By Uche Amunike
Renowned human rights activist and accomplished lawyer, Femi Falana, has challenged the embattled Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu, to tender her apologies to the Tinubu-led government of Nigeria and Nigerians for betraying the trust and confidence they had for her, after her response to the N585 million scandal currently creating a lot of uproar in the country.
Recall that some leaked documents showed that Betta Edu instructed the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation to pay the sum of N585.18 million into a private bank account of a woman known as Bridget Oniyelu.
Note that according to claims by the Ministry headed by Betta Edu, the said Bridget Oniyelu presently works as Project Accountant, Grants for Vulnerable Groups in Cross River, Lagos, Akwa Ibom and Ogun states.
The Accountant General of the Federation, Dr Oluwatoyin Madein however refused to obey the directive given by Miinister Betta Edu, to pay N585.18 million to her agent.
In response, Betta Edu claimed that the directive she gave followed due process and decried that her image was at stake and was being tarnished unduly.
Femi Falana partly stated: ‘It is public knowledge that the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr Betty Edu, recently directed the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation to pay a whopping sum of N585.18 million to a private account owned by one Oniyelu Bridget, who the ministry claimed currently serves as the Project Accountant, Grants for Vulnerable Groups in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Lagos and Ogun states.
‘Happily, the Accountant-General of the Federation, Dr. Oluwatoyin Madein, rightly rejected the illegal directive and refused to pay the said sum of N585.18 million to the agent of the minister.’
According to Falana, Betta Edu owned up that she approved payment of over a billion Naira into a private bank, which contravenes Public Service Rules. His words: ‘It is interesting to note that the minister has not denied that she gave approval for the payment of the over half a billion Naira to a private account in contravention of the extant Public Service Rules as well as the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Act and the Penal Code applicable in the Federal Capital Territory.’
‘Instead of apologizing to the federal government and people of Nigeria and calling it quits for betraying the confidence reposed in her, the minister has arrogantly said the N585.18 million fraud allegation is a mere fabrication by her detractors and an alleged attempt by mischief makers to undermine her ministry’s effort in fighting corruption and uplifting the needy.
‘However, notwithstanding that the Accountant-General of the Federation has successfully frustrated the criminal diversion of the said sum of N585.18 million from public treasury, it is crystal clear from the leaked memorandum of the minister, that the offense of an attempt to commit a felony has already been completed.’
‘There can be no legal justification for the criminal diversion of the said sum of N585.18 million for disbursement to vulnerable people in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Lagos and Ogun states since the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs has collated the individual bank accounts of all the vulnerable people.’