HOW TINUBU GOVT MOBILISED PUBLIC FUNDS TO BUY VOTES IN IMO, KOGI, BAYELSA GOV POLLS
Documents exclusively obtained by SaharaReporters show how the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) moved N226,188,500 million to Kogi, Bayelsa and Imo states through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation ahead of the November 11, 2023 governorship elections.The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) held governorship elections in Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa states on November 11, 2023.In the election characterised by irregularities including vote-buying thuggery and pre-recorded results, APC candidates were declared victorious in Imo and Kogi states while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate and incumbent Governor of Bayelsa State secured re-election. However, documents SaharaReporters obtained on Thursday show that the funds were moved to the states on November 4 and 6 respectively in the name of providing palliatives for indigent and underprivileged people. But government sources told SaharaReporters that the funds were mobilised to the state days before the elections to buy votes under the cover of catering for vulnerable people there.“It was all a ruse to buy votes for APC and their candidates in the elections using the programme for vulnerable people as cover; that was why the events were done a few days before the governorship elections in the three states,” one of the sources said. A breakdown of the disbursement of the funds shows that N72,374,500 was moved to Kogi State on November 6, 2023, through the Director of Finance Account, National Social Investment Agency, just five days before the governorship election.Also on November 6, the ministry approved and moved N72,423,250 million to Bayelsa State under the ministry’s 2023 grant for vulnerable groups programmes. On November 3, 2023, a total of N81,390,750 million was moved to Imo State under the same guise of providing grants to vulnerable groups, just seven days before the governorship election. According to the documents, the Minster of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr Betta Edu personally approved the moving of the funds to the three states.On October 31, 2023, the Nigerian House of Representatives summoned Edu to brief the chamber on the status of the federal government’s conditional cash transfer programme to 15 million households.In a motion of urgent public importance, the House expressed concern over the handling of the programme, citing a lack of transparency and alleged fraudulent practices.The lawmakers asked the minister to provide details on the collation of data and the distribution of funds. President Bola Tinubu launched the conditional cash transfer programme in October as part of his efforts to address poverty and vulnerability in the country. The programme aims to provide monthly cash transfers of N25,000 to each of the 15 million beneficiary households for three months. The invitation of the minister by the House comes amid reports of irregularities in the program’s implementation, including allegations that some beneficiaries had been excluded while others had been paid multiple times.For the three states, the respective internal memos were from the National Programme Manager, Grant for Vulnerable Groups and addressed to the Honourable Minister, Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.For Bayelsa State, the memo dated November 6, 2023, has as its subject matter: The Disbursement Under the 2023 Grant for Vulnerable Groups Programmes in Bayelsa State, 2023.It reads: You may wish to respectfully refer to the above-slated event in Bayelsa State. The details of the cost implication of the program show that N20,000 would be given to 3,000 beneficiaries, amounting to N60 million. N3 million was budgeted for logistics for disbursement. Also, N2563,750 was budgeted for the minister’s advance team, N2,159,500 was budgeted for the minister’s team, N1 million for media and publicity, N1.5 million for security, N1 million for logistics (stakeholders’ engagement) and N1.2 million for hall, chairs, canopies, banners and public address system. “Accordingly, the Honourable Minister may kindly wish to consider and approve the cost implication in the sum of seventy-two million, three hundred and seventy-four thousand and five hundred naira (N72,374,500) only and direct the DFA NSIP to release the amount to be managed by the Project Accountant posted to the cluster, please,” the memo signed by Thalis Olonite Apalowo, the National Programme Manager, said. For Imo State, the subject matter of the internal memo reads: “Flag-off Of The Disbursement Under The Grant For Vulnerable Groups Programmes In Imo State, 4th November, 2023.’3,500 beneficiaries in Imo State were billed to receive N20,000 each, amounting to N70 million while 3,000 beneficiaries in Kogi stood to receive N20,000 each.However, efforts to reach the minister failed as she did not answer calls from SaharaReporters. She also did not reply to text messages sent to her mobile line.