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Cross Riverians lobby for Humanitarian Minister job as Presidency shops for Betta Edu’s replacement

By Our Reporter

The prospect for the return of the suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr Betta Edu to her former office may have been deemed as there are strong indications that the Presidency has already begun shopping for her replacement.

Feelers to this emerged recently when Presidency sources hinted that President Bola Tinubu has given up on Edu returning as minister.

A source in the Presidency disclosed that Tinubu reportedly directed some top aides and critical stakeholders to headhunt for a more credible person for the ministry.

The Presidency is said to have told its aides and some top party members that it would go the whole hog to sanitise the system, adding that it is too early in the day for any minister to get involved in any act of malfeasance.

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According to the source, the Presidency has confided in some political aides that the allegations of fraud rocking the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation would not be taken lightly in order to save the administration.

Against this background, the Presidency is believed to have connected some of its aides from the South West to shop for a credible replacement.

Another source confided in this paper that the Presidency has equally reached out to Cross River State Governor, Bassey Otu, to search for another Cross Riverian to replace Edu, who until her sack was the beneficiary of the state’s slot. Otu is said to be keeping the Presidency’s directive very close to his chest, even as some, who got wind of the directive, have intensified lobbying for the position.

THE BEAGLE NEWS authoritatively gathered that Otu has commenced search for who takes over from Beta and has held secret meetings with some trusted aides on names to shortlist pending when EFCC would conclude their investigation into the Beta Edu’s saga. As of the time of going to press, some top All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwarts have revived their lobby group, advancing some tangible reasons why they should be considered for the plum position. Prominent among them are former Governor Ben Ayade (Northern Senatorial District), Hilliard Eta, (South Senatorial Zone) former interim South-South Vice Chairman of APC and Amb. Soni Abang, (Central Senatorial District, where Beta hails from), and a close ally of Governor Bassey Otu, and the former Director-General of Otu campaign Organisation.

Reliable sources revealed that Ayade has intensified serious lobby to be nominated minister as he has reached out to the Governor and some top APC leaders at the national secretariat, explaining that it was through his instrumentality that the APC was able to secure victory in the March 18, governorship election and should be compensated.

From the South West, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, DG Nigeria in Diaspora Affairs Commission, is touted as one of the preferred choice as Betta’s replacement, depending on where the pendulum swings. Supporting the move to replace Beta, the Cross River State chapter of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) has called on His Excellency, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as a matter of urgency, forward a fresh nomination from Cross River State to the National Assembly for confirmation.

In a chat with The Beagle News, state acting chairman, Mr. Ndabo Edet stated that they are pleased with Mr. President’s fight against corruption which has eaten too deep into the fabrics of our society, adding that President Tinubu should allow Governor Otu to nominate a credible candidate for better service delivery.

The group further stated that the anti-graft agencies should do their job diligently to ensure that the embattled Minister, Edu friend, got justice. Recall that Dr. Beta Edu, had in a letter to the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Mrs Oluwatoyin Sakirat Madein, and dated December 20, 2023 with reference number FMHAPA/HQ/OHM/S.208, directed that the sum of N585,189,500.00 be paid into a private account owned by one Oniyelu Bridget Mojisola, who is said to be the project manager in the ministry.

The letter, signed by the minister and titled “Mandate for Payment of Grant for Vulnerable Groups in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Lagos and Ogun states respectively, read in part: “I hereby approve the payment of the cumulative sum of five hundred and eighty-five million, one hundred and eighty-nine thousand, five hundred naira (N585,189,500.00).These are payments for programmes and activities of the Renewed Hope Grant for Vulnerable Groups.”

The table of disbursement were “N219,429,750.00 for 2023 Grant for Vulnerable Groups in Akwa Ibom State; N73,828,750.00 for 2023 Grant for Vulnerable Groups in Cross River State; N219,462,250.00 for 2023 Grant for Vulnerable Groups in Lagos State while N72,468,750.00 was for 2023 Grant for Vulnerable Groups in Ogun State.

“The payment of N585,189,500.00 total sum should be made to a UBA account number 2003682151 belonging to Oniyelu Bridget Mojisola. This payment should be made from the National Social Investment Officer account with account number: 0020208461037 to the Project Accountant in details listed above,” it stated.

The development attracted mixed reactions from Nigerians and following the public outcry, President Bola Tinubu on January 8 suspended the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Betta Edu, from office in line with his avowed commitment to uphold the highest standards of integrity, transparency, and accountability in the management of the commonwealth of Nigerians.

The President further directs the Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to conduct a thorough investigation into all aspects of the financial transactions involving the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, as well as one or more agencies there under.

The suspended Minister was directed to hand over to the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, and she is further directed by the President to fully cooperate with the investigating authorities as they conduct their investigation.

Furthermore, the President had tasked the panel headed by the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Mr. Wale Edu, to, among other functions, conduct a comprehensive diagnosis on the financial architecture and framework of the social investment programmes with a view to conclusively reforming the relevant institutions and programmes in a determined bid to eliminate all institutional frailties for the exclusive benefit of disadvantaged households and win back lost public confidence in the initiative.

Culled from The Beagle News, Vol. 2, No. 11 - Sunday, January 21, 2024 - Saturday, January 27, 2024.
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