Kogi, EFCC reignite controversies over N20b bailout fund


Richard Elesho

The controversies over alleged N20b bailout fund allegedly kept in a fixed deposit account by the Kogi State Government is not over.

The EFCC had accused the Kogi State Government of keeping the funds, a bailout from the Federal Government for payment of arrears of salaries of workers in an interest yielding account in Sterling Bank, contrary to its intended usage.

But Kogi government had at a press conference denied the existence of the account, threatening to sue the EFCC for defamation.

The Kogi State House of Assembly accused the anti-graft agency of playing politics over the matter.The lawmakers also threatened to arrest the Managing Director of Sterling Bank for his refusal to appear before it.

However, a federal high court sitting in Lagos had weeks ago directed that the funds in the account, which Sterling Bank officials described as mirror account to the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The money was returned to CBN by Sterling Bank on Thursday, November 4th, with EFCC saying the return of the money justified its claim and puts a lie to the denial of the Kogi government on the existence of the account.

“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 the EFCC from the Kogi State Salary Bail-out account domiciled in Sterling Bank Plc. This 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 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,” he said.

The letter reads in part: “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 return of the money to the apex bank is in compliance with the October 15, 2021 Order of a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi Lagos directing the unfreezing of the Kogi State Salary Bail-out account to enable Sterling Bank to remit the balance in the account to the Central Bank of Nigeria. Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke gave the Order pursuant to an application filed by the EFCC.

“The Commission had told the court that the management of Sterling Bank Plc, where the account was domiciled had acknowledged the existence of the said account with the staggering sum of N19, 333,333,333.36 in its books.

“The Commission further brought to the attention of the court that “The sum of N19, 333,333,333.36 is still standing in the credit of the account frozen”, adding that “the management of Sterling Bank PIc, has, pursuant to a letter dated 15 September, 2021, signed by its Managing Director, indicated intention to return the total sum of N19, 333,333,333.36 back to the Central Bank of Nigeria.”

“The transfer has put paid to any further controversy regarding source and ownership of the funds and most importantly, aborted the funds dissipation,” EFCC said in a statement by Wilson Uwujaren, its spokesperson.

But in a swift reaction, the Kogi government said it would use every legal option to prove its innocence and transparency on the allegations by the EFCC that it misappropriated the N20 billion bailout funds meant for the state workers’ salaries.

Mr Kingsley Fanwo, Kogi Commissioner for Information, in a statement on Friday in Abuja, described the EFCC allegation as false and laughable.

“Quoting a letter signed by the CBN, has not said anything different from what had been said so far on the controversial N20bn bailout fund.”

Fanwo said the Kogi government would prepare a comprehensive response to the latest moves by the EFCC.

“The statement by the commission is a malicious attempt to rope the state into a matter that ordinarily has nothing to do with it.

“We maintain the unassailable truth that the Kogi government did not operate such account with the bank as affirmed in a letter by the bank.

“Every option that is legal will be considered to maintain the innocence and transparency of our government,” he said.