EFCC arrests seven health officials over $4m HIV fund

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has arrested seven officials in the Federal Ministry of Health for their alleged role in the diversion of over $4m.

The money, it was learnt, was part of the money given to Nigeria by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Global Fund is an international financing organisation that aims to attract and disburse additional resources to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

An impeccable source at the commission told our correspondent that the suspects were arrested following a directive by the Presidency that the culprits should be brought to book.

The suspects, it was learnt, were from the Department of Health Planning, Research and Statistics, which was in charge of managing the fund.

A source at the EFCC said, “The Presidency directed the Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, to investigate the matter. We have made arrests and we are currently compiling our report. We will send it to the Presidency and then charge the suspects to court.

“President Muhammadu Buhari was not happy that the money that was meant to be used in saving lives was stolen. We take this seriously just like the arms scam.”
Global Fund, through its Office of the Inspector-General of Police, had in May issued a report in which it accused Nigerian officials of embezzling part of the fund.

It alleged irregularities such as the payment of $20m to suppliers without confirming delivery and the failure to account for $3.7m supposedly spent on anti-retroviral drugs.

The organisation added that seven out of 10 Nigerian health officials and three consultants were linked to the misappropriation of funds through inflating hotel bills, falsifying receipts, claiming expenditures for travel not made, and colluding with and receiving kickbacks from hotel operators and suppliers.

When our correspondent sent an email to Global Fund as regards the investigation, the organisation confirmed that the Federal Government had commenced investigation and also commended the government.

In an email which was signed by Specialist, Editorial Team, Communications Department, Ibon Villelabeitia, the organisation said it was assisting the Federal Government with investigations.

The statement read in part, “The government of Nigeria has responded in a responsible and energetic way. We are very encouraged by the commitment shown by the current government of Nigeria to dealing with the issues raised in the audit report by the Global Fund’s Office of the Inspector-General of Police. We are cooperating with the Government of Nigeria on these issues, but we are not actively involved in investigations being performed by the Government of Nigeria.”

In a separate report, Global Fund noted that it had stopped disbursing funds to Nigeria.

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