Kogi issues EFCC 48 hours, denies ownership of N19.3b returned to CBN

Gov. Yahaya-Bello

Links its ordeals to Bello’s 2023 ambition

Kogi State Government, on Sunday, took on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over the claim that it returned N19.3 billion bailout allegedly “hidden” by it to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), describing such statement as “mischievous, false and politically motivated.”

It described the development as part of the moves to thwart the presidential ambition of Governor Yahaya Bello ahead of 2023 elections.

The state government made this declaration on Sunday, even as it issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the EFCC to retract the statement posted on its Facebook Account on November 19 or be prepared for court action.

The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Kingsley Fanwo, who issued the ultimatum during a press conference in Lagos, assured the public, especially Kogi indigenes, Nigerians, investors and development partners that the funds claimed by the EFCC to have been returned to the CBN do not belong to the state government.

According to Fanwo, the whole saga was “a hatchet job conceived by politicians to tarnish the rising political image of Governor Yahaya Bello and portray him as a corrupt governor or person.”

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He pointed out that these politicians had tried other anti-graft agencies in the country without luck, but had, unfortunately, resorted to using a willing EFCC to discredit the Kogi government, using manipulated claims, adding that the anti-graft agency cared less about how this fake news would affect the fortunes of the state, the investor’s confidence and the possibility of setting the people of Kogi State against their government.

“The EFCC cares not for how this fake news will affect the fortunes of the state, shake investor’s confidence and the possibility of setting the people of Kogi State against the government of Kogi State once it is able to satisfy the desires of its paymasters and political allies.

“Let it be known that the Kogi State government refutes every bit of these false allegations, being peddled by the EFCC. The Kogi State government had disbursed its bailout loans for the purpose of which it was granted as of October 2019.

“There is, therefore no ‘hidden bailout funds/loan’ belonging to Kogi State that is capable of being returned to the CBN or frozen by an order of court. The EFCC knows this, the fear of exposure of its lies in court and the attendant sanctions informed its decision to hurriedly withdraw the sham suit it filed in court,” Fanwo contended.

He continued: “Consequently, the Kogi State government demands a retraction of this most malicious press release and of all allegations of crimes levied against the Kogi State government and its governor.

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“We further demand an apology published within 48 hours from today in one national daily and on all EFCC official and social media platforms addressed to Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the executive governor of Kogi State and the entire government and people of Kogi State,” he added.

Speaking further, Fanwo argued that contrary to the allegation, the state government does not operate a fixed deposit account with Sterling Bank, which had been clarified by the bank in its letter dated September 1 2021, insisting that Kogi government knew absolutely nothing about the ownership and control of the said N19.3 billion allegedly returned to the CBN.

“The Kogi State government for the umpteenth time states categorically that it knows absolutely nothing about the ownership and control of the said N19.3 billion allegedly returned to the CBN.

“The Kogi State government did not also open or operate a Kogi State salary bailout fixed deposit account No. 0073572696 where the said funds were allegedly warehoused and dissipated and now allegedly returned to the CBN,” he said.

On the EFCC’s claim that the sum of N666,666,666.64 was transferred from the sum of N19.3 billion on the instruction of the Kogi State government, the commissioner said Sterling Bank had clarified that the account was not an operational account but a mirror account opened for administrative purposes.

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“Rather than the EFCC to admit that the account did not belong to the Kogi State government or opened on its behalf and move on to face Sterling Bank squarely, we were reliably informed by officials of Sterling Bank Plc that their officials who wrote the letter of September 1 2021 were invited and detained by the EFCC and under duress made to write and sign extra-judicial statements which fit the narrative which the EFCC and their paymasters wanted to peddle.

“Despite this treatment, the bank still proceeded to deny via their letter of October 5 2021 that the Kogi State government opened or operated a ‘Kogi State salary bailout fixed deposit account No. 0073572696’ wherein an alleged N19.3 billion was hidden by the Kogi State government according to the EFCC.

“Nigerians know that all banking transactions, including those done online, are done based on instructions given by the customers.

“We had in the past challenged and we hereby again challenge the EFCC to produce the account mandate, account package, and the phone number and BVN of those who allegedly opened and operated the ‘Kogi State salary bailout fixed deposit account No. 0073572696’ on behalf of the Kogi State government,” Fanwo said.

The commissioner, while also insisting that Nigerians knew that a fixed deposit account cannot be opened without a mandate, an agreement as to terms, including tenure, interest rates and the rest, challenged the EFCC to provide all the details.

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He challenged the anti-graft agency to tell Nigerians who was drawing the interest from the said fixed deposit account and where same was being paid by Sterling Bank Plc, but quickly said the EFCC rather than providing answers to the questions truthfully and faithfully had descended into the realm of lies, not only to Nigerians but to the court.

The EFCC had earlier confirmed the return of N19.33 billion Kogi state salary bailout funds, recovered by the commission, to the CBN.

The spokesperson for the EFCC, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, disclosed this in a statement in Abuja, on Friday. 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.

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