Betta Edu: Nigerian poverty minister suspended over money in personal bank account

Dr. Betta Edu attends the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 at FNB Stadium on December 2, 2018
Image caption,Dr Betta Edu is the youngest minister in President Bola Tinubu’s cabinet

By Mansur Abubakar in Abuja & Wedaeli Chibelushi in London

BBC News

Nigeria’s president has suspended a minister over the alleged diversion of more than 585 million naira ($640,000; £500,000) of public money into a personal bank account.

Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation Minister Betta Edu was suspended on Monday following public outrage over the scandal.

A statement from President Bola Tinubu’s office said he had ordered an investigation into Dr Edu’s ministry.

Dr Edu has denied any wrongdoing.

Her office said she had approved the transfer into a personal account, which was not in her name, but said it was for the “implementation of grants to vulnerable groups”.

Dr Edu, 37, is the youngest minister in President Tinubu’s cabinet and is seen as a close ally of the president.

The suspension of a minister is a rare occurrence in Nigeria – Dr Edu is the first to lose their job since President Tinubu took office in May last year.

His predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, sacked only two ministers during his eight-year tenure.

Last week, local media reported on a leaked document that allegedly showed Dr Edu instructing a senior treasury official to transfer the money to the personal account of Bridget Oniyelu, the accountant for the government’s Grants for Vulnerable Groups initiative.

Reports that Dr Edu had asked for the funds be moved to a personal account, rather than a government one, caused outrage.

Mr Tinubu called for an investigation into the transfer on Sunday.

He asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for a “thorough investigation into all aspects of the financial transactions involving the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation,” said a statement released on Monday.

Mr Tinubu asked Dr Edu to comply with the investigation. He also called for the reform of government institutions that run National Social Investments Programmes (NSIP) – initiatives like the Grant for Vulnerable Groups that aim to tackle poverty – stressing a need to “win back lost public confidence”.

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