A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Tuesday ordered the freezing of a bank account belonging to Kogi State government over a N20 billion loan obtained from Sterling Bank Plc.
The affected salary bailout account is numbered 0073572696.
Justice Tijjani Garba Ringim on Tuesday ordered that the said account should be frozen pending the conclusion of investigation or possible prosecution by the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa.
EFCC had approached the court for the order in an ex parte application brought pursuant to section 44(2) of the Constitution and section 34(1) of the EFCC Act, and under the inherent jurisdiction of the court.
A counsel from the agency, A. O. Mohammed, informed the court that the order was necessary so as to preserve the remaining and abate further dissipation of the funds in the account.
Moving the application, Mohammed told the court that the N20 billion loan meant to augment the salary payment and running cost of the state government was kept in an interest-yielding account with Sterling Bank.
He added that instead of using the money for the purpose it was meant for, Sterling Bank Plc, acting on the instruction of the Kogi State Government transferred the money from the loan account and placed same in a fixed deposit account.
He stated that Sterling Bank Plc has yet to present any credible evidence to show that the facility is well secured.
Granting the application, Justice Ringim ordered the EFCC to publish the order in a national newspaper and make quarterly report to the court on the progress of its investigation.
The judge consequently adjourned the matter till December 1, for the report of Investigation.
The EFCC in its 13-paragraph affidavit in support of the ex parte originating summons deposed to by a member of a team of investigators attached to the Chairman, Monitoring Unit of the EFCC, Lagos, stated that the Commission received credible and direct intelligence which led to the tracing of funds reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities warehoused in account No. 0073572696 and domiciled in Sterling Bank Plc with the name - Kogi State Salary Bailout Account.
He said the Commission acted on the said intelligence and assigned same to the Chairman, 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, the Kogi State Government, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, office of the Honourable Commissioner, applied for credit facility of Twenty Billion Naira (N20, 000,000,000), with an interest rate of 9 percent for a tenure of 240 months from Sterling Bank Plc.
He added that the said facility was meant to augment the salary payment and running cost of the state government.
He stated further that on June 26, 2019, the credit facility offer was accepted vide a memorandum of acceptance signed by Yahaya Bello, Governor of Kogi State; Asiwaju Asiru Idris, state Commissioner of Finance and one Alhaji Momoh Jibrin, Accountant General of the state.
He stated 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 to open an account 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).
The statement said, "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.
"That rather than use the intervention funds for the purpose for which it was granted, the state government proceeded to open a fix 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 same on 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 what the sum of N666,666,666.64 b has been 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 with the shores of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
"That investigation in this matter is still ongoing and this application is pertinent to secure the funds in the said account to prevent them from being totally dissipated.
"That without freezing the nominated accounts, there is no better way of preserving remaining."