The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has announced that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has acknowledged receipt of N19, 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) it recovered from the Kogi State Salary Bail-out account held by Sterling Bank Plc.
The commission had previously stated that the Kogi State Government had stashed the federal bailout funds released in 2019 for the payment of salary arrears owed to civil servants in the state.
The Kogi State Government, on the other hand, has denied hiding the funds, claiming that they have been disbursed since October 2019.
Kingsley Fanwo, the Commissioner of Information and Communication in Kogi, described the EFCC claim as “false, malicious, and a deliberate attempt to smear Governor Yahaya Bello’s integrity.”
Wilson Uwujaren, the commission’s Head of Media and Publicity, said in a statement on Friday, November 19, that the development “effectively puts to rest the Kogi State Government’s campaign of misinformation and unconscionable denials that no fund was recovered from its bailout account.”
“The apex bank informed the Executive Chairman, EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, that it has received the money in a letter referenced DFD/DIR/CON/EXT/01/099 and dated 9th November, 2021,” Uwajaren said.
“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: “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 The bank is Sterling Bank Plc, and the amount is N19, 333, 333.36. The date of receipt is November 4, 2021.”
“The money was returned to the apex bank in accordance with an order from a Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, dated October 15, 2021, directing the unfreezing of the Kogi State Salary Bail-out account in order for Sterling Bank to remit the account’s balance to the Central Bank of Nigeria. The Order was issued by Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke in response 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 account’s existence and had a staggering sum of N19, 333,333.36 in its books.
“The Commission also informed the court that “the sum of N19, 333,333.36 is still standing in the credit of the account frozen,” and that “the management of Sterling Bank PIc has indicated intention to return the total sum of N19, 333,333.36 to the Central Bank of Nigeria, pursuant to a letter dated 15 September, 2021, signed by its Managing Director.”
“The EFCC asked the court to “discontinue the instant suit and unfreeze the account to allow the management of Sterling Bank PIc to effect the transfer/return of the sum of N19, 333, 333.36 back to the coffer of the Central Bank of Nigeria, where the aforementioned bailout funds were distributed.”
The transfer ended any further debate over the funds’ source and ownership, and, more importantly, it stopped the funds from dissipating.
Following an ex-parte application filed by the EFCC, Justice Tijani Garba Ringim, a vacation Judge, ordered the account to be frozen on August 31, 2021.
In a 13-paragraph affidavit filed in support of the ex-parte application, the EFCC stated that it received credible and direct intelligence that led to the tracing of funds reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities in account No. 0073572696, which is held by Sterling Bank, Plc and is known as the Kogi State Salary Bailout Account.
“On August 31, 2021, after hearing the EFCC’s application, Justice Ringim ordered the account to be frozen and directed the EFCC to publish the order in a national newspaper.”