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Edugate: EFCC ‘grills’ Zenith, Jaiz, Providus banks’ CEOs

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday interrogated the chief executive officers of Zenith, Jaiz and Providus banks over the alleged financial irregularities…

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday interrogated the chief executive officers of Zenith, Jaiz and Providus banks over the alleged financial irregularities uncovered in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, a reliable source in the commission told Daily Trust.

The EFCC also quizzed and took to its custody, the suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu, for directing the payment of the sum of N585.189 million grant meant for vulnerable groups in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ogun and Lagos States into one Bridget Mojisola Oniyelu’s private account. 

A senior EFCC official, who spoke to our correspondent yesterday, said: “I can tell you that the CEOs and MDs of Zenith Bank, Providus Bank and Jaiz Bank are currently being grilled by our interrogators here at the headquarters.

“They were invited and are being probed in connection with the some of the financial irregularities uncovered in the humanitarian affairs ministry. When asked whether they would be released on administrative bail on Tuesday, the source said that he was not sure.

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Repeated calls and messages sent to the heads of corporate communications of Zenith and Jaiz Bank were not answered or returned.

However, multiple sources in the affected banks confirmed to Daily Trust that “it was a routine invitation to the banks”, asking them to provide information on some customers of the bank who are direct beneficiaries of the disbursements of the grants by the humanitarian affairs ministry.

According to the bank officials, who did not want their names in print, the banks have since complied and cooperated with the anti-graft agency in its investigations.

The bank sources deny any involvement of their institutions in the alleged N44 billion corruption case within the ministry.

One of the sources said: “Our MD handed over documents relating to accounts operated by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to the anti-graft agency.

“He departed the Abuja headquarters of the anti-graft agency as soon as the documents were handed over”, the source added.

PDP demands suspension of Tunji-Ojo

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday demanded the immediate suspension of Minister of Interior, Mr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo over the award of N438 million contract to a company he co-founded by the humanitarian affairs ministry.

 Debo Ologunagba, National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, urged President Bola Tinubu to take immediate action to protect the resources meant for the wellbeing of poor Nigerians from further plundering by suspending Ojo and handing him over to the EFCC for investigation.

 The party said, “Nigerians are appalled by the lame excuse by Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo in claiming that he has no interest in the company despite his confession of owning huge shares in the firm; a channel through which he allegedly benefitted immensely from the said fraudulent consultancy fee payment.

“The PDP challenges the Interior minister to publish the details of the due process certification documents, the scope of job, the experts and modules used as well as particulars of the 11 million Nigerian households claimed to have been verified within a space of one month.”

Prominent lawyer too

The opposition party’s position aligns with that of a prominent lawyer, social critic, and senior analyst at the Tony Blair Foundation for Global Change, Audu Bulama Bukarti, who said the interior minister should be suspended and investigated.

According to Mr. Bukarti, during his appearance on Channels TV on Monday, Mr. Tunji-Ojo inadvertently revealed more than he intended. “He admitted to owning New Planet Project Ltd and acknowledged his wife’s role as a director. Furthermore, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo confirmed that the alleged N438m was transferred from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to the company.

“His defence, or rather excuse, hinges on resigning from the directorship, claiming no involvement in day-to-day operations despite being an owner of the private company. He expects Nigerians to believe he had no part in securing a nearly half a billion naira contract for his own company, where his wife serves as a director. The rapid completion of a high-value consultancy contract within months raises suspicions.

“Questions about the company’s qualifications, services rendered, and the necessity of such an expensive consultancy for a ministry that is supposed to be assisting the vulnerable must be addressed. The entire situation, from inception to conclusion, reeks of corruption.

“President Tinubu should suspend and investigate him, scrutinizing other contracts”, the lawyer said.

Tunji-Ojo at Villa amid controversy over N438 

The Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, yesterday visited the Presidential Villa amid the controversy trailing revelations that a firm linked to him secured a N438 million consultancy contract for the National Social Register under the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.

The minister faulted reports that he was summoned by the president.

Daily Trust reports that at least three other ministers, including Hannatu Musawa (Arts and Creative Economy), Shuaibu Audu (Steel Development) and Adebayo Adelabu (Power) also visited the Villa but were unable to meet with the president because of his busy schedule.

Asked to comment on the controversy, Tunji-Ojo simply told State House reporters: “We’re too intelligent to be stupid.”

Tunji-Ojo had denied any involvement in the contract awarded to New Planet Project Limited, which he co-founded.

He had explained in an interview on Monday night on Channels Television that he was no longer involved in the running of the firm, having resigned as a director in 2019.

In a chat with Daily Trust yesterday, Tawo Eja Tawo (SAN) said Tunji-Ojo had done the proper thing by resigning as a director of the company five years ago.

He said, “If the company bidded, pre-qualified and due process followed, there is nothing wrong in awarding them a contract.

“Yes, he may have influenced the contract, the investigators must look deeper to establish that. The law is different from morality”, said the senior lawyer.

Ben Anachebe (SAN) said Tunji-Ojo was not legally bound as the matter bordered on suspicions of having influenced the contract.

He, however, said the minister’s wife’s involvement in the contract implied he could have known about it or influenced it.

Afenifere speaks

Afenifere, pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, yesterday declared its support for President Bola Tinubu on the fight against corruption.

 It asked the president to initiate a thorough investigation into the allegations against Betta Edu without interference and bias. 

 Afenifere, in a statement by its National Organising Secretary, Kola Omololu, said the group called for “a comprehensive investigation into the financial transactions associated with the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation as well as a forensic audit of the ministry and the companies involved in the excessively inflated consultancy’s verification fees.”

 

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