EFCC uncovers N37bn fraud in humanitarian ministry under Buhari’s Gov’t

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has uncovered a N37.2 billion fraud allegedly perpetrated within the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs under the former minister, Sadiya Umar-Farouk.

This revelation comes amidst mounting concerns about the misappropriation of funds meant to alleviate suffering and empower the vulnerable.

According to an exclusive report by the PUNCH, the swindle involved funnelling massive sums from government coffers into 38 bank accounts linked to a single contractor, James Okwete. These accounts, spread across five major banks, became the conduit for a spree of illicit activity.

Okwete, the suspected mastermind of the scheme, allegedly channelled N6.74 billion to Bureau de Change operators, a money laundering tactic. He further indulged in a lavish lifestyle, splurging N540 million on cash withdrawals, N288 million on luxury cars, and a staggering N2.2 billion on prime properties in Abuja and Enugu.

But the alleged plundering goes beyond personal extravagance. Investigators traced 53 companies connected to Okwete, 47 of which allegedly secured lucrative government contracts worth N27.4 billion. Furthermore, Okwete’s web of financial tentacles encompasses a staggering 143 bank accounts across 12 different banks, with 134 of them belonging to corporations linked to his network.

Recall that the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), in 2023, revealed that N2.67 billion meant for the Ministry of Education’s school feeding program during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown mysteriously found its way into private bank accounts.

Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, the former ICPC Chairman, who revealed this, stated that the commission unearthed the misappropriated funds hidden in personal accounts linked to payments made to some federal colleges.

The ICPC’s investigation didn’t stop there. Their Open Treasury Portal review, conducted between January and August 2020, revealed a web of financial malfeasance across 72 government agencies. A cumulative N90 million in irregularities was discovered, casting a dark shadow over public financial management.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) had urged former Education Minister Adamu Adamu to publicly disclose the names of those suspected of involvement in the scandal. However, the Minister refused.

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