The Kogi state government hit hard on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) Thursday in Abuja over allegation of N20billion salary bail out fund kept in fixed deposit account in Sterling Bank of Nigeria.
The state government’s reaction against the claim by the anti-graft body came 24 hours after the bank alleged to be in custody of the account, denied existence of such an account by the state government.
Justice Tijjani Garba Ringim of the Federal High Court Lagos, had on Tuesday at the instance of EFCC, ordered that the alleged account be frozen pending the conclusion of investigation or possible prosecution by the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa.
Reacting to the EFCC’s action and exparte order granted by the court at a press conference held at the Kogi state government lodge in Asokoro, the state Commissioner for Information and Communication, Hon Kingsley Fanwo, said EFCC misled the court as no such account existed.
According to him, EFCC itself goofed on the allegation which will bring serious embarrassment to the anti graft body as the state government is ready to confront it in court with facts and figures as regards accounts operated by the state government in Sterling bank and how the said bailout funds were expended in 2019 and not 2021.
He said: “Gentlemen of the Press, for the records, the Kogi state government vehemently denies having the sum of N19,333,333,333.36 or any other sum in a fixed deposit account with Sterling Bank Plc as alleged.
“The Kogi state government states that it never gave any instruction to Sterling Bank Plc and the said Bank also did not fix on its behalf, any bailout fund or any other funds.
“The Kogi state government states that as of the 23rd Day of July, 2019 when she utilised the monies for the payment of salaries and allowances to Kogi State civil servants and up to the 31st day of August 2021 when the purported court order was procured, it had approximately N46,000,000.00million cumulatively in the salary and bailout accounts it operates with Sterling Bank Plc.
“The sum of N19,999,000,000 of the said N20,000,000,000.00 was at various times between the said 23rd July 2019 and 25th September 2019 disbursed to Kogi State Salary Account No: 0073499012 with Sterling Bank and the United Bank for Africa Salary Account No: 102089595797 from where the funds were judiciously applied for the payment of Salaries and allowances owed to the workers of the State.(Here is an attached schedule showing the disbursements from the Kogi State Salary Bail out Account.)
“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”.
He explained further that as of the 31st day of August 2021 when the Court Order to preserve the phantom sum of N19,333,333,333.36billion was allegedly made, the Kogi State Salary Account No. 0073499012 where the sum of N19,999,000,000 was transferred to since 2019 for the payment of salaries had a credit balance of N44,816,195.24.
He therefore stressed that the allegation that the Kogi state government authorised the opening of a fixed deposit account wherein it deposited the said Bail out loan of 20billion for the purpose of generating interest for itself is false.
“The Kogi state government gave no mandate or instruction to Sterling Bank Plc to open a fixed deposit account on its behalf as it could barely meet the salary obligations for which the funds were received at the material time.
“That Sterling Bank Plc by its letter of 1st September 2021 confirmed in writing that the ‘the Kogi State Government does not currently operate or maintain a fixed deposit account with Sterling Bank’. Here is a copy of that letter.
“The letter proceeded to confirm that all the balances in all the accounts operated by Kogi state government was approximately N46 Million Naira.
“Finally, the letter confirmed that account number 0073572696 cited in the alleged order of the Court is ‘an internal (mirror) account operated by the Bank for the purposes of managing the Kogi State Bailout Facility”, he added.