NECA, groups seek justice, fairness for Halima Shehu

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North-East Consultative Assembly, NECA, has joined the growing chorus of concerned groups advocating for justice and fairness in the case of Halima Shehu, the suspended National Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer of the National Social Investment Programme Agency, NSIPA.

This is contained in a press release issued to newsmen by the Consultative Assembly.

According to the statement, NECA said it found it necessary to add its voice to the calls for a review of the process that led to Shehu’s suspension and subsequent investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, over missing N37 billion from the coffers of the Agency.

In the statement signed by the National Chairman of NECA, Abba Rious Borguma, said President Tinubu as a meticulous thoroughbred democrat must not compromise his principles for the interests of Ministers in charge of overseeing Agencies and Parastatals.

“NECA acknowledges the seriousness of the allegations against Halima Shehu’s supervising Minister, Dr Betta Edu and the need for a thorough investigation.

“The allegations against officials of the Ministry involving unauthorized and fraudulent transfers of funds from the Agency’s Remita account to individual accounts are grave and demand immediate attention,” they said.

The Group urged the President to order an independent administrative enquiry into the allegations of breech by Edu of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, regulatory policy that restricts the arbitrary interference of ministries in the financial management of Parastatals (government-owned corporations) and agencies under them.

It stated, “In contravention of the CBN regulation that seeks to ensure that these entities have autonomy in managing their financial affairs without undue interference from the government, the Humanitarian Minister was said to have masterminded a fraudulent diversion of funds from the NSIPA accounts without the necessary approvals.

“On December 20th, 2023 for instance the Minister reportedly used the office of the Accountant General of the Federation to perform transactions amounting to a staggering N11 billion. These funds were withdrawn from the NSIPA Remita account, without the knowledge or consent of the Chief Executive Officer, CEO, and Chief Accounting Officer of the Agency.”

The Group noted that the Minister was recently also fingered in a leaked Memo on the diversion of N585.1m fund for vulnerable groups, saying it is unacceptable and must be thoroughly investigated.

“This deliberate bypass of the Agency’s financial structure which has resulted in monies being paid out running into several billions of Naira out of the Agency’s Remlta Account with the CBN without the knowledge or approval of the National Coordinator of and without due regard to stipulated financial regulations.

“Tinubu must also interrogate allegations of illegal addition of more Signatories and Role players to the said Agency’s account without recourse to me or the Director of Finance and Admin, DFA, thereby opening the Agency to vulnerability of fraud and unauthorised transfer of funds,” the Group demanded.

NECA said it firmly believed that due process must be followed in handling issues related to the suspension or removal of public officers and political appointees confirmed by the Senate. The organization implores President Tinubu to ensure fairness and justice prevail in this case, as it is a fundamental tenet of democracy.

Furthermore saying that, “The North-East Consultative Forum stands with Halima Shehu and seeks a just and fair resolution to this matter. We believe that everyone has the right to a fair hearing and that judgment should be based on evidence and due process, not on political maneuvering or personal vendettas. NECA urges all parties involved to focus on the facts and to act with integrity, transparency, and accountability.

“NECA also calls on fellow citizens and civil society organizations to continue advocating for justice and fairness in this case. It is crucial that the voices of the people are heard and that our leaders are reminded of their responsibility to uphold the principles of democracy and justice.”