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N20bn loan: EFCC withdraws forfeiture suit against Kogi govt

State demands apology

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has withdrawn a suit it filed against Kogi State Government seeking forfeiture of a N20 billion funds said to be ‘proceeds of unlawful activities’ warehoused in a bank. This is even as the state government has demanded apology from the anti-graft agency for embarrassing it by dragging it to court on spurious allegations. The money was meant for the payment of Kogi state workers, but was alleged to have been domiciled in an interest yielding account with the bank.

Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of a Federal High Court in Lagos, granted the order of withdrawal on Friday sequel to a motion filed and argued by EFCC’s lawyer, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN). At resumption of Friday’s proceedings, Pinheiro presented EFCC’s grounds for discontinuance as contained in an application dated 13th October, 2021. The motion titled ‘Notice of discontinuance’ stated that ‘the Applicant, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission has resolved to discontinue this matter in SUIT NO: FHC/L/CS/1086/2021 pending before this Honourable Court against the Respondent’s Account herein.”

Some of the grounds upon which EFCC’s application of discontinuance was brought are that the Management of the bank where account No. 0073572696 with the name ‘KOGI STATE SALARY BAIL OUT ACCOUNT’ is domiciled has clarified the questions resulting to the commencement of this suit Besides, it was stated that the management of the bank has since acknowledged the existence of the said account in their book but claimed same was a mirror account.

It was further disclosed that the sum of N19, 333,333,333.36 is still standing in the credit of the account frozen pursuant to the order of the court and that the management of the bank had pursuant to a letter dated 21st September, 2021, signed by its Managing Director indicated intention to return the total sum of N19, 333,333,333.36 back to the Central Bank of Nigeria.

EFCC added that it is expedient for the instant suit to be discontinued and the account unfrozen to enable the bank’s management effect the transfer/return of the sum of N19,333,333,333.36 back to the coffers of the Central Bank of Nigeria where the said bailout funds was disbursed. Granting the EFCC’s application, Justice Aneke held: “I have listened to the submission of the learned silk for the application, Mr. Kemi Pinheiro (SAN) vis-a-vis perused the motion to withdraw.

My humble opinion is that the application is meritorious and ought to be granted accordingly, the application is granted as prayed.” Kogi State Government’s lawyer, Professor Sam Erogbo (SAN) commended the EFCC for its ‘professional approach’. He also sought for the vacation of the interim forfeiture order earlier granted by a vacation judge, Justice Tijjani Ringim, for the purpose of clarity.

The request was however turned down by Justice Aneke. Reacting to this development, Kogi State government yesterday demanded an apology from the anti – graft agency, saying EFCC must apologise for “embarrassing” the state by dragging it to court over a N20 billion bail-out fund. The Commissioner for Information, Kingsley Fanwo, disclosed the government’s position at the presentation of awards to senior journalists that participated in the GYB Essay Competition for Nigeria’s Political and Crime Editors in Lagos. He said it was unfortunate that the commission ignored thorough explanations by the state government on the matter but chose to heed allegations from “hired guns.”

 

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