A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has frozen a Kogi State salary bailout account domiciled in Sterling Bank Plc over a ₦20 billion loan obtained from the bank.
Justice Tijjani Ringim granted the order to freeze the account pending the conclusion of the investigation or possible prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The 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 Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act.
Counsel to the EFCC, Abass Muhammed, told the court that the order was necessary so as to preserve the ‘res’ and abate further dissipation of the funds in the account.
In his submission, Muhammed informed the court that the ₦20 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, 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 concluded by saying that Sterling Bank Plc is yet to present any credible evidence to show that the facility is well secured.
In his ruling granting the application, Justice Ringim directed the EFCC to publish the court order in a national newspaper. He also asked the commission to make a quarterly report to the court on the progress of its investigation.
The judge then 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 Lagos of the EFCC stated that the Commission 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 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 Pic approved an offer of N20bn bailout loan facility for the Kogi State Government.
According to the deponent, in the June 19, 2019 fiscal year, the Kogi State Government, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Office of the Honourable Commissioner, applied for a Credit facility of Twenty Billion Naira N 20, 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 His Excellency, Yahaya Bello, the Executive Governor of Kogi State, Asiwaju Asiru Idris, the Commissioner of Finance Kogi State and one Alhaji Momoh Jibrin, Accountant General, Kogi State.
He stated that prior to the said application for the 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, the Acting Director Treasury as the signatories to the said account.
“That upon the opening of the said account with No. 0072969301, Sterling bank Plc disbursed salary intervention loan to the tune of ₦20,000,000,000.00 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, (₦20, 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 ₦19, 333, 333, 333.36 billion.
“That we are still tracing what the sum of ₦666,666,666.64bn has been deducted from the said funds and were not used for the payment of the salary.