Hidden N19.3bn Kogi Salary Bail-Out Funds Returned To CBN

The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has acknowledged the receipt of the sum of N19, 333,333,333.36 (Nineteen Billion, Three Hundred and Thirty-three Million, Three Hundred and Thirty-three Thousand, Three Hundred and Thirty-three Naira, Thirty-six Kobo), recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC,2 from the Kogi State Salary Bail-out account domiciled in Sterling Bank Plc.

This was disclosed on Friday, 19 November, 2021 by the anti-graft agency via its Head of Media and Publicity, Mr.Wilson Uwujaren.

TheFact Nigeria gathers that the EFCC had, acting on credible intelligence, approached the Court for a freezing order to be emplaced on the account, and accused the Kogi State government of allegedly domicilling the funds in an interest yielding account with Sterling Bank, rather than using it for its intended purpose which is the payment of
Kogi State workers’ salaries. On August 31, 2021, Justice Tijani Garba Ringim, a vacation judge, had ordered the freezing of the account following the ex-parte application filed by the EFCC.

The anti-graft agency, in a 13-paragraph affidavit in support of the ex-parte application, had stated that it received credible and direct intelligence, which led to the tracing of the funds reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities in an account No. 0073572696 domiciled in Sterling Bank Plc with the name Kogi State Salary Bailout Account.

Counsel to the EFCC, A.O Mohammed, moving the application for the interim forfeiture of the funds, had urged the court to grant the order so as to prevent further dissipation of the funds in the account.

Mohammed had also told Justice Ringim that the N20 billion meant to augment payment of salary and running cost of the government was kept in an interest-yielding account with the bank.

Reacting, Mr Kingsley Fanwo, Kogi State Commissioner for Information, debunked the allegation, stating that the State government judiciously used the funds for its intended purpose, and that the allegations have tarnished the reputation of the State and Governor Yahaya Bello.

However, at the resumption of proceedings later on, Kemi Pinheiro, counsel to the EFCC, moved an application dated October 13, seeking discontinuance of the matter. The application titled ‘Notice of discontinuance’ stated that “the applicant, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission has resolved to discontinue this matter in SUIT NO: FHC/L/CS/1086/2021 pending before this Honourable Court against the Respondent’s Account herein”.

One of the grounds of the application was that N19.3 billion will be returned to the CBN.

The EFCC prayed the court that it “is expedient for the instant suit to be discontinued and the account unfrozen to enable the management of Sterling Bank PIc effect the transfer/ return of the sum of the sum of N19, 333, 333, 333.36 back to the coffers of the Central Bank of Nigeria , where the said bailout funds was disbursed.”

Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke gave the order to unfreeze the account, pursuant to the application filed by the EFCC.

The apex bank in a letter referenced, DFD/DIR/CON/EXT/01/099 and dated 9th November, 2021 informed the Executive Chairman, EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, that it has received the money.

“We refer to your letter dated November 5, 2021 with Ref. No: CR:3000/EFCC/LS/CMU/REC-STE/VOL.4/047 on the above subject and wish to confirm the details of the receipt of the amount as stated below: Bank: Sterling Bank Plc; Amount: N19, 333, 333,333.36; Date of receipt: 04 November, 2021”, the letter read in part.

According to the statement from the Commission, the return of the funds “effectively puts to rest the campaign of misinformation and unconscionable denials by the Kogi State Government that no fund was recovered from its bail out account.

“The transfer has put paid to any further controversy regarding source and ownership of the funds and most importantly, aborted the funds dissipation”, the statement said.

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