The Kogi State government has denied allegation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that it operated a fixed deposit account with Sterling Bank where bailout funds were allegedly stashed to generate interest contrary to the purpose it’s meant for.
Recall that the EFCC had few days ago obtained an ex-parte order from a Federal High Court in Lagos to freeze the said Sterling Bank Account No. 007357269 allegedly with a total deposit of N19,333,333,333.36, saying the sum of N666,666,666.64 had been misappropriated out of the money in the account by the Kogi State government.
But at a press conference in Abuja on Thursday, addressed by the State Commissioner for Information, Kingsley Fanwo, in company of Commissioner for Finance, Mukadam Asiwaju Idris, the State Auditor-General, Accountant-General, among other senior officials, the State government accused the anti-graft agency of pandering to the whims and caprices of rival politicians in order to score political points.
“The Government of Kogi State has called this Press Briefing to debunk the blatant lies told against her before the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), amplified in the media by sections of the Press and capitalized upon by shameless political vested interests.
“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,” Fanwo said.
He added that, as of the July 23, 2019 when the state government utilised the bailout funds for the payment of salaries and allowances of civil servants and up to August 31, 2021 when the court order was procured by EFCC, it had only N46,000,000.00 cumulatively in the salary and bailout accounts in Sterling Bank.
“The current balance in the said Kogi State Bailout 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.
“That as of the 31st day of August 2021 when the Court Order to preserve the phantom sum of N19,333,333,333.36 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.
“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’.
“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’,” Fanwo stated.
He continued, “This is neither happenstance nor coincidence, but a coordinated hostile action.
“While we are yet to conclude on the EFCC’s motive for this dishonourable act, we cannot but wonder if the ‘new’ EFCC is now lending its machineries for the use of politicians and detractors to tarnish the image of a State that has enjoyed the confidence and commendation of domestic and international partners as a bastion of accountability and integrity.
“Consequently, we urge Nigerians to know that the various news surrounding the alleged conversion of salary bail out funds in Kogi State are fake, the allegations and acts are those of malicious men and women employing the machineries of Government to do the bidding of their seen and unseen allies.
“The Kogi State Government will seek appropriate redress and will resist most vehemently the instant attempt and any further attempt to bring her into disrepute,” Fanwo stated.