N20bn Bailout: Sterling Bank Opened Account Without Our Knowledge –Official

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News Investigators/ The Kogi Commissioner For Finance, Budget and Economic Planning, Asiwaju Idris Asiru, has alleged that Sterling Bank opened the controversial fixed deposit account in the name of the state government without the knowledge or directive of the state.

Mr Asiru disclosed this when he, alongside the state Accountant General, Jibril Momoh and Auditor General, Yakubu Okala, appeared before the state assembly at plenary, on Tuesday, in Lokoja.

The News Agency of Nigeria NAN reports that they were summoned by the House during plenary on Thursday, Oct. 28, to offer clarification on the alleged N20 billion that was recently forfeited to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in agreement with the EFCC.

The Commissioner explained that the state government was taken aback when it received the news that the bailout money meant to offset arrears of workers salaries was domiciled in a Fixed Deposit Account with the bank, to yield interests.

He said that when the state government wrote to Sterling Bank to ascertain the authenticity of the news and true position, the bank responded that the government had no such account with it.

Fielding questions from the Legislators, Mr Asiru said that the so called Mirror Account was returned to the CBN as Liability Account by the bank adding that the government also wrote to the bank on the issue.

“No fixed account was ever opened or authorised by anyone, neither was there any N 20 billion kept anywhere.

“The facility in that sum collected from the bank via the approval of CBN in 2019 has since been used for the purpose intended. Salary payment and other overheads.

“Kogi is paying N89 million on monthly basis to settle the bailout loan.

”As a state, we are known for transparency, accountability and efficiency in funds management as it has become a culture under Governor Yahaya Bello.

“That can not be rubbed in the mud easily. As a Government, Gov. Bello remains upright and our books are there to be checked.

”Kogi state is in the good books of the World Bank and other international partners for openness, transparency and accountability, therefore, no amount of misinformation and mischievous assault can fault the records”, Asiru said.

In their submissions, both the Accountant General and the Auditor General of the state held that the bailout fund was judiciously utilised for the purpose it was meant.

On whether Kogi State Government would sue Sterling Bank for damages and if the money returned to CBN belonged to the state, the Finance Commissioner said the questions would be answered after the on-going investigations into the matter.

It was earlier reported that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) withdrew the suit seeking the forfeiture of N20 billion bailout funds granted to the Kogi state government.

It would be recalled that on Aug. 31, 2021, Justice Tijani Ringim, a Lagos High Court vacation Judge, had frozen the Kogi state account domiciled in Sterling Bank Plc, following an ex-parte application brought by the EFCC.

The commission had alleged that the Bail out money, which was meant for the payment of salary arrears in the state, was kept in an interest-yielding account with the name of the state as “Kogi State Salary Bailout Account.”

At the resumption of proceedings on Friday, Kemi Pinheiro, counsel to the EFCC, moved an application dated October 13, seeking discontinuance of the matter.

The EFCC however withdrew the suit following an application to that effect on the ground that the N19.3 billion would be returned to the CBN.

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