N37.1bn fraud: I served responsibly, says Buhari’s minister of Humanitarian Affairs

A former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, has denied knowing a contractor, James Okwete, who was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for allegedly laundering N37bn.

She also said she served as a minister with every sense of responsibility and would defend her actions whenever called upon to do so.

Umar-Farouk made the rebuttal on Monday in a message posted on X (formerly Twitter).

This is as the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria called for the  prosecution of all those involved.

The PUNCH had exclusively reported that details of an ongoing EFCC probe revealed that N37bn 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.

Responding to the development on Monday, Umar-Farouk said, “There have been a number of reports linking me  to a purported investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission 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.”

Sunday PUNCH had reported that the EFCC uncovered N37bn allegedly laundered in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs under former minister, Umar-Farouk.

Details of the ongoing probe exclusively obtained by Sunday PUNCH revealed that the money 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 the contractor,  Okwete.

Following receipt of the funds, Okwete allegedly transferred N6,746,034,000.00 to Bureau De Change Operators, withdrew N540,000,000.00 in cash, purchased luxury cars with N288,348,600.00, and bought luxury houses in Abuja and Enugu State with N2,195,115,000.00.

Meanwhile, competent EFCC sources confirmed to The PUNCH that  Okwete was arrested by operatives of the anti-graft agency and is currently detained at the commission’s headquarters, Jabbi, Abuja over the ongoing probe.

The PUNCH reports that the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs currently serves as the parent ministry to eight agencies, including the National Social Investment Office, the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, and the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Internationally Displaced Persons, among others.

Umar-Farouq was the pioneer Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. She was appointed by former President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2019 as the youngest cabinet member.

HURIWA seeks thorough investigation

Meanwhile, in response to the revelation, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria has called for the  prosecution of all those involved.

The group’s position was contained in a statement by its National Coor­dinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, on Sunday.

The statement read in part, “Corrup­tion in any form, especially with­in government ministries tasked with providing essential services to the less-privileged, is a gross violation of public trust.

“We call on the relevant authorities to expedite the legal process and ensure that those responsible face the consequences of their actions.

“The allegations against Umar-Farouk follow previous revelations by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, which uncovered N2.67 bn meant for the ministry’s school feeding programme in pri­vate bank accounts.

“We express deep concern over the recurring incidents of financial mismanagement within ministries meant to address critical societal needs.”

(Daily Post)

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