadfast in its dedication to implementing impactful and transparent social intervention programs aimed at uplifting vulnerable Nigerians and furthering the nation’s socio-economic development, aligning with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s renewed hope agenda.
“NSIPA reiterates its commitment to accountability, transparency, and efficient service delivery, upholding its mandate to alleviate poverty and empower communities across Nigeria.”
Similarly, a member of the House of Representatives, representing Ideato North/South Federal Constituency, Ikenga Ugochinyere Ikeagwuonu, has commended what he called the refusal of Edu to compromise on her principles, which he claimed has helped in exposing the alleged N44 billion fraud at NSIPA.
Ugochinyere, in a statement, hailed the anti-graft agency’s ongoing efforts to ensure that the culprits are caught.
In a related development, Arewa Integrity Group, has claimed there is an attempt to implicate the minister in the reported diversion of N44 billion NSIPA.
Briefing newsmen in Abuja, the convener of the group, Alhaji Ibrahim Sambo, commended Edu for her work.
His words:”As you are all aware, there have been multiple reports on some unsavoury actions in one of the agencies under the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation. This has led to the just and proper suspension of Ms. Halima Shehu, the former National Coordinator of the NSIPA. Rather than allow federal government’s investigation to go on unhindered, there has been a well-orchestrated effort to create chaos in the ministry.”