Sadiya: I Applied To EFCC For Extension Of Time For My Client To Appear For Interview- SAN

…. She did not shun the commission’s invitation

Counsel to former Minister of Humanitarian Services, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouq, Sir Oladipo Okpeseyi (SAN) has clarified the erroneous media report doing the rounds about his client, saying that she did not shun the invitation extended to her by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Okpeseyi said that on the contrary, she was eager to make herself available to offer clarifications to operatives of the anti-graft agency who were looking into the books of two financially independent agencies under the ministry, including the National Social Investment Programme Agency (NSIPA).

“I was at the headquarters of the Commission on Tuesday to submit a letter to that effect and to seek an extension of time (a shift in date) to enable my client, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, to make herself available at another opportune time to offer clarifications about activities of some agencies under the ministry she superintended in the immediate past administration.

“Although, the EFCC has yet to send me a formal reply, the leadership availed us of its understanding, which resulted in parties amicably agreeing to have the interview originally scheduled for Wednesday (January 3, 2024) postponed to a time that the Commission would subsequently fix after looking through its schedules,” Sir Okpeseyi said in a chat with the media.

He said that once the coast was clear and a new date was fixed by the Commission, his client would be available to answer questions and offer clarifications on the areas of her stewardship that are not clear to the Commission.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria took the opportunity of the chat to attack the impression being created in a section of the media that his client was being invited for alleged misappropriation of funds.

According to him: “That is not the case in this circumstance. She has been invited to offer clarifications into certain expenditures by some agencies under her ministry.”

Recall that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had earlier said it would not arrest the immediate past Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, for the alleged N37.1 billion fraud in agencies under the ministry.

The EFCC had also said that the former minister did not shun its invitation.

The EFCC spokesperson, Dele Oyewale, said this on Thursday, January 4, 2024.

Oyewale noted that the former minister sent a letter that she couldn’t honour the invitation because she was indisposed [due to health challenges].

Sadiya Umar Farouq

“It is true that she didn’t show up, but she sent a letter pleading for more time explaining that she had some health challenges.

“She didn’t shun the EFCC invitation; she actually gave reasons why she couldn’t meet up

“Her lawyer was also at the commission to brief the anti-graft agency of why she couldn’t come or honour the invitation,” he told NAN.

Oyewale said the EFCC had considered her plea and expected that she would honour the invitation without further delay.

The EFCC spokesperson said there might not be any reason for her arrest as she had done the needful through her lawyer.

“The position of the commission is that she should turn herself in without further delay,” he added.

Oyewale further stated that the N37.1 billion being branded might not be a correct figure of the money misappropriated under the ministry.

He said: “On the figure that is being branded, I cannot categorically confirm the figure because it is an ongoing thing. We are still tracing all the transactions here and there; it may be more than that.

“We can’t publish a figure now until we finish the tracking, and it may be more than what is being brandished now.”

The EFCC spokesperson added that the National Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer of the National Social Investment Programme Agency (NSIPA), Halima Shehu, had been released.

Shehu, who was arrested on Tuesday, was, however, directed to come to the EFCC office for interrogation until the end of the investigation.

She was arrested in connection with the ongoing probe of the humanitarian affairs ministry.

“She was the National Coordinator in charge of the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme under the ministry during Buhari’s tenure, and she has been queried over some of the money that left the ministry’s coffers through her,” Oyewale said.

It would also be recalled that the former minister had, through her media aide, Alexander Udeh, issued an initial response to the media report that insinuated her into a business relationship with a contractor.

Read her: “My attention has been drawn to publications in some online media outlets trying to link my name with the activities of one Mr. James Okwete who is reportedly being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged financial improprieties.

“Ordinarily I would have ignored such publications, which at best could be seen and regarded as speculative but doing so will give energy to the adventure of those who take delight in mudslinging, especially against those who are, or have been privileged to hold public offices.

“In this age of digital media when unverified materials are easily dumped and recalled from cyberspace, it would be inappropriate to ignore such a malicious linkage.

“I wish to state categorically that I neither know the said Mr. Okwete nor have ever had him represent me in any way whatsoever. Therefore, linking me with him in whatever guise is bogus and ill-intentioned.

“I remain proud to have served my country as Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with every sense of responsibility and would defend my actions, stewardship and programmes during my tenure whenever I am called upon to do so.

“While I resist the urge to engage in any media banter whatsoever on this issue since my name was never expressly mentioned by the agency reportedly investigating Mr Okwete, I am nonetheless prepared to seek redress legally and clear my name if there is any such defamatory reference to my person from any source.”

Meanwhile, sundry reports said that the agencies, which financial activities caught the interest of and scrutiny by the anti-graft agency had their budgets independently and exclusively administered by them as long as spending did not go above a certain threshold.

It was learnt that if proposed expenditures went above the threshold, the agencies would have to revert upstairs for ministerial approval.

But the agencies, as learnt, ensured that expenditures for contracts were below ministerial approval.

These, as gathered, are some of the areas the former minister would be expected to clarify or shed light on in her rescheduled interview with operatives of the EFCC to enable it [the Commission] to track the “expended” funds being investigated.