Dr. Betta Edu

Humanitarian Ministry: Between Sustaining or Scrapping a Fraud Cesspool

Scandals appear to follow government officials in every political dispensation just like shadows trail our body.

The revered elder statesman and distinguished orator of blessed memory, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, who is fondly called Dan Masanin Kano, a chieftaincy title which translates to a ‘knowledgeable person’, said in many instances before his demise, that leaders are “servants of the people.”

For the Dan Masanin Kano, leadership is, or at least, should be simple and unambiguous, hence free from any kind of scandal.

Unfortunately, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development re-christened Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation has since its inception, oozed only the foul stench of corruption.

This is because of the alleged acts of financial impropriety, involving the two ministers who have piloted the affairs of ministry so far, and some Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of agencies under the ministry.

Former President Muhammadu Buhari had on August 21, 2019, announced the creation of the ministry, saddling it with the responsibility of providing humanitarian needs to victims of disaster and succour to the destitute.

Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq was appointed its pioneer minister and was succeeded by Dr. Betta Edu in August, 2023.

The National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), North East Development Commission (NEDC), the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) and Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (OSSAP-SDGs) where brought under the supervision of the ministry.

Both Hajiya Sadiya and Betta Edu, however are currently being grilled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The former is being questioned over the N37.1bn laundered during her tenure in office, through a contractor, James Okwete.

The latter, who was recently suspended from office, is being quizzed over a memo she wrote, directing the Accountant General of the Federation to transfer the sum of N585,198,500.00 into a private account, belonging to one Oniyelu Bridget, a move said to have violated Chapter 7, Page 713 of the Federal Government’s Financial Regulation, which prohibited government officials from transferring public funds to private accounts.

In the wake of the ongoing probes of Safiya Farouq and Edu, many Nigerians have called for the disbandment of the ministry, while re-signing her agencies to others.

In doing so for instance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can handle the task of developing humanitarian policies and coordination of national and international humanitarian interventions for the country.

Since NEMA has been brought under the supervision of the Vice President’s Office, it can continue responding to disasters and taking care of internally displaced persons – a role it has played effectively – alongside NAPTIP and NEDC – two other agencies created to tackle human trafficking and address the plight of the people of the North East.

The Ministry of Interior mandated to “Render to Nigerians and foreigners alike, diverse internal security and other ancillary services that are highly qualitative, efficient, courteous and transparent,” can take the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) under it wings.

The Ministry of Health which has since been expanded to include ‘Social Welfare’ can accommodate the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) and Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (OSSAP-SDGs).

Other agencies or programmes designed to create jobs and alleviate poverty can be pushed to the Ministry of Labour and Employment. As the anti-graft bodies busy themselves with diligently probing Safiya Farouq and Edu, it is imperative that the federal government considers the clarion call of well-meaning Nigerians, and the suggestions of this piece.

Otherwise, its bid to effectively provide adequate ‘humanitarian services’ in the country, and to citizens in need of them, will remain a tall order.