Seven officials of the Federal Ministry of Health have been arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for allegedly diverting over $4 million intended for the fight against AIDS.
The stolen money was donated to Nigeria by an international financing organization, Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
Global Fund had in May sent a petition to the Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, accusing health officials of stealing the funds they provided.
The Fund pointed out several irregularities including $20 million payment to suppliers before delivery was confirmed and $3.7 million which cannot be accounted for but was allegedly spent on anti-retroviral drugs.
The organisation further claimed that seven health officials were linked to the diverted funds through inflation of hotel bills, fake receipts, collaborating with operators and suppliers, false expenditure claiming.
According to Punch, a source at the EFCC privy to the development said the arrest was carried out following a directive by the presidency.
The seven suspects are from the department of Health Planning, Research and Statistics, and were in charge of managing the fund which they allegedly stole.
“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.”
In an email exchange with Punch, Global health fund said, “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.