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Betta Edu: What Did You Learn At Your Ministerial Retreat, Chidoka Asks Tinubu’s Ministers

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Former Aviation Minister, Osita Chidoka, has remarked that Ministers serving in President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s cabinet probably learnt nothing during their last year Ministerial retreat, saying that the scandal surrounding the suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu, demonstrates the level of systemic failure in the country.

Chidoka served under former President Goodluck Jonathan whose administration scored significant corruption perception reduction under Transparency International, TI.

Edu was suspended from office by the President and handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for questioning after facts emerged showing that he illegally transferred over N500 million of his ministry money into private account against strict statutory provisions.

Earlier in November 2023, there had been a ministerial retreat where cabinet appointments of the president, mostly fresh into such offices, were expected to have been taken through procedures such monetary and fiscal accounting in governance. President Tinubu came into power amid unanswered question bordering on corruption, so, the expectation according to Chidoka, was that the ministers would have been taken through government processes, transparency booby traps in fiscal governance.

In a statement made public on his X handle, the former minister said that debt of the controversy surrounding Edu showed the extent of systemic failure in governance in the country.

“It is only a reflection of the systemic failure in our public service,” Chidoka said.

“It is evident that the Ministerial Retreat did not deal with serious governance issues. I am confident that no one in the retreat presented the case study of Minister Adenike Grange, who was advised to approve payouts for the end of the year,” he said. Grange was a former Minister of Health under Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who was also similarly axed but was later cleared by the courts

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“A sterling career suffered extensive damage. If Minister Edu knew of this case, she would have shown more caution in using her red pen,” Chidoka said.

The former Minister also pointed out that officers whose imprints in the scandal clearly showed that they miss advised Edu in the ministry also have cases to answer.

“The Head of Service should investigate and, if found guilty, sanction the Permanent Secretary, Abel Olumuyiwa Enitan and the National Programs Manager, Thalis Olonite Apalowo, for clear breaches of civil service procedures,” he added.

In one of the four instances that led to the illegal transfer of money into a private account, according to publicly available reports on the matter, the suspended minister received a memo from the National Program Manager on Grants for Vulnerable Group, GVG, to approve a request for cash distribution to vulnerable groups in Kogi State on 6 November 2023.

On the same day, the Minister approved it.

By the former minister’s reckoning, the program manager ought not to have written to the Hon. Minister directly.

“The bulk payment of allowances to staff must have been a tradition in the Ministry before now. The Hon. Minister, due to inexperience, pressure, or greed, fell for the organised scam prevalent in the Ministry since the disastrous President Buhari years,” Chidoka said.

Continuing, he said: “the next day, 7 November 2023, the Permanent Secretary, an experienced civil servant (from public records, he has been Permanent Secretary since 2018), minuted the approval to the DFA to “process further as approved above.”

“The Permanent Secretary is the only person in the Ministry who should seek approval from the Minister.

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“Mr Apalowo should have sent the memo to Permanent Secretary Ab initio.

“He ought to have sent the memo to the internal audit, for audit and compliance, to budget to verify fund availability and then forward it to the Minister for approval.

“The internal audit, if not in cahoot, would have flagged the anomalies like air tickets to Kogi and other issues. Mr Enitan’s job is to guide and advise the Hon. Minister. He abdicated his responsibility,” he said.

According to the former minister, the debacle clearly indicated that governance in the country has not prioritized respect for rules and the training of its appointees.

“While not peculiar to this administration, but an atmosphere surrounding this government, that appears to reward political appointees for providing conduits for cash-for-patronage seems to be deepening the crisis,” Chidoka concluded.

 

 


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