By Favour Goodness
A Federal High Court in Lagos has froze a Kogi state government salary bailout account domiciled in a new generation bank over a N20 billion loan obtained from the bank.
Justice Tijjani Garba Ringim made the order pending the conclusion of an investigation or possible prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The agency approached the court via an ex-parte application brought pursuant to Section 44(2) of the Constitution and Section 34(1) of the EFCC Act.
Its counsel, Mr A. O. Muhammed, informed the court that the order was necessary to preserve the res and abate further dissipation of the funds in the account.
Moving the application, Muhammed alleged that the N20b loan was meant to augment the salary payment and running cost of the state government but was kept in an interest yielding account with the bank.
He added that instead of using the money for the purpose it was meant for, the Kogi State Government instructed the bank to transfer the money from the loan account and place same in a fixed deposit account.
According to the agency, the bank is 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 a quarterly report to the court on the progress of its investigation.
The judge adjourned the matter till December 1, for the report of Investigation.
The EFCC’s allegations were made in its 13-paragraph affidavit in support of the ex-parte motion deposed to by a member of a team of investigators attached to the Chairman Monitoring Unit Lagos of the EFCC.
The document averred 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 the account 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 approved an offer of an N20billion bailout loan facility for the Kogi State Government.
According to the deponent, on June 19, 2019, fiscal year, the Kogi State Government, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Office of the Commissioner, applied for a credit facility of N20billion with an interest rate of nine per cent for a tenure of 240 months from the bank”.
The agency added that the said facility was meant to augment the salary payment and running cost of the state government.
It stated further that on June 26, 2019, the credit facility offer was accepted vide a memorandum of acceptance signed by Governor Alhaji Yahaya Bello, Asiwaju Idris Asiru, the Commissioner of Finance Kogi State; and one Alhaji Momoh Jibrin, Accountant General, Kogi State.
It averred that before the said application for a loan, the Kogi State Government on the 19th June 2019 vide a letter to the Manager of the bank in 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 Ag. Director Treasury as the signatories to the said account.
“That upon the opening of the said account disbursed salary intervention loan to the tune of N20billion 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 fixed deposit account No. 0073572696.
“That on the 25 day of July 2019, the bank acting on the instruction of the Kogi State Government transferred the money from the loan account and placed same on the 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 of 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 billion, 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 res”.