Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of the Federal High Court in Lagos, on Tuesday, fixed October 15, 2021 to hear all applications filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Kogi State government on the alleged fraudulent transactions on a N20billion bailout fund domiciled in Stealing Bank by the latter.
Justice Aneke, who is now in charge of the case, fixed the date after counsel to the Kogi State government, Prof. Sam Erugo (SAN), asked the court for an adjournment to enable him study the counter affidavit filed by the EFCC against the processes filed by his client.
The then vacation judge, Justice Tijjani Ringim, had on August 31, 2021, granted an ex-parte application filed by the anti-graft agency for an interim forfeiture of the sum of N19,333,333, 333.36 billion, said to be warehoused in Sterling Bank account number 0073572696.
The EFCC had through one of its counsels, Abbas Muhammed, informed the court that the application was 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 and that the interim order was necessary so as to preserve the ‘Res’ and abate further dissipation of the funds in the account.
The Commission had supported its ex-parte application with a 13-paragraph affidavit deposed to by a member of a team of investigators attached to the chairman, Monitoring Unit, Lagos office of the EFCC.
The Commission had stated in the said affidavit that it 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 of Kogi State Salary Bailout Account.
It also stated that it acted on the said intelligence and assigned the same to the chairman of its Monitoring Unit, where it was discovered that on April 1, 2019, the management of Sterling Bank Plc 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 through the Ministry of Finance applied for a credit facility of N20,000,000,000, with an interest rate of 9 per cent for a tenure of 240 months from Sterling Bank Plc.
The anti-graft agency claimed that the said facility was meant to augment the salary payment and running cost of the State Government.
“That on June 26, 2019, the credit facility offer was accepted vide a memorandum of acceptance signed by His Excellency, Yahaya Bello, the Executive Governor of Kogi State, Asiwaju Ashiru Idris, the Commissioner of Finance, Kogi State and one Alhaji Momoh Jibrin, Accountant General, Kogi State.
“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.
“Rather than use the intervention funds for the purpose for which it was granted, the State Government proceeded to open a fixed 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 the same on the 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 the sum of N666, 666, 666. 64 million 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 within the shores of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” it stated.