Nigerian Poverty Alleviation Minister Suspended On Corruption Charges

Published: 10 January 2024

Bola Tinubu portraitNigerian president Bola Tinubu. (Photo: Nosa Asemota, Wikimedia, License)

By Henry Pope

Nigerian president Bola Tinubu suspended Monday one of his ministers, following reports that she redirected hundreds of thousands of dollars meant for social welfare programs into a private bank account.

Dr. Betta Edu, Nigeria’s Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, is accused of misappropriating roughly 585 million naira (US$663,000) in grant money that was pledged to aid vulnerable citizens.

She has been ordered to fully cooperate with authorities as an investigation into her alleged conduct is carried out, said Ajuri Ngelale, Special Adviser to the President, in a State House press release.

Edu vehemently denied the allegations against her, explaining that the funds were always destined to support Nigeria’s at-risk demographics via social welfare programs.

Following the suspension, Tinubu directed the Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) “to conduct a thorough investigation into all aspects of the financial transactions” carried out by the humanitarian affairs ministry while it was under Edu’s watch.

He also responded by commissioning a panel, headed by his economic and finance ministers, to audit his government’s social investment programs so as to “eliminate all institutional frailties” and “win back lost public confidence” in his administration's ability to combat corruption.

Tinubu’s rise to power in last year’s elections, which the Supreme Court upheld following accusations of fraud, came amidst promises that he would take a hard stance on corruption. His political adversaries, however, argued that he was in no position to throw stones and that “corruption cannot fight corruption,” according to local media.

Edu’s suspension, however, is meant to demonstrate the president’s “commitment to uphold the highest standards of integrity, transparency, and accountability,” Ngelale said.

Also implicated in alleged misappropriation of ministry funds is Sadiya Umar Farouq, Edu’s predecessor. Farouq wrote on X on Monday that the EFCC summoned her to “offer clarifications in respect of some issues that the commission is investigating.”