The Kogi State government has described as “mischievous, false and politically motivated”, a statement by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, that it has returned N19.3 billion bail-out funds allegedly “hidden” by the state to the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The government gave the EFCC 48 hours ultimatum to retract the statement posted on its Facebook account on November 19 or be prepared for court action.
The Kogi State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Kingsley Fanwo, who issued the ultimatum during a press conference in Lagos on Sunday, 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 does not belong to Kogi State.
He said the whole saga was “a hatchet job conceived by politicians and implemented by an irresponsible EFCC headed by Abdulrasheed Bawa” to tarnish the rising political image of Governor Yahaya Bello, bring him to disrepute and lower him in the estimation of right-thinking members of the society by portraying him as a corrupt governor or person.
He noted that these politicians had tried other anti-graft agencies without luck, but had, unfortunately, resorted to using a willing EFCC to discredit the Kogi Government, using manipulated claims.
Fanwo said, “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 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.
“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.”
The Commissioner said that contrary to the allegation, the Kogi State government does not operate a fixed deposit Sterling Bank account, which had been clarified by the bank in its letter dated September 1, 2021.
“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.
Speaking on 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, he said Sterling Bank had clarified that the account was not an operational account but was a mirror account opened for administrative purposes.
Fanwo said, “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.”
While insisting that Nigerians know that a fixed deposit account cannot be opened without a mandate, an agreement as to terms including tenure, interest rates and the rest, he challenged the EFCC to provide all the details.
Fanwo said, “Finally, the EFCC should tell Nigerians who was drawing the interest from the said fixed deposit account and where same was being paid by Sterling Bank Plc.
“Rather than 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 shared the same account mandate with the ‘Kogi State Salary bailout fixed deposit account No. 0073572696’ even though the document they attached to their affidavit in support of that deposition in Court did not support the lie.
“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 their lies, and engaging in an unconscionable and elaborate attempt to misinform Nigerians all in a bid to satisfy paymasters and political allies and godfathers who are clearly using the EFCC to fight a political war ahead of the 2023 general elections.
“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.”