Home » Interior Minister Faces Probe Over N438bn Contract Scandal

Interior Minister Faces Probe Over N438bn Contract Scandal

The minister denies any wrongdoing, while the president vows to reform the social investment programme.

by Motoni Olodun

The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) has summoned Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, the Interior Minister, to appear before it on Tuesday over his alleged involvement in a contract scandal worth N438 billion.

The invitation is in connection with the award of a consultancy contract to a company linked to Tunji-Ojo by the suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu.

The company, known as Planet Project Limited, was said to have benefited from a N3 billion fund earmarked for the National Social Register, a database of poor and vulnerable households in Nigeria.

Tunji-Ojo, who is also a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), denied any wrongdoing, insisting that he resigned from the company in 2019 when he was elected into the House of Representatives.

He claimed that he was no longer a signatory to the company’s account and had no influence over the contract award.

However, a leaked memo showed that the CCB had asked Tunji-Ojo to appear before it on Tuesday for interrogation over the contract scandal.

The CCB is a constitutional body that monitors the conduct of public officers and enforces compliance with the Code of Conduct for Public Officers.

The contract scandal is one of the several allegations of corruption and mismanagement that have rocked the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), a flagship initiative of the federal government to tackle poverty and unemployment.

The NSIP, which was launched in 2016, comprises four programs: the N-Power, the Conditional Cash Transfer, the Home Grown School Feeding Programme, and the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme.

The programs are meant to provide social safety nets for millions of Nigerians, especially the youth, women, and children.

However, the NSIP has been plagued by controversies, such as a lack of transparency, accountability, and coordination, as well as political interference and fraud.

In 2020, the federal government suspended Betta Edu, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, and Halima Shehu, the National Coordinator of NSIP, over their alleged involvement in the embezzlement of over N44 billion belonging to the NSIP.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is currently investigating the duo and other officials of the ministry for their roles in the scandal.

The EFCC is also probing other cronies of former President Muhammadu Buhari, who are accused of receiving various sums from the NSIP funds through fictitious contracts.

President Bola Tinubu, who assumed office in 2023 after defeating Buhari in a historic election, has vowed to fight corruption and reform the NSIP.

He has suspended the four programs under the NSIP for six weeks and set up a six-member investigative panel headed by Wale Edun, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy.

The panel is tasked with conducting a comprehensive review and audit of the existing financial frameworks and policy guidelines of the NSIP, to implement a total re-engineering of the financial architecture of the programs.

The panel is also expected to recommend measures to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and impact of the NSIP on the lives of Nigerians.

The NSIP is widely regarded as one of the largest and most ambitious social intervention programs in Africa, with the potential to lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty and create jobs for the teeming youth population.

However, the program needs to be revamped and restructured to ensure that it delivers on its objectives and reaches the intended beneficiaries.

The CCB’s summoning of Tunji-Ojo is seen as a positive step towards ensuring accountability and transparency in the NSIP and restoring public confidence in the program.

It is also hoped that the panel’s report will provide a roadmap for the reform and transformation of the NSIP into a more sustainable and impactful social investment program for Nigeria.

Source: BusinessDay

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