The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has confirmed the return of N19.33 billion Kogi state salary bailout funds, recovered by the Commission, to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The spokesperson for the EFCC, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, disclosed this in a statement in Abuja, on Friday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the money was meant for the payment of Kogi state workers, but was allegedly domiciled in an interest-yielding account with Sterling Bank plc.
The Kogi state government, through the Commissioner for Finance, Budget and Economic Planning, Asiwaju Idris Asiru, denied knowledge of the fixed deposit account with the said bank.
NAN also reports that the EFCC has withdrawn its suit seeking the forfeiture of the N20 billion bailout funds granted to the Kogi state government by Sterling Bank.
Uwujaren said the return of the money to the CBN would effectively put to rest the campaign of misinformation and unconscionable denials by the Kogi state government that no funds were recovered from its bailout account.
He added that the CBN in a letter referenced, DFD/DIR/CON/EXT/01/099 and dated Nov. 9, 2021, confirmed to the EFCC Chairman, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, that it had received the money.
The letter reads in part: “We refer to your letter dated Nov. 5, 2021 with Ref. No: CR:3000/EFCC/LS/CMU/REC-STE/VOL.4/047 on the above subject and wish to confirm the details of the receipt of the amount as stated below: Bank: Sterling Bank Plc; Amount: N19, 333, 333,333.36; Date of receipt: 04 Nov., 2021.
“The return of the money to the apex bank is in compliance with the Oct. 15, 2021 order of a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos.
“The court directed the unfreezing of the Kogi state salary bail-out account to enable Sterling Bank to remit the balance in the account to the CBN.
“Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke gave the order pursuant to an application filed by the EFCC, ” he said.
Uwujaren added that the commission had told the court that the management of Sterling Bank Plc, where the account was domiciled, had acknowledged the existence of the said account with the staggering sum in its books.
“The Commission further brought to the attention of the court that the said amount is still standing in the credit of the account frozen.
“The management of Sterling Bank PIc, has, pursuant to a letter dated Sept. 15, 2021, signed by its Managing Director, indicated its intention to return the total amount back to CBN, ” he said.
He noted that the EFCC prayed the court that it “is expedient for the instant suit to be discontinued and the account unfrozen”.
This was to enable the management of Sterling Bank effect the transfer/ return of the sum of N19, 333, 333, 333.36 back to the coffers of the CBN, from where the said bailout funds were disbursed.
The transfer, according to Uwujaren, has put a stop to any further controversy regarding the source and ownership of the funds and most importantly, aborted the funds dissipation.
Justice Tijani Garba Ringim, a vacation Judge, had on Aug. 31, 2021, ordered the freezing of the account, following an ex-parte application filed by the EFCC.
The EFCC, in a 13-paragraph affidavit in support of the ex-parte application, had stated that it received a credible and direct intelligence, which led to the tracing of the funds reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities in account No. 0073572696 domiciled in Sterling Bank, with the name of Kogi State Salary Bailout Account.
After listening to the EFCC’s application, Justice Ringim on Aug. 31, 2021, ordered the freezing of the account and directed the publication of the order in a national newspaper by the EFCC.