The Kogi State government has vehemently debunked the alleged conversion of salary bail-out funds by Governor Yahaya Bello’s administration.
It also said it does not have the sum of N19, 333,333,333.36 or any other sum in a fixed deposit account with Sterling Bank as alleged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission .
Speaking at a press briefing in Abuja on Thursday, Kingsley Fanwo, Commissioner for Information and Communications, noted that the allegation by the EFCC, that any part of the bailout fund was not used for the purpose for which it was secured is not only false, it is malicious and unsupportable by any records, including bank statements.
The Commissioner also debunked the allegation that the state government authorised the opening of a fixed deposit account wherein it deposited the bail out loan of N20 billion for the purpose of generating interest for itself was false.
He added that “the Kogi State government gave no mandate or instruction to Sterling Bank to open a fixed deposit account on its behalf as it could barely meet the salary obligations for which the funds were received at the material time.”
A Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, had on Tuesday ordered the freezing of Kogi State salary bailout account.
Justice Tijjani Ringim made the freezing order of the said account pending the conclusion of investigation or possible prosecution by the chairman of the EFCC.
While denying the entire allegations, Fanwo said when the present administration came to office in 2016; Kogi State was in arrears of salaries and allowances to civil servants and pensioners in excess of N50 billion.
“The previous administration had applied for bailout funds from the federal government to settle the said arears, but could not access the funds until the expiration of its tenure. H.E Yahaya Bello therefore pursued the bailout fund applications and secured Mr. President’s approval for the funds which were disbursed in tranches. Specifically, in July 2019 the President graciously approved the payment of the final tranche of the bailout loan to the state which came by way of an on-lending loan from the Central Bank of Nigeria via Sterling Bank Plc. Sterling Bank Plc disbursed the said loan using the Kogi State bailout account number 0073522756 on the 23rd of July 2019,” Fanwo explained.
In his words, “the sum of N19, 999,000,000 of the said N20, 000,000,000.00 was at various times between the said 23rd July 2019 and 25th September 2019 disbursed to Kogi State salary account number 0073499012 with Sterling Bank and the United Bank for Africa salary account number 102089595797 from where the funds were judiciously applied for the payment of salaries and allowances owed to the workers of the state.”
The Commissioner said the current balance in the said Kogi State bail out account and as of the date of the alleged ex-parte order was N999, 190.50.
He said a letter written by Sterling Bank on September 1, 2021 confirmed that Kogi State government does not currently operate or maintain a fixed deposit account with it.
“The letter proceeded to confirm that all the balances in all the accounts operated by Kogi State government were approximately N46 million. Finally, the letter confirmed that account number 0073572696 cited in the alleged order of the court is ‘an internal (mirror) account operated by the bank for the purposes of managing the Kogi State bailout facility,” Fanwo added.
He said the government was still shocked as to how the EFCC came about the patently false information upon which it had fraudulently or by misrepresentation of facts secured the purported order freezing a non-existent account or a ‘mirror account’ created for administrative purposes by the bank in respect of funds which have since October 2019 been fully disbursed and utilized for the purpose for which it was borrowed.
The Commissioner also regretted that “at no time during this entire concatenation of unfortunate events did the EFCC invite or question, much less seek clarification, from this government or any of her officials in relation to such weighty matters.”
“While we cannot estimate the extent of the damage caused by this unwarranted attack of the EFCC to the image of the state, and the reputation of the governor and his entire team, including members of the financial team whose names have been mentioned and preserved forever on the internet in relation to this disgraceful episode, we believe, apart from other legal actions which will be taken against the EFCC,” he added.
Fanwo stressed that Kogi is the only state ever to score 100% in the States’ Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability programme of Nigerian states.
“We recently received commendations from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation for being one of the very few states to have adopted the IPSAS Accrual Basis Accounting which is to enhance transparency, and accountability in financial reporting in the public sector,” the Commissioner stressed.