*Alhaji Ibrahim Sambo, Convener of Arewa Integrity Group at a press conference in Kano on Saturday*
As controversies rage on alleged funds diversion at the National Social Investment Programme Agency, NSIPA, the Arewa Integrity Group has described as diversionary any attempt to rope the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr Betta Edu in the scandal.
The group also argued that the motive behind the campaign of calumny against the Minister was meant to distract the investigation into the agency.
The Convener of the group, Alhaji Ibrahim Sambo, at a press conference in Kano on Saturday, lauded the minister for not compromising her integrity by refusing to aid the wrongful conduct at NSPIA.
Sambo also hailed the removal of Ms Halima Shehu, the former National Coordinator of the agency over the diversion of N44.8 billion into private accounts, and insisted that corruption must not be allowed to fight back against the minister.
“Our investigations reveal that the campaign to drag Dr Edu in the multi-billion-naira NSIPA fraud scandal is based on deliberate falsehood and at diverting the attention of the EFCC,” said Arewa Integrity Group.
The group further said that the money spent for the national verification of the National Social Register quoted by some critics as evidence of Dr Edu’s collusion, was duly approved by President Bola Tinubu and the Federal Executive Council in line with the Renewed Hope Agenda to expand the contentious register as well as sanitise its operations.
“It is also public knowledge that the program embarked on by the Ministry under the current Minister, Dr. Betta Edu, thus far, including Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, Grants for Vulnerable Groups and others, all secured the approval of the President,” the group emphasized.
Sambo argued that it was standard practice and procedure in the public service for MDAs to appoint project managers or project accountants for specific projects.
He noted that to avoid bottlenecks, funds are sent directly to the account of a designated officer who disburses such funds as approved and retires the same with receipts and or evidence after such projects are completed.
Commending the EFCC over the ongoing investigations into the financial fraud in NSIPA, the Arewa Group urged the anti-graft body not to be distracted. It further expressed confidence in the EFCC through its investigation, to provide answers to the vital questions on under whose authority the former National Coordinator of the NSIPA withdrew N44.4 billion from the government account and diverted the same into various private accounts.
It also warned that his organization will not allow fifth columnists and their sponsors to derail the government’s effort in providing succour to vulnerable Nigerians in line with President TInubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda.
Recall also that Isah Yahaya Jibril, the National Coordinator of the National Progressive Youth League had on Thursday, January 4, exonerated the minister from any involvement in the scandal.
Jibril had through a statement queried the rationale behind the attacks on Dr Edu having obtained the approval of President Tinubu for the payment to vulnerable Nigerians and for exposing the humongous fraud in the agency under her watch.
“It’s worth mentioning that the Minister Dr Betta Edu, who shares President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s zero-tolerance policy towards corruption, was the one who brought this fraudulent activity to the attention of the government and the EFCC.
“While she was providing assistance for the crisis in Plateau state, the staff in the Accounting Unit informed her of the fraudulent activity taking place for which she salvaged the situation.
“It’s clear that the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation will not operate as it did in the past. The previous corrupt practices will not be repeated. The Minister is determined to ensure that trust is built between Nigerians and the government and that the Renewed Hope Agenda is sincere in its efforts to combat poverty in the country,” Jibril said on Thursday.
In the same vein, Hon. Ikenga Ugochinyere Ikeagwuonu, representing Ideato North/South federal constituency while absolving Dr Edu of any wrongdoing in the allegation, said it was the refusal of the minister to compromise on her principles that helped to expose the alleged N44 billion fraud at the NSIPA.
The lawmaker, in a statement, hailed the EFCC in its ongoing efforts in ensuring that the culprits were caught and tasked the anti-graft agency to ensure that those found guilty are prosecuted.
Ugochinyere also commended Dr Edu for leading reforms in the ministry within a short period.