Diversion Of N20B Salary Bail-Out Loan: Court Freezes Kogi State Govt Account
Story By Gbenga Ogunbufunmi
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, today, frezeed Kogi State Government salary bailout account number 0073572696 domiciled in Stealing Bank Plc over the diversion of the N20 billion to other purposes other than the payment of workers’ salaries and pensioners’ allowances which it was meant.
The loan was obtained from Sterling Bank Plc in 2019 by the Kogi State Government specifically for the purpose of paying workers’ salaries and pensioners’ allowances, but rather than been used for the purpose, it was kept in an interest yielding account in the bank.
Justice Tijjani Garba Ringim made the freezing order of the said account pending the conclusion of investigation or possible prosecution if culprits by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
EFCC had approached the court with an ex-parte applicationan brought pursuant to section 44(2) of the Constitution and section 34(1) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act and under the inherent jurisdiction of the court.
A counsel from the agency, A. O. Muhammed, informed the court that the order was necessary so as to preserve the res and abate further dissipation of the funds in the account.
Moving the application, Mr. Muhammed told the court that the N20 billion loan meant to augment the the payment of workers salaries and pensioners allowances rather than being used for the purpose it was obtained , was kept in an interest yielding account with Sterling bank.
” Instead of using the money for the purpose it was meant, the Kogi State Government transferred the money from the loan account and placed same in a fixed deposit account.
He stated that Sterling Bank Plc is yet to present any credible evidence to show that the facility is well secured.
Granting the application, Justice Ringim 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.
The judge consequently adjourned the matter till December 1, for the report of Investigation.
The EFCC in its 13-paragraph affidavit in support of the ex-parte originating summons deposed to by a member of a team of investigators attached to the Chairman Monitcring 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 added that the Commission acted on the said intelligence and assigned same to the Chairman Monitoring Unit, where it was discovered that on 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, pensioners areas 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.
It was further stated that prior to the said application for loan, Kogi State Government on the 19th of 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 the 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 in a 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 which has been deducted from the said funds and were not used for the payment of salaries
“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.
The agency said that without freezing the nominated accounts, there is no better way of preserving res”.