Photo: Mrs Tallen during the interview.
Alleged N2bn fraud: False alarm triggered EFCC investigation of my ministry —Tallen
Dame Pauline Tallen, the immediate past Minister of Women Affairs, has said that a recent investigation launched by the Economic and Economic Crimes Commission (EFCC) against her and the minstry under her tenure over an alleged N2 billion fraud was triggered by a false alarm raised by someone whose name she was withholding because the matter was still under investigation.
The former Minister, who disclosed this to newsmen in Abuja on Tuesday, said that there was no missing money anywhere in the Ministry of Women Affairs, which she superintended for four years without blemish, be it the N500 million or the N2 billion that were variously reported in a section of the media.
According to Tallen, the allegation and investigations were prompted by the false allegation by the said individual that she collected the sum of N500m meant for the African First Ladies’ Mission Complex (AFLM) headquarters in Abuja, but failed to disburse it.
While confirming that the sum of N500 million was actually released to her ministry by the Ministry of Finance, Tallen said the money was duly disbursed as received, with documentary evidence to that effect available.
She said, “It is a price that one must pay for holding a leadership position. Last month, someone accused me of collecting the sum of N500 million meant for AFLM but that I failed to disburse it.
“It sounded strange to me because government funds are never transferred to the personal bank account of a serving minister. The Minister is not the accounting officer of the minstry. It is the Permanent Secretary.
“I have all the documentary evidences here with me, I’ll show you if you don’t mind. The documents clearly state how the money was received and disbursed.”
The former minister further explained that the money was a financial support from the Ministry of Finance for the AFLPM, which was released to it through the Ministry of Women Affairs since AFLPM is not an MDA.
Tallen stressed that she was at no time ever officially involved in the disbursement of the said money, adding that it was the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, who duly facilitated the money’s disbursement with documentary evidences as proofs.
She said that two officials from the Presidency, Dr Mairo Almakura and Dr Hajo Sani, collected the money on behalf of the AFLPM and there were documents to prove the disbursements.
“I was never involved in the process of the disbursement of the money. The two presidential aides and the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary were the ones involved and due process was followed in the disbursement. The documentary proof is there.
“This similar false claim on the same issue had earlier been made against Mrs Almakura. It was an embarrassing, messy and scandalous allegation, which involved calling the EFCC into the matter, so I’m also another victim of such wild and frivolous allegation,” Tallen said.
The former Minister insinuated that, based on her private investigation, she was targeted for smear campaign by the allegation because of her support for Mrs Aisha Binani, the Adamawa State governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) particularly during the 2023 primary elections, which did not go down well with some vested interests in the election.
She noted that it was not long after the election that the EFCC swung into action, by inviting her office staff, including her own biological daughter, at least every other day to their office for questioning and keeping them there the whole day.
“As a matter of fact, that was what prompted me to go to the EFCC office to find out what was amiss.
“They never invited me nor arrested me as was widely speculated in a section of the media. I went there on my own accord to confront the issue and resolve it once and for all,” she added.
Tallen said that she supported Binani for Governor basically because by the mandate of her office as the Minister of Women Affairs, she was under obligation to do so, adding that she was resolute about the support and empowerment of women.
“My support for Sen Binani was purely officially in line with the mandate of my office as the Minister of Women Affairs, which entailed encouraging, empowering supporting and protecting the interests of women to enable them rise to certain levels or positions.
“I thought everyone, especially women, would champion the campaign of Binani’s ambition to be Adamawa and Nigeria’s first female governor so that we would make history.
“I wanted our administration to break the jinx of a woman not being able to become a governor so that President Buhari would go down in history as achieving that feat,” she further said.
Tallen said that she was proud of her numerous achievements in the four years that she served as the Minister of Women Affairs, especially in the area of ensuring the nationwide domestication of many laws that would pave the way for women and children’s rights protection and empowerment.
She highlighted some of her achievements in office to include the development and launching of the National Women’s Economic Empowerment Policy (WEE) and approval of the WEE Policy for Implementation by the Federal Executive Council.
Tallen said that the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs under her leadership developed and inaugurated the Department of State Security (DSS) Gender Policy.
According to her, the ministry also constituted and inaugurated the Presidential High Level Advisory Council on Support to Women and Girls in Nigeria.
The former Minister said that she successfully hosted the 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March, 2023, two months before the end of her tenure.
She further said that under her, the Ministry of Women Affairs held a High Level Interactive Session with officials of the World Bank towards the formalization of the Scale-Up of the Nigeria for Women Project and the Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment Bank to additional States
Tallen said that she was confident that President Tinubu would surpass her expectations, especially in the area of women issues based on his antecedents as a lover of women, as well as the administration’s beautiful blueprint for the empowerment of the womenfolk.