The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is probing the former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, over alleged ₦37,170,855,753.44 fraud through a contractor, James Okwete.
The anti-graft agency has asked the former minister to appear at its headquarters, in Jabi, Abuja on Wednesday, January 3, 2024, to explain the alleged fraud.
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: 10 am. 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,” part of the document reads.
The ex-minister could not be reached for comments on Saturday as her telephone indicated that it was switched off. When our correspondent contacted her former media aide, Nneka Ikem, over the development, she told our correspondent off and proceeded to switch off her phone.
“As you’re asking me? I’ll be asking you too, where did you learn that the EFCC has invited her, “ Ikem queried before ending the call. Subsequent calls indicated that her phone had been switched off.
Umar-Farouq had earlier denied knowledge of the contractor, James Okwete, who is still being held by the anti-graft agency.
The former minister tweeted on her X handle on Monday, “There have been a number of reports linking me to a purported investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission into the activities of one James Okwete, someone completely unknown to me.
“James Okwete neither worked for, nor represented me in any way whatsoever. The linkages and associations to my person are spurious. While I resist the urge to engage in any media trial whatsoever, I have however contacted my legal team to explore possible options to seek redress on the malicious attack on my person.
“I remain proud to have served my country as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with every sense of responsibility and would defend my actions, stewardship, and programs during my tenure whenever I am called upon to do so.”
The spokesperson for the EFCC, Dele Oyewale, declined comments on the ex-minister’s invitation when contacted.
“I’m not around at the moment, and I can’t speak on that, please,” Oyewale said.
It was earlier reported that the EFCC had arrested Okwete in connection with the ongoing probe into the N37.1 billion allegedly laundered by the ministry under Umar-Farouq.
A top EFCC official, who confided in our correspondent, said the contractor had made useful statements concerning Umar-Farouq and former directors-general of agencies under the ministry.
The development coincides with the probe of three other ministers, who served under former President Muhammadu Buhari for alleged graft estimated at ₦150 billion.
“It is not only Umar-Farouk we are investigating. Three other former ministers are also under probe. They were allegedly involved in graft to the tune of N150 billion,” a credible source in the EFCC had confided in our correspondent.
Sources revealed that Umar-Farouq and some former directors-general of agencies under the ministry might be arrested by the commission following the details of the alleged financial misappropriation so far revealed to interrogators by the contractor.
Investigations by the anti-graft agency allegedly revealed that the N37.1 billion was transferred from the Federal Government’s coffers and sent to 38 different bank accounts domiciled in five legacy commercial banks belonging to or connected with Okwete.
Impeccable sources had earlier confirmed to Sunday PUNCH that Okwete was cooperating with investigators.
A source said, “The contractor, Mr Okwete, who was used in laundering the money, has been arrested by the Commission. He is currently in our custody and has been giving investigators more details that have indicted the former minister and some DGs under the ministry, and they may be brought in anytime soon too.”
Another source stated, “The contractor involved in the N37.1 billion fraud has been arrested and will spend Christmas in our custody. He has given some names, and the former humanitarian affairs minister and directors-general in the ministry were linked to the fraud.”
Umar-Farouq was the pioneer Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.
She was appointed by former President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2019 as the youngest cabinet member.
Some of the documents revealed that following receipt of the funds, Okwete allegedly transferred N6,746,034,000 to Bureau De Change operators, withdrew N540 million, purchased luxury cars with N288,348,600 and bought luxury houses in Abuja and Enugu State with N2,195,115,000.
A total of 53 companies were reportedly traced to Okwete, who was also said to have used 47 of the firms to secure Federal Government contracts amounting to N27,423,824,339.86.