The Kogi State government has threatened to sue the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over allegations of mismanagement of a N20 billion bailout loan meant to augment payment of workers salaries.
Relying on intelligence, the anti-grant commission had filed an ex parte application before the Federal High Court in Lagos to freeze the state’s account with Sterling Bank to stop further dissipation of the funds in the fixed account.
The agency accused the Kogi government of keeping the said amount in an interest-yielding account rather than the account opened to cater for workers’ salaries.
Granting the application, the judge, Tijjani Ringim, on Tuesday, ordered the state government’s account frozen and adjourned the matter till December 1 for the report of the EFCC investigation.
The Kogi State government, represented by commissioners and aides, at a press conference in Abuja, on Thursday, denied the allegations and threatened to fight the case till a reasonable conclusion.
Leading the conference, Commissioner for Information and Communication, Kingsley Fanwo, said the state does not operate any fixed account with Sterling Bank as suggested by the commission to the court which birthed the ex parte order.
Against the anti-graft court approved facts that the government has a sum of N19.3 billion in the fixed account while N666.6 million has been misappropriated by Governor Yahaya Bello-led government, Mr Fanwo countered, insisting that the state has approximately N46 million across its three operational accounts with the alleged bank.
He said the EFCC has failed in its primary assignment and accused it of misleading the court as well as the public.
Fanwo said the state government is preparing to sue not only the commission but perhaps the media houses which he alleged were sponsored by his boss’ political enemies to tarnish his image.
“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 utilized 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 N46,000,000.00 cumulatively in the salary and bailout accounts it operates with Sterling Bank Plc,” he said.
He added that the commission never called nor invite any of its officials for clarity at any point.
To corroborate his claim, the commissioner showed journalists a copy of its bank statement. The bank statement was accompanied by a signed two-page letter where Sterling Bank dissociated itself from the EFCC’s action.
In the signed letter which is in response to the state’s request, Sterling Bank said it is dismayed by the anti-graft accusation and denied having an application to Kogi state to open a fixed account whatsoever.
With reference to the account number the commission quoted in a submitted document before the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court, the bank argued that the mentioned account is an internal digit the organisation uses to monitor Kogi State account.
“With this correspondence, we wish to reaffirm Sterling’s commitment to upholding and maintaining the highest standards of professional conduct to your honorable self, the government and the people of Kogi State.
“In light of the above submissions, permit us to respond to your enquiry as follows:
“The Kogi State government does not currently operate or maintain a fixed deposit account with Sterling Bank.
“There is no mandate letter from the Kogi State government to open account number 0073572696 with Sterling.
“Sterling Bank account 0073572696 is an internal (mirror) account operated by the Bank for purposes of managing the Kogi State,” an extract from a letter dated September 1, read.
The bank, in its subsequent paragraphs, registered the breakdown of the state funds in its three operational accounts.