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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Your defense is watery, laughable, which school kids did you feed during COVID-19 lockdown?

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Leading Civil Rights Advocacy group: HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has quarried the erstwhile minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster management under the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration Sadiya Umar-Farouk to tell Nigerians the ‘ghosts’ children she fed during the Covid-19 lockdown era where she claimed to have fed school children with hundreds of millions of Naira of public funds just as the Rights group said her role as minister under an administration during which the National Emergency Managemeny Agency virtually collapsed needs to be thoroughly investigated.

HURIWA also said the defense put up by the former minister denying any link with the so-called contractor accused of embezzling or laundering billions of public funds from an apparently failed contracts by the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster management makes little sense since it is inconceivable that such massive contracts running into billions of Naira were reportedly/allegedly awarded by the ministry where she held sway as the Minister, just as the Rights group wondered how such huge jobs can be awarded and executed without the involvement one way or the other of the supervising minister in charge either before awarding the contracts or the execution of such jobs in which humongous amounts of public fund were allegedly paid out to a contractor who is reportedly on the net of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

HURIWA has therefore asked the ex- minister to explain in meticulous details, the massive contracts awarded by her ministry during the regime of a president known to have led the most corrupt government since the country gained independence.

Moreover, HURIWA has asked the former minister to voluntarily surrender herself to the EFCC to give irrefutable response to the widespread reports of alleged massive scale corruption during her tenure. “Since she seemed very confident that she did nothing wrong even when allegations flying around the media space indicate otherwise, the best line of action is to self report to the EFCC and to transparently clear herself of the damaging allegations hanging on her neck like swords of damocles.”

Besides, HURIWA recalled that the former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouk, had denied links with one Mr. James Okwete, who is reportedly being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged N37 billion fraud.

In a statement signed by her Media Assistant, Alexander Udeh, the ex-minister under the erstwhile Muhammadu Buhari administration, explained that she will be willing to defend her actions while in office , anywhere and anytime.

Titled: “EFCC Investigates N37 Billion Fraud: My Position,” Umar-Farouk in the statement, stated that she neither knows nor has any links with the said contractor, Okwete.

The prominent civil rights group recalled that there had had been reports that the EFCC had arrested a contractor, Okwete, in connection with the ongoing probe into the N37 billion allegedly laundered by the ministry.

The report had stated that Okwete, who was allegedly used in laundering the money had been arrested by the commission and is currently detained in the custody of the anti-graft agency. According to the report, he had been giving investigators more details that had allegedly indicted the former minister, and some top staff of the ministry.

But Umar-Farouk described the reports as merely speculative, insisting that at no time did Okwete represent her in any capacity whatsoever.

“My attention has been drawn to publications in some online media outlets trying to link my name with the activities of one Mr. James Okwete who is reportedly being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged financial improprieties.

Ordinarily, I would have ignored such publications, which at best could be seen and regarded as speculative but doing so will give energy to the adventure of those who take delight in mudslinging, especially against those who are, or have been privileged to hold public offices.

“In this age of digital media when unverified materials are easily dumped and recalled from the cyber space, it would be ‘inappropriate’ to ignore such a malicious linkage.

“I wish to state categorically that I neither know the said Mr. Okwete nor has ever had him represent me in any way whatsoever. Therefore, linking me with him in whatever guise is bogus and ill-intentioned,” she added.

Umar-Farouk stated that she remains proud to have served the country as minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with every sense of responsibility and would defend her actions, stewardship and programmes during her tenure whenever she is called upon to do so.

“While I resist the urge to engage in any media banter whatsoever on this issue since my name was never expressly mentioned by the agency reportedly investigating Mr. Okwete, I am nonetheless prepared to seek redress legally and clear my name if there is any such defamatory reference to my person from any source,” she stated.

HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) however faulted this weak, porous, and dramatic line of defense made by the embattled erstwhile minister just as the Rights group challenged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to dig deeper into the activities, expenditures and programmes undertaken by the former minister especially under the guise of feeding school children in which even the National Assembly had then accused the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development as been opaque in the execution of key initiatives of government which cost the taxpayers huge sums of money to do with little or no impacts because it was whilst that ministry claimed to be dolling our cash awards to poor households that the National Bureau of statistics announced that Nigeria has over 133 million households that are multidimensionally poor.

The then Humanitarian Affairs minister during the Buhari’s badly administered federal government had claimed without any shreds of verifiable evidence that it spent more than N500 million to feed pupils during the lockdown imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Sadiya Umar-Farouq, the then minister of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development, disclosed the sum at the presidential task force (PTF) on COVID-19 briefing in Abuja.

According to the minister, the clarification became necessary to clear the air over speculations regarding how the federal government disbursed funds for the programme.

At the rate of N4,200 per family, and with 124,589 households impacted, a sum of N523,273,800 was spent on the programme.

But HURIWA is asking the EFCC to invite the former minister to explain where she met the school children when schools and all public and private institutions were locked down due to lockdown policy of the then Federal government which followed the directive of the World Health organisation which ordered prolonged lockdown to stave off the widening spectres of the dreaded Covid-19 disease.

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