The governor of Kogi state, Yahaya Bello has disputed the fund diversion allegation against him by the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Recall a federal high court sitting in Lagos last month (August 31, 2021) froze a Kogi state salary bailout account domiciled in Sterling Bank Plc, over a N20 billion loan obtained from the bank.
Trial judge, Justice Tijjani Ringim made the freezing order on the account pending the conclusion of investigation or possible prosecution by the Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Abass Muhammed, counsel to the EFCC, told the court that the order was necessary so as to preserve the ‘res’ (the fund in question) and abate further dissipation of the funds in the account.
He argued that instead of using the money for the purpose it was meant for, the bank acting on the instruction of the Kogi State Government transferred the money from the loan account and placed same in a fixed deposit account.
He stated that the bank was yet to present any credible evidence to show that the facility was well secured.
The EFCC in a 13-paragraph affidavit in support of the motion said it received credible and direct intelligence which led to the tracing of funds suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities deposited in account No. 0073572696 domiciled in Sterling Bank Plc, with the name ‘Kogi State Salary Bailout Account’.
According to the Commission; “upon the opening of the said account with No. 0072969301, Sterling bank Plc disbursed salary intervention loan to the tune of N20,000,000,000.00 to the account,” the affidavit reads.
“That rather than use the intervention funds for the purpose for which it was granted, the state government proceeded to open a fixed deposit account No. 0073572696.
“That on the 25 day of July 2019, Sterling Bank Plc acting on the instruction of the Kogi state government transferred the money from the loan account and placed same on the aforementioned fixed deposit account.
“That the said Account sought to be frozen received the Sum of Twenty Billion Naira, (N20,000,000,000) on 25th July, 2019.
“That as at 1st day of April, 2021, the balance standing to the credit of the said fixed deposit account was N19,333,333,333.36.”
Reacting, the Kogi state commissioner for information, Kingsley Fanwo, said the EFCC; “swore under oath before the court that her own investigations confirmed part of the funds corresponding to the Biblical Mark of the Beast in the amount of N666,666,666.64 to have been misappropriated by the Kogi state government,” Fanwo said.
“The commission even swore that as of a specified date this year, to wit, April 1st 2021, which is of course the globally notorious April Fools’ Day, the sum of N19,333,333,333.36 was allegedly standing to the credit of the account into which we had allegedly diverted and fixed monies meant for the payment of salaries to our workers.
“The EFCC alleged to the court in self-righteous indignation that she sought an ex parte order to secure the balance of the alleged funds still in the account from further dissipation pending investigation and possible prosecution of unnamed malfeasors.
“The current balance in the said Kogi State Bail Out Account and as of the date of the alleged ex-parte Order is the sum of N999,190.50.
“Accordingly, the allegation that any part of the bailout fund was not used for the purpose for which it was secured is not only patently false, it is malicious and unsupportable by any records, including bank statements relating to all material times.”
“We remain concerned that a Federal Agency of the calibre and responsibilities of the EFCC which is charged to combat financial fraud is the one engaging in fraud and misrepresentation of facts for the purpose of securing needless Orders meant to ridicule a court of competent jurisdiction while simultaneously attempting to drag the pristine white robes of the most transparent and accountable state government in Nigeria, to with, the Kogi State Government led by His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello in their barrel of palm oil,” he said.
“The Kogi State Government will seek appropriate redress and will resist most vehemently the instant attempt and any further attempt to bring her into disrepute.”