The claim by the ministry comes as a hint that its petition to the ICPC could have triggered the arrest of the pop star, D’banj, over alleged fraud in the payment system in the N-Power scheme.
The federal ministry of humanitarian affairs has hinted that its petition about alleged fraud in the payment process of the N-Power scheme could have triggered the arrest of pop singer, Oladapo Oyebanjo, better known as D’Banj.
A statement by the ministry stated that it was aware of sharp practices in the payment process of beneficiaries of the N-Power scheme and immediately reported the case to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).
The ministry stated this in a statement on Thursday, two days after ICPC arrested and detained D’banj on Tuesday for allegedly colluding with some compromised government officials to introduce ghost beneficiaries into the N-Power’s payroll.
ICPC released D’banj on Friday, with his lawyers claiming that the singer was able to exonerate himself during his time in detention.
“When it came to our notice that there may have been sharp practices by some personnel of the Payment Service Provider (PSP) involved in the payment processes of beneficiaries, the matter was immediately referred to ICPC for a thorough investigation. We are aware that certain persons have consequently been invited for interrogation as part of the ongoing investigations,” a statement by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Nasir Sani-Gwarzo, read, in part.
Ministry has no official partnership with D’banj
Meanwhile, Nneka Anibeze, the special assistant on media to the minister in charge of the ministry, Sadiya Farouq, told our reporter on Friday that the ministry had no official partnership with D’banj.
She also dismissed claims of the musician being the official ambassador to the N-power programme.
“Dbanj is not an ambassador of the N-Power programme and has no official partnership with the ministry,” Ms Anibeze said in a phone interview with our reporter.
Ministry collaborating with ICPC on ongoing probe
The ministry said in its statement issued in the wake of the arrest of D’banj that it was supporting ICPC to ensure a successful determination of the anti-graft agency’s probe.
“In the meantime, we have carried out thorough reinforcement of our systems to eliminate all anomalies and prevent similar occurrences in the future. To this end we are in close collaboration with ICPC to support the successful determination of the investigation,” the ministry said in its statement.
The ministry added that it had deployed “a well-rounded mechanism for selection of eligible beneficiaries from across the country and this has been in place since the inception of the programme.”
“Working with our Service Provider, Programme Beneficiaries are onboarded, trained and deployed to pre-selected Places of Primary Assignment,” the statement added.
The N-Power programme was inaugurated by President Buhari in 2016 with thousands of direct beneficiaries spread across the key industries targeted by the programme – Agriculture, Health, Education, and Tax.
The scheme includes a payment of N30,000 monthly to beneficiaries enrolled in the programme.
The National Social Investments Programmes (NSIP) office under the leadership of its former administrator, Maryam Uwais, a special adviser to the President on Social Investment Programmes, had in July 2018, announced it would collaborate with anti-corruption agencies to improve monitoring of the school feeding programme across the states.
One of the many hurdles characterising the N-Power programme has remained the issue of truancy and ghost beneficiaries among the N-Power scheme.
In July 2020, the federal government discovered 14,020 N-Power beneficiaries who already had accounts with other Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) – a breach of the N-Power program, which is primarily for unemployed graduates.
Earlier on Wednesday, this newspaper broke the news of D’banj’s arrest and detention by the ICPC.
Investigators alleged that the stipend paid to those N-Power beneficiaries was delivered to accounts allegedly linked to the pop star.
After the musician failed to show up for interrogation despite multiple invitations, the ICPC moved to arrest him anywhere in Nigeria and abroad, forcing him to show up at the commission’s office on Tuesday.
On arrival, D’banj was subjected to a prolonged interrogation session, after which he was detained. His plea for administrative bail was initially rejected by officials who said the musician could not be trusted to appear for investigations if released on bail.
ICPC said in a statement confirming the arrest of the musician on Wednesday that he failed to show up for interrogation despite multiple invitations.
The anti-corruption body said it then moved to arrest him anywhere in Nigeria and abroad, forcing him to show up at the commission’s office on Tuesday.
“The investigation will be all-encompassing and extended to other collaborators of the fraud and the banks where the beneficiaries’ accounts are domiciled,” the ICPC said in its statement by its spokesperson Azuka Ogugua.