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N19.3bn Kogi salary bail-out funds ‘hidden’ in Sterling Bank returned to CBN

Felix Oloyede

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N19.3bn Kogi salary bail-out funds ‘hidden’ in Sterling Bank returned to CBN

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has acknowledged receipt of the sum of N19.3 billion recovered by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) from the Kogi State Salary Bailout Account domiciled at Sterling Bank Plc.

This effectively ends the Kogi State government’s campaign of misinformation and unwarranted denial that no funds were recovered from its bailout account.

The umbrella bank, in a letter referenced DFD/DIR/CON/EXT/01/099 and dated November 9, 2021, informed EFCC Executive Chairman Abdulrasheed Bawa that it had received the money.

The letter reads in part: “We refer to your letter dated November 5, 2021, with Ref. No: CR: 3000 / EFCC / LS / CMU / REC-STE / VOL.4 / 047 on the above subject and would like to confirm the details of receipt of the amount as shown below: Bank: Sterling Bank Plc; Amount: N19,333,333,333.36; Date received: 04 November 2021 »

The return of the money to the umbrella bank complies with the October 15, 2021 order of a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi Lagos ordering the thaw of the Kogi State salary bailout account to allow Sterling Bank to return the balance to the account at the Central Bank of Nigeria. Judge Chukwujekwu Aneke issued the order following an application filed by the EFCC.

The commission had told the court that the management of Sterling Bank Plc, where the account was domiciled, had admitted the existence of the said account with the staggering sum of N19, 333 333 333.36 in its books.

The commission further drew the court’s attention to the fact that “the sum of N19,333,333,333.36 is still credited to the frozen account”, adding that “the management of Sterling Bank PIc has, in accordance with a letter dated September 15, 2021, signed by its Managing Director, indicated its intention to return the total sum of N19,333,333,333.36 to the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The EFCC urged the court that “it is appropriate that the immediate prosecution be dropped and the account released to allow the management of Sterling Bank PIc to effect the transfer/return of the amount of N19, 333, 333, 333,36 to the vault of the Central Bank of Nigeria, where said rescue funds were disbursed.

The transfer put an end to any new controversy regarding the source and ownership of the funds and, more importantly, aborted the dissipation of the funds.

On August 31, 2021, Judge Tijani Garba Ringim, a judge on vacation, ordered the account to be frozen, following an ex parte request filed by the EFCC.

The EFCC, in a 13 paragraph affidavit in support of the ex parte claim, stated that it had received credible and direct information, which led to the tracing of funds reasonably suspected of being the proceeds of illegal activity on account number 0073572696. domiciled at Sterling Bank, Plc with the name Kogi State Salary Bailout Account.

After hearing the EFCC’s petition, Judge Ringim on August 31, 2021, ordered the account to be frozen and the order published in a national newspaper by the EFCC.

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