Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, yesterday adjourned till October 15, 2021 for hearing of all applications in respect of the Kogi State N20bn salary bail-out account domiciled in Sterling Bank Plc.
On August 31, 2021, Justice Tijani Garba Ringim had ordered the freezing of the account, following an ex-parte application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC).
The EFCC, in a 13-paragraph affidavit in support of the ex-parte application, had stated that it received a 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.
Moving the application for the interim forfeiture of the funds on August 31, 2021, A. O. Mohammed, counsel to the EFCC, 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 loan meant to augment the salary payment and running cost of the government was kept in an interest-yielding account with the Bank.
According to him, “Instead of using the money for the purpose it was meant for, Sterling Bank Plc, acting on the instruction of the Kogi State Government, transferred the money from the loan account and placed it in a fixed deposit account.” Mohammed had further told the court that the bank had yet to present any credible evidence to show that the facility was well secured.
After listening to the applicant’s counsel, Justice Ringim had ordered the freezing of the account number 0073572696, and also directed the publication of the order in a national newspaper by the EFCC.
A statement issued by the commission said the agency was also ordered to make quarterly report to the court on the progress of its investigation.
The EFCC in its 13-paragraph affidavit in support of the ex-parte summons deposed to by a member of a team of investigators attached to the Chairman Monitoring Unit Lagos of the EFCC, stated that the Commission received a credible and direct intelligence which led to the tracing of funds reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities warehoused in account No. 0073572696 domiciled in Sterling Bank, Plc with the name Kogi State Salary Bailout Account
He said the Commission acted on the said intelligence and assigned same to the Chairman Monitoring Unit, where it was discovered that on the April 1, 2019 the management of Sterling Bank Pic approved an offer of N20,000,000,000.00 bailout loan facility for Kogi State Government.
According to the deponent, on the June 19, 2019 fiscal year, the Kogi State Government, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, office of the Honourable Commissioner, applied for Credit facility of Twenty Billion Naira N 20, 000,000,000, with an interest rate of 9 percent for a tenure of 240 months from Sterling Bank Plc”.
He added that the said facility was meant to augment the salary payment and running cost of the State Government.
He stated further that on June 26, 2019 the credit facility offer was accepted vide a memorandum of acceptance signed by the His Excellency, Yahaya Bello, the Executive Governor of Kogi State, Asiwaju Asiru idris, the Commissioner of Finance Kogi State and one Alhaji Momoh Jibrin, Accountant General, Kogi State.
He stated that prior to the said application for loan, Kogi State Government on the 19th June, 2019 vide a letter to the Manager Sterling Bank Plc, Lokoja applied for an account opening in the Bank with the name Kogi State Salary Bailout Account with Alhaji Momoh Jubril, accountant General of the State and Elijah Evinemi Ag. Director Treasury as the signatories to the said account. Attached and marked exhibit EFCC 04 is a copy of the said letter.
“That 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.
“That rather than used the intervention funds for the purpose for which it was granted, the State Government proceeded to open a fix 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 aforementioned fixed deposit account.
“That the said Account sought to be frozen received the Sum of Twenty Billion Naira, (N20, 000,000,000) on the 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 billion
“That we are still tracing what the sum of N666, 666, 666. 64 billion, has been deducted from the said funds and were not used for the payment of the salary.
“That the Commission has the statutory mandate to prevent the Commission of economic and financial Crimes with the shores of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“That investigation in this matter is still ongoing and this application is pertinent to secure the funds in the said account to prevent them from being totally dissipated. Adding that without freezing the nominated accounts, there is no better way of preserving res”.
Upon listened to the counsel’s submissions, Justice Ringim granted the request and ordered the EFCC to publish the order in a national newspaper and made quarterly report to the court on the progress of it’s investigation.
At the resumed hearing of the matter on Tuesday, before Justice Aneke’s court, where the matter was reassigned to, counsel to Kogi State government, Professor Erogbo (SAN) told the court that his client has filed application against the interim order granted by Justice Ringim, and that the EFCC have equally filed counter to the processes.
However, Erogbo (SAN) told the court that he needed time to study the counter affidavit filed by the EFCC against his application.