KOGI STATE GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA
RE: EFCC PRESS RELEASE OF 19TH NOVEMBER, 2021 ON THE ALLEGED KOGI STATE SALARY BAILOUT FUNDS: KOGI HAS NO BAILOUT FUNDS/LOAN CAPABLE OF BEING HIDDEN, RETURNED TO THE CBN OR FROZEN BY AN ORDER OF COURT.
1. Our attention was again drawn to an EFCC press release, published on the 19th day of November 2021 on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC) verified Facebook page. In the said press release, titled ‘Hidden N19.3bn Kogi Salary Bail-Out Funds returned to CBN’ the EFCC stated that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had confirmed the return of the sum of N19,333,333,333.36 into its coffers. While the letter itself was not published, the EFCC claimed that this had put to rest the issues surrounding the source and ownership of the said funds. The statement further accused the Kogi State Government of engaging in a campaign of misinformation and unconscionable denial that funds were recovered from its bailout account.
2. The Kogi State Government for the umpteenth time states categorically that it knows absolutely nothing about the ownership and control of the said N19,333,333,333.36 allegedly returned to the Central Bank of Nigeria. The Kogi State Government also denies opening and operating 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. In support of the said denials the Kogi State Government has published in National dailies and press releases, letters from Sterling Bank Plc dated 1st September 2021 and 5th October 2021 respectively wherein the Bank stated as follows upon our challenge to the Bank:
2.1 Letter of 1st September 2021:
‘The Kogi State Government does not currently operate or maintain a fixed deposit account with Sterling Bank’
‘There is no mandate letter from the Kogi State Government to open account number 0073572696 with Sterling’
‘Sterling Bank account 0073572696’ is an internal (mirror) account operated by the Bank for purposes of managing the Kogi State salary bailout facility’
‘The balances in the Kogi State Salary Bailout accounts as at 31 August 2021 are as follows:
Kogi State Salary Bailout Account 1 (0072969301)-#Nil balance
Kogi State Salary Bailout Account2 (0073522756)-N999,190.50
Kogi State Government Salary Account (0073499012)-N44,816,195.24’
2.2 Letter of October 5, 2021
‘This is to confirm that Kogi State Salary Bail Out account number 0073572696 exists in the Bank’s record as is categorised under the account type intervention fund-fixed Dep.BOI in the Bank’s ledger. The Account was not opened by Kogi State Government or at its instance.
2.3 On EFCC’s claim that the sum of N666,666,666.64 was transferred from the sum of N19,333,333,333.36 on the instruction of the Kogi State Government, the Bank stated as follows:
The account is not an operational account but was opened for administrative purposes. The amount of N666,666,666.64 represents 8(eight) instalments of principal amount and interest covering July 2019 to Feb 2020 that have been paid to the CBN. This is in line with the terms of the on-lending facility which provides that interest of 2% is due to CBN.
2.4 On the whereabout of our Bailout facility which was obtained in June 2019, the bank stated as follows:
‘It is however correct and further confirmed that the entirety of the bailout fund was transferred to Kogi State Salary Account with us and with other Banks in accordance with the mandate and on-lending structure.’
‘The Bank would like to use this opportunity to acknowledge that some of the information and documents previously submitted to the EFCC and the treatment and recognition of the liability to CBN in the Bank’s books including the internal labelling of the liability account in favour of the Kogi State Government under the account type Intervention Fund-Fixed Dep.BOI in the Bank’s ledger could have been misconstrued as a fixed deposit created on behalf of the Kogi State Government.’
3. The above quoted words are those of Sterling Bank Plc and not those of the Kogi State Government written in black and white.
4. Rather than the EFCC to acknowledge that the account does 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 1st September 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.
5. Despite this treatment, the Bank still proceeded to deny via their letter of 5th October 2021 that the Kogi State Government opened or operated a ‘Kogi State Salary Bailout Fixed Deposit Account No. 0073572696’ wherein an alleged N19,333,333,333.36 was hidden by the Kogi State Government according to the EFCC.
6. We note that the EFCC has made heavy noise about the letter of 21st September 2021 which the MD of Sterling Bank wrote undertaking to refund ‘the balance of N19,333,333,333.36 in the Kogi State Salary Bail Out Intervention deposit with account number 0073572696 to the Central Bank of Nigeria’, in reaction we state that the only ‘Bailout Accounts’ which the Kogi State Government opened and operated with Sterling Bank are the ‘Kogi State Salary Bailout Account(1) 0072969301 and Kogi State Salary Bailout Account (2) 0073522756’ which both had a balance of less than One Million Naira as of the time the EFCC was wildly excited that it had frozen a Kogi State Salary Bailout Account No. 0073572696 with N19,333,333,333.36 in it.
7. Nigerians know that all Banking transactions including those done online are based on instructions given by 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. Nigerians know that a fixed deposit account cannot be opened without a mandate, an agreement as to terms including tenor, interest rates and the rest. The EFCC should produce all these to the public. Finally, the EFCC should tell Nigerians who was drawing the interest from the said fixed deposit account and where the interest was being paid by Sterling Bank Plc.
8. Rather than provide all these documents to back up their wild claims, and answer the above posed questions truthfully and faithfully as a responsible organization; the EFCC descended into the realm of lies, not only to Nigerians but to the Court. The EFCC lied on oath that the mandate form which was duly signed and clearly endorsed with our Bailout Accounts 1 and 2 covered and serves as the mandate for the ‘Kogi State Salary Bailout Fixed Deposit Account No. 0073572696’ even though the Mandate/account opening form attached to their Affidavit in support of that deposition Court did not support the lie.
9. Nigerians would then see that it is the Agency set up to fight corruption that is now engaging in corrupt practices and tactics, lying on oath and coercing witnesses to support lies, engaging in an unconscionable and elaborate attempt to misinform Nigerians, all in a bid to satisfy paymasters, political allies and Godfathers who are clearly using the EFCC to fight a political war ahead of the 2023 general elections.
10. If truly the Kogi State Government own and operates the ‘Kogi State Salary Bailout Fixed Deposit Account No. 0073572696’ including the funds which were alleged to have been found in it, why has the EFCC not arrested and prosecuted those who signed the account opening form for opening the said fixed deposit account and those who have been giving instructions in respect of the account? Why is the EFCC only harping on the refund of the funds to the CBN? Or does the refund of a proceed of crime cancel the commission of the crime? If the Governor of Kogi State has immunity from arrest and prosecution, do the officers of Government who usually sign mandates and account opening forms including supplying their BVN for account opening and who also provide instructions for movement of funds, immune to arrest and prosecution?
11. The answers to the above is clear, the EFCC is just chasing shadows particularly as it relates to the Kogi State Government and Governor Yahaya Bello! If anyone should be maligned in this entire saga, it is Sterling Bank Plc who admitted opening a mirror account in the name of the Kogi State Government without its mandate and authority and which has now undertaken to return funds found in the said account to the CBN. Nigerians should ask the EFCC whether the Kogi State Government sat down with the EFCC or Sterling Bank and undertook to refund any money to the CBN? Is it possible that Sterling Bank Plc will write and undertake to return funds or a loan it has already granted to Kogi State Government and which has been disbursed to it’s account without the authority or consent of the Borrower or an order of Court?
12. It is submitted that this whole saga is a hatchet job conceived by politicians and implemented by an irresponsible EFCC headed by Abdulrasheed Bawa. We need not look further for evidence of the foregoing statement than the mischievous and defamatory use of Governor Yahaya Bello’s picture in the body of the statement released by the EFCC on the 19th day of November 2021. This whole charade is political, it is aimed at; tarnishing the Governor’s rising political image, ridiculing him, bringing him into disrepute, lowering him in the estimation of right-thinking members of the society by portraying him as a corrupt Governor/person.
The EFCC cares not for how this fake news will affect the fortunes of the State, shake investor confidence and the possibility of setting the people of Kogi State against the Government of Kogi State; once it can satisfy the desires of its parameters, political allies and Godfathers.
13. 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, indeed, the fear of exposure of its lies in Court and the attendant sanctions/backlash informed its decision to hurriedly withdraw the sham suit it filed in Court.
14. 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. 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 His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the Executive Governor of Kogi State, and the entire Government and people of Kogi State.
15. We reserve all our legal rights. Let us reiterate our assurance to the people of Kogi State, Nigerians, investors and our development partners that the funds EFCC allegedly claimed was returned to the coffers of the Central Bank of Nigeria does not belong to the Kogi State Government. As a Government that is committed to transparency and accountability, we will explore every possible legal avenue to maintain the integrity of our dear state in the face of a sustained, mischievous, false and politically motivated onslaught by the EFCC.
Kingsley Femi Fanwo
Hon. Commissioner for Information and Communications