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N37b probe: Ex-minister gets EFCC’s 72-hour ultimatum

• Anti-graft agency rejects three weeks’ extension request by Sadiya Umar-Farouq

Former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, must appear at the Abuja headquarters of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for interrogation, the agency has said.
The minister, who cited health challenges, approached the anti-graft agency through her counsel, requesting that the deadline be extended by three weeks.

But the Commission yesterday asked her to appear before its team within three days for interrogation.

The ex-minister was invited over the alleged laundering of N37, 170,855,753.44 in her ministry during her tenure through a contractor, James Okwete.

Although the ex-minister has denied having any link with the implicated contractor, the anti-graft commission insisted that she should come for questioning.

The one-time minister formally wrote to the Executive Chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ola Olukoyede, that she was indisposed.

A source said: “In her letter, she asked the EFCC to give her three weeks to attend to her health before honouring the commission’s investigation. The letter was delivered by her counsel on Wednesday.

“But the EFCC said it cannot delay the investigation for three weeks. It has given the ex-minister three days to appear or risk being declared wanted.

“Olukoyede has put a new system in place such that you can appear before EFCC detectives and sleep in your home the same day. There is no need to panic at all.

“We are expecting her; our team is on standby. Even if she requires medical help, we will avail her of our first-class facility.”

EFCC spokesman Dele Oyewale said: “We got a letter from the ex-minister that she could not honour our invitation due to some health challenges.

“Since her lawyer brought the letter, the EFCC has also responded accordingly.”

The EFCC letter to the ex-minister reads: “The commission is investigating a case of money laundering involving the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development during your time as minister.

“In view of the above, you are requested to kindly report for an interview with the undersigned scheduled as follows: Wednesday, 3rd of January, 2024. Time: 10am.

“This request is made pursuant to Section 38 (I) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004 & Section 21 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.”

Oyewale, who spoke on the matter when he was featured on television, said the agency has directed her to honour the invitation without further delay.

He said: “It is true that she didn’t show up, but she sent a letter pleading for more time, explaining that she had some health challenges.

“She didn’t shun EFCC’s invitation. She actually gave reasons why she couldn’t meet up.

“Her lawyer was also at the commission to brief the anti-graft agency on why she couldn’t come or honour the invitation.”

The EFCC spokesman also explained that the N37.1 billion being mentioned might not be the correct amount misappropriated by the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry.

He said: “On the figure that is being bandied about, I cannot categorically confirm the figure because it is an ongoing thing.

“We are still tracing all the transactions here and there. It may be more than that.

“We can’t publish a figure now until we finish the tracking and it may be more than what is being brandished now.”

Oyewale said that the National Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer of the National Social Investment Programme Agency (NSIPA), Halima Shehu, has been released after interrogation.

He added: “She was the National Coordinator in charge of the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme under the Ministry during Buhari’s tenure.

“She has been queried over some of the money that left the ministry’s coffers through her.”

The Nation

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