The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday seized the travel documents of suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation Dr. Betta Edu and her predecessor Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouq.
The anti-graft agency also impounded the international passport of the suspended National Coordinator of the National Social Investment Programme Agency (NSIPA) Halima Shehu.
The trio are being interrogated over allegations of financial crime levelled against them.
The passport seizure was part of the conditions for granting them administrative bail.
The travel papers are to be with the commission pending the conclusion of the investigation.Edu, Umar-Farouq and Shehu were grilled by the anti-graft agency over their activities in the ministry, particularly the disbursement of the Humanitarian Fund to beneficiaries.
Also, EFCC quizzed the managing directors of three banks over alleged suspicious payments by the top officials of the ministry under Umar-Farouq and Edu.
The Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, who is linked to a company believed to have benefited from the award of a contract in the ministry, was at Aso Villa, Abuja yesterday.
Sources said he was there on a scheduled appointment in respect of the automation of international passport issuance. But he did not meet with the President.
An EFCC source told our reporter: “We have asked all those under interrogation to submit their travelling documents. We have seized the passports of Betta, Sadiya, Halima and others.
“For Betta, who was grilled from 11 am till 6 pm, she was the last to be granted bail yesterday.
“We demanded their passports to restrict their movement, to enable them to be available for interrogation. They are all cooperating with us.”
Sources said the three managing directors of banks were quizzed over their suspected conspiracy.
The banks were accused of refusal to raise “red flags” and gross involvement in suspicious transactions.
The banks were alleged to have violated the Anti-Money Laundering Act (Amendment) 2023, especially Sections 5, 10, and 16(b).
Tunji-Ojo, three other ministers sighted in Aso Villa
Mr. Tunji-Ojo was among the ministers sighted within the Presidential Villa, Abuja, scheduled to meet with President Bola Tinubu.
Other ministers were Ms Hanatu Musawa (Arts and Creative Economy), Shuaibu Audu (Steel Development) and Adebayo Adelabu (Power).
However, Tunji-Ojo, who was said to have visited for a routine briefing of the President on developments in his ministry, and other ministers, were unable to meet President Tinubu as he was reportedly engaged with some visitors from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
There were insinuations in social media that Tunji-Ojo was at the Villa because he was summoned by the President to respond to issues surrounding a company linked to him, which reportedly received a consultancy contract from the ministry.
Sources, however, said that Tunji-Ojo was not summoned, but visited Aso Villa, like his other three colleagues, for a scheduled routine briefing.
The Minister of Interior, who had spoken on television on Monday evening, said he founded the company linked to him, New Planet Projects Limited, some 10 years ago.
However, he said he resigned from its directorship in 2019 when he contested for House of Representatives.
Tunji-Ojo described the reports claiming he committed an infraction as shocking, insisting that he is only a shareholder in the company and not involved in its day-to-day operations.
Afenifere: don’t sweep allegations under carpet
Afenifere, a pan-Yoruba socio-political group, urged President Tinubu not to sweep corruption allegations under the carpet.
The group lamented that N4 billion was spent on the verification of beneficiaries.
Afenifere said eradicating corruption was essential for creating an environment that promotes sustainable development, equal opportunities, and social justice for all Nigerians.
Its National Organising Secretary, Kole Omololu, said in a statement in Akure that President Tinubu must fight corruption with determination.
He said: “We call for a comprehensive investigation into the financial transactions associated with the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, as well as a forensic audit of the ministry and the companies involved in the excessively inflated consultancy’s verification fees.
“We firmly believe that no one should be exempt from this investigation, as the government under President Tinubu’s leadership must set an example and demonstrate an unwavering commitment to the principles of good governance.”
PDP calls for minister’s suspension
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) called for the suspension, investigation and prosecution of Tunji-Ojo over an alleged involvement in the movement of N438 million poverty alleviation fund.
A statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Olgunagba, said his company allegedly siphoned funds meant for poor Nigerians under the guise of consultancy fees for unsubstantiated verification of households in the country.
The party said Tunji-Ojo should also be investigated by the EFCC.
The PDP challenged the ministers to publish the details of the due process certification documents, the scope of the job, the experts and modules used as well as particulars of the 11 million Nigerian households claimed to have been verified within one month.