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Nigerian president suspends Poverty Alleviation minister over banking allegations

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Nigeria’s president on Monday suspended the country’s minister of humanitarian affairs and poverty alleviation over the use of a private bank account for ministry financial transactions in the government’s social welfare program.

Betta Edu was suspended with immediate effect while Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency carries out a “thorough investigation” of all ministry financial transactions,” presidential spokesman Ajuri Ngelale said in a statement. It said the investigation would extend to the entire framework of Nigeria’s social investment programs.

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President Bola Tinubu was elected last year after promising to rid Africa’s most populous country of chronic corruption and extreme poverty. His government said the suspension follows his commitment “to uphold the highest standards of integrity, transparency and accountability” in how Nigeria’s resources are managed.

Bola Tinubu, Nigeria’s president, on day two of the COP28 climate conference at Expo City in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. (Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Edu’s suspension comes days after local media cited an official memo in which she directed that 585 million naira ($661,000) worth of grants meant for vulnerable groups should be paid into a private account — a decision that the minister’s office said followed due process. The minister has denied any wrongdoing.

In a country where the government’s austerity measures have further squeezed millions of people facing extreme levels of poverty, many Nigerians criticized the use of a private bank account for the grants program and called for the minister to be fired.

The office of Nigeria’s Accountant General of the Federation said in a statement that such funds are meant to be sent directly from government accounts to the beneficiaries.

Edu’s predecessor, meanwhile, reported to Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Monday as it investigated alleged corruption in the disbursement of public funds during her time as minister.

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Sadiya Umar-Farouq said on social media that she was at the commission’s office to “offer clarifications in respect of some issues that the commission is investigating.”

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