The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Friday October 15, filed an application before a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, to discontinue a case involving the N20billion Kogi State salary bail-out loan.
Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke granted the application which is sequel to the decision of the management of Sterling Bank Plc to return N19, 333,333,333.36 standing in the credit of the frozen account to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Recall that on August 31, 2021, Justice Tijani Garba Ringim had ordered the freezing of the account following an ex-parte application filed by the EFCC.
The anti-graft agency, in a 13-paragraph affidavit in support of the ex-parte application, had stated that it received a credible and direct intelligence, which led to the tracing of the funds reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities in an account No. 0073572696 domiciled in Sterling Bank, Plc with the name Kogi State Salary Bailout Account.
EFCC alleged that the money meant for the payment of salaries in the state, was kept in an interest-yielding account with the name ‘Kogi State Salary Bailout Account’.
At the last adjourned sitting, counsel to the Kogi State government, Sam Eguro (SAN), had told Justice Aneke, to whom the matter was re-assigned, that his client had filed processes against the interim order granted by Justice Ringim, and that the EFCC had equally filed reply to the same.
In his response, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, had admitted being served with the processes, and added that he had filed his counter.
At resumption of proceedings on Friday, an EFCC counsel Kemi Pinheiro moved an application seeking to discontinue the matter.
The counsel said;
“That the management of Sterling Bank Plc, where account No 0073572696 with the name Kogi salary bailout account is domiciled, has since acknowledged the existence of the said account in their book but claimed same was a mirror account.”
Pinheiro also said the management of the bank had clarified the questions leading to the commencement of the suit and has indicated an intention to return the N19,333,333,333.36 to the CBN.
Kogi state government’s counsel, Eguro also acknowledged the notice of discontinuation.
Ruling on the application, Justice Aneke said that “since this is what they are asking for, the application is therefore granted as plead.”
Reacting to the development while presenting awards to journalists who participated in the GYB essay competition for Nigeria’s political and crime editors in Lagos, Kingsley Fanwo, Kogi commissioner for education said it was “unfortunate” that EFCC chose to believe “hired guns”.
Insisting that the agency “ignored thorough explanations by the state government on the matter, but chose to believe allegations that it fixed N19 billion out of the amount in a new generation bank”, he asked the EFCC to exhibit professionalism in carrying out its duties.