At the age of 33, Betta Edu was appointed Commissioner of Health in Cross River. However, her tenure in office was not without controversy. Despite facing challenges, she successfully rose to the position of a high political post.
Timeline of her investigation:
- January 8, 2024: Tinubu directed EFCC to investigate Betta Edu’s stewardship at the Humanitarian Affairs
- January 9, 2024: She reported at the EFCC headquarters in Abuja, investigation commenced.
- January 9, 2024: EFCC invited CEOs of Zenith, Providus, and Jaiz banks over fraud uncovered in the ministry
Following the political party switch by her principal, Prof Ben Ayade, from the People Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressive Congress (APC), Edu, along with her boss, defected to the APC.
She enjoyed favor in the political alignment and appointment-sharing formula within her new party. In March 2022, she was appointed as the National Woman Leader of the APC, gearing up for the preparations leading to the 2023 Nigeria Presidential Election.
Who is Betta Edu?
From being the youngest National Woman leader, Edu found herself in a scandal involving payment of more than half of a billion naira into a private account of one of the workers of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, the most criticized government’s ministry.
Here is the story of a lady who rode on the “Not Too Young To Rule” campaign, to what some of her critics now call “Not Too Young For Corruption,” due to allegations of financial misfeasance in the ministry under her watch.
Betta Chimaobim Edu celebrated her 37th birthday on October 27, 2023. She was born on October 27, 1986.
State of origin
Betta Edu is from Abi Local government area in Cross River State, South-South geo-political zone.
Edu attended the Federal Government Girls College, Calabar and proceeded to the University of Calabar to study Medicine and Surgery and completed her studies at 23 years old.
She proceeded to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine for a Post Graduate Diploma in Public Health for Developing Countries and with a master’s degree in the same institution and then Doctor of Public Health from Texila American University.
She is also a Fellow of the Royal School of Public Health in and the African Institute of Public Health Professionals.
Here is the summary of her academic profile:
- PhD: Public Health (Texila American University)
- 2014: MSc, Public Health (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK)
- 2014: PGD, Public Health (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK)
- 2010: MBBS, Medicine and Surgery (University of Calabar, Nigeria)
- 2001: SSCE from the Federal Government Girls College, Calabar.
- 2013: Medical Office (State Ministry of Health, Cross River State)
- 2011: House Officer (UCTH, Calabar)
At 29, Betta Edu was appointed by Governor Ayade as a Special Adviser on Community and Primary Healthcare in 2015. She was the youngest during Ayade’s reign in Cross River.
At 33 years old – in December 2019 – Edu was appointed as the Health Commissioner, becoming the youngest in that administration.
During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, she was appointed the chairman of COVID-19 Taskforce, Cross River State Chapter and later the National Chairman of the Nigeria Health Commissioners Forum.
As the National Woman leader, she led thousands of female loyalists and admirers to campaign for Bola Tinubu, who later won the election.
Her efforts during electioneering campaigns paid off as she made the list of nominees submitted by the president and she was among other cabinet members that were sworn in on August 21, 2023
Making her the first female minister from Cross River State and the youngest minister at the Federal Executive Council of Nigeria in the Fourth Nigerian Republic.
Summary of Edu’s political career:
- August 2023 – January 8, 2024: Minister of Humanitarian Affairs & Poverty Alleviation
- 2022: National Women Leader of APC
- 2020: Chairman of the Cross River State COVID-19 Taskforce.
- 2020: Chairman of the Nigeria Health Commissioners Forum
- 2019-2022: Commissioner for Health – Cross River State
- 2015: Special Adviser on Community and Primary Healthcare to Governor of Cross Rivers
She was recognized for her efforts in gender inclusion and women empowerment by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, a private and non-governmental organization. Some of them include:
- Medical Expert of the Year
- National Youth Council of Nigeria
- Maryam Babangida National Center For Women Development
- Nigeria Quintessential Woman Award
Her Plan to Clean Up Corruption with Conditional Cash Transfer
The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs has been plagued by corruption, particularly in the opaque disbursement of conditional cash transfers.
While revealing her plans to eradicate corruption, the now-suspended young minister stated that the process would be digitalized, with funds sent directly from banks to beneficiaries, eliminating middlemen.
One of the innovations which we are trying to bring in first on that social register we are going to verify, validate, and expand it to accommodate more people in the social register. And from there we are going to get more beneficiaries based on which intervention.
We want to increase the social safety network for Nigeria. we want to pool millions of Nigerians out of poverty. And we are going to do it in a transparent manner.Edu says a few weeks into office.
Criticisms Against Betta Edu
As a politician, Edu is not new to controversy. During COVID-19 pandemic, she was criticized for posting fake photos of ventilators.
As such, the Nigerian Medical Association, Cross River State chapter passed a vote of no confidence on her for professional misconduct.
As the APC National Woman Leader, she was accused of procedural misconduct.
As the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, she was accused of trying to make payment of N585 million into a private account. She denied any wrongdoing, describing it a plot to tarnish her image and that it is not illegal to pay into private bank accounts of employees of her ministry, even as Nigeria’s Financial Regulations says otherwise.
Inflated estacode approvals
A leaked memo from the Humanitarian Affairs ministry revealed that Edu approved the sum of N3,160,000 million for a flight ticket from Abuja to Kogi state in November 2023.
Whereas there is no airport in the state in question.
Documents InfomediaNG Team obtained show that the now suspended minister approved N200,000 for flight tickets N20,000 for airport taxis for each of her 13-man team N300,000 for herself to travel from the Federal Capital Territory to the Confluence State.
Her office was said to have disbursed a total of N226,188,500 million for three states – Bayelsa, Kogi, and Imo – for vulnerable people ahead of the November 11, 2023 governorship elections in the three states.
Payment of N585 million into a private account
The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the leak of another memo dated December 20, 2023, which revealed that one of the youngest cabinet members in Tinubu’s government directed the Accountant-General of the Federation, Oluwatoyin Sakirat Madein, to transfer the sum of N585,189,500 to the UBA account of one Oniyelu Bridget Mojisola.
Her predecessor Sadiya Farouk was involved in a similar financial scandal involving payment of over 44 billion naira into private accounts.
Analysts have divergent views over the transfer. While some say payment into private accounts contravenes various sections of Nigeria’s Financial Regulations 2009, some people say “it is not uncommon to see payment being made into the account of a worker within the ministry for some projects.”
Edu’s suspension from office
Social media was awash over the N585 million scandal against her.
Non-governmental societies, lawyers, and thousands of Nigerians on social media called for her sacking or suspension to allow a full investigation into the controversial spending under her watch.
And by Monday, January 8, 2024, President Tinubu suspended her from office for a full-scale investigation.
Invitation by EFCC
A few minutes after her suspension, Nigeria’s anti-graft agency invited her for questioning at EFCC’s headquarters at Jabi, Abuja on Tuesday, January 9.
In another twist, InfomediaNG gathered that an attempt by the troubled minister to meet with Tinubu at the state house failed.
From a lady who had unrestricted access to Tinubu during electioneering campaigns, Edu no longer has access to the Tinubu.
Information from Aso Villa says her Access Card to the villa has been retrieved.