By Emmanuel Oloniruha
Pauline Tallen, former Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, has denied involvement in the alleged N2billion fraud in her ministry.
Tallen said this when she spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Tuesday, saying that investigation by the Economic and Economic Crimes Commission (EFCC) was triggered by a false alarm.
“There was no money missing anywhere in the Ministry that I superintended for four years, be it the alleged N500 million or N2billion being reported in some section of the media.
“The allegation and investigations were prompted by a false allegation by the an individual that said that I collected N500m meant for the African First Ladies’ Mission Complex (AFLM) headquarters in Abuja, but failed to disburse it,” she said.
Confirming that N500 million was actually released to the ministry by the Ministry of Finance, Tallen said the money was disbursed as received, with documentary evidence.
“It’s a price that one must pay for holding a leadership position. Last month, someone accused me of collecting N500 million meant for AFLM but that I failed to disburse it.
“It sounded strange to me because government funds are never transferred to personal bank accounts of serving ministers. The minister is not the accounting officer of the ministry. 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,” she said.
The former minister added that the money was a support from the Ministry of Finance for the AFLPM, which was released through the Ministry of Women Affairs since AFLPM was not an agency.
“I was never involved in the process of the disbursement of 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 an official in the presidency. 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.
She said that she later discovered based on investigation that she was targeted for smear campaign because of her support for the Adamawa Governorship Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mrs Aisha Binani, during the 2023 primaries.
The support, according to the former minister, did not go down well with some vested interests in the election.
She said that it was not long after the election that the EFCC inviting her office staff as well as her daughter to its office for questioning.
“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 her support for Binani was purely official in line with the mandate of her 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 Muhammadu Buhari will go down in history as achieving that feat,” she said.(NAN)