Yusuf Alli, Managing Editor, Northern Operation
• Lawmakers on fact-finding mission, insist Bello is transparent
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is forging ahead with the ongoing investigation of Kogi State Government on a N20billion traced to an account.
The three senators from the state have however held a session with the Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa, on a fact-finding mission on the cash.
The senators claimed that they decided to meet with Bawa because of what they described as “good governance, transparency and accountability of Governor Yahaya Bello.”
They also said Bello is not a fraudulent governor.
But Bawa, who laid all the cards on the table, said the ongoing investigation of the N20billion was not either a personal or a political witch-hunt by the EFCC.
He also clarified that no state was isolated for any investigation because a similar exercise was being carried out on some states. He said he has always discharged his duties with fairness to all.
According to investigation, the three senators, who met with Bawa on Tuesday for two hours, are Jibrin Isa Echocho (Kogi East) Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West) and Senator Yakubu Oseni (Kogi Central).
The senators told Bawa that they were on a fact-finding mission on the alleged N20billion issue between the EFCC and their state government.
A top source said: “The senators who got to the EFCC headquarters at about 10am left at about noon. They sought status report on what led to the order of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court on August 31st on the freezing of the Kogi State salary bailout account.
“They said they know that Governor Yahaya Bello has always been committed to good governance, transparency and accountability. They said there was no way the governor or the state can engage in fraudulent transactions.
“They said Bello has changed the non-performing culture in the state to a new narrative of development.
“They pleaded with the EFCC to put the overall interest of the state, especially innocent workers into consideration.”
But a calm Bawa took note of the submissions of the senators. It was gathered that he was unfazed by the encomiums poured on the state governor by the senators.
Another source said: “Ordinarily, the EFCC ought not to have received the team but Bawa, in line with his policy of fair hearing and devotion to openness listened to the team. He also considered their status.
“He took time to clarify that the action of the EFCC was neither personal nor a political witch-hunt. He said the EFCC acted in line with its mandate and in the interest of the state.
“The EFCC chairman then explained all the painstaking procedures followed before applying to the court to freeze the account.
“He laid all the cards on the table for the senators to see the facts and figures. He clarified that Kogi was not isolated by EFCC for investigation. He said there are five other states with a similar case.
“Bawa said the EFCC has not pronounced anyone guilty because investigation was still ongoing. He said more state officials might still be invited.
“He made it clear that the EFCC will complete the probe of the N20billion.
“He confirmed that about N600million has been withdrawn from the account.
“The senators, who were better informed, called for amicable resolution of the matter.”
A source in the EFCC said: “It is true that the three senators came but this commission cannot officially make any comment on the meeting.”
The Lagos Division of the Federal High Court on August 31st, 2021, ordered the freezing of the Kogi State salary bailout account in Sterling Bank over a N20 billion loan obtained from the bank.
Tijjani Ringim, the judge who gave the order, said it would subsist pending the conclusion of an investigation or possible prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The EFCC had made an ex-parte application before the judge which, according to the agency, was brought pursuant to section 44(2) of the Constitution and section 34(1) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act and under the court’s jurisdiction.
- O. Mohammed, counsel to the EFCC, told the court that the order was necessary to stop further dissipation of the funds in the account.
According to Mr Mohammed, the N20billion loan, meant to augment the salary payment and running cost of the state, was kept in an interest-yielding account with Sterling Bank.
The EFCC said the bank was yet to present evidence that the facility was well-secured.
But the Kogi State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo, said the alleged cash was not in a fixed account as claimed by EFCC.
He said: “The Kogi State Government vehemently denies having the sum of N19,333,333,333.36 or any other sum in a fixed deposit account with Sterling Bank Plc as alleged.
“Let me stress as follows: that as of the 31st day of August 2021 when the Court Order to preserve the phantom sum of N19,333,333,333.36 was allegedly made.
“The Kogi State Salary Account No. 0073499012 where the sum of N19,999,000,000 was transferred to since 2019 for the payment of salaries had a credit balance of N44,816,195.24.
“That the allegation that the Kogi State Government authorized the opening of a fixed deposit account wherein it deposited the said bailout loan of N20billion for the purpose of generating interest for itself is false.”