N20bn Bailout: Sterling Bank Opened Account in our Name without our Knowledge – Kogi Govt. Alleged

By John Akinfehinwa

The Kogi State Commissioner for Finance, Budget and Economic Planning, Asiwaju Idris Asiru has accused Sterling Bank of opening a fixed deposit account in the name of the state without the knowledge of the government.

Asiru made the allegation on Tuesday when he appeared before members of Kogi State House of Assembly alongside the Accountant General of the state, Jibril Momoh, Auditor General, Yakubu Okala to clarify the alleged N20 billion recently said to be forfeited to the Central Bank of Nigeria.

He said the government was perplexed when it received the news that the bailout money meant to upset workers salaries was kept in a fixed deposit account to yield interest.

Asiru explained to the house that the government wrote to Sterling bank and they responded that the government has no fixed deposit account.

Lawmakers took turns to drill their visitors as they asked if Kogi State Government will sue Sterling Bank for damages and also if the money returned to CBN belong to the state.

Responding to the questions, the Kogi State Commissioner for Finance, Asiru, explained that at the end of the investigation it will be determined if they will maintain a relationship with Sterling Bank.

On the said mirror account, Asiru said the state government also wrote to Sterling Bank about the said money that will be returned to the CBN as reported but that the Bank changed its position, saying the Account in question was a liability account.

He explained that the Kogi government was paying N89 million on monthly basis to settle the bailout debt and no that no fixed account was ever opened.

“No fixed account was ever opened nor authorised by anyone, neither was there any N20 billion kept anywhere. The facility in that sum collected from the bank via the approval of CBN 2019 has since been used for the purpose intended. Salary payment and other overheads.

”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, Governor 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” he submitted.

The Accountant General of the state, Momoh Jibril and the Auditor General of the state both submitted that the said bailout fund was judiciously used for the purpose it was meant for.

The Branch Manager, Sterling Bank and his team were absent and are expected to appear in the next legislative sitting.

DAILY POST had 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.

On August 31, 2021, Tijani Ringim, a Lagos high court 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 money, which was 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 resumption of proceedings on Friday, Kemi Pinheiro, counsel to the EFCC, moved an application dated October 13, seeking discontinuance of the matter.

One of the grounds of the application was that N19.3 billion will be returned to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

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