The Guardian (Nigeria)
EFCC backtracks on N20b Kogi bailout claim, withdraws suit
THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) has dis - continued the suit seeking the forfeiture of N20b bailout funds granted to Kogi State government, which was allegedly banked in an interest yielding account in the name of Kogi State Salary BailOut Fund.
Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke granted the order of discontinuance last Friday sequel to a notice of discontinuance filed by counsel to EFCC, Mr. Kemi Pinheiro ( SAN), leading Rotimi Oyedepo.
Pinheiro urged the court to grant the order on the grounds contained in the notice of discontinuance.
Counsel to Kogi State government, Prof. Sam Erugo ( SAN), with Victor Emeruwa, commended counsel to EFCC for their professionalism in applying to discontinue, having discovered the truth that there was no such account as alleged, maintained by Kogi State Government.
He noted that, without reference to defendant’s pending application to discharge the freezing order, the notice of discontinuance admitted that the account was a ‘ mir - ror’ account of Sterling Bank, and only Sterling Bank could explain any fund found in it.
Hence, counsel was not opposed to the discontinuance.
However, he urged the court to vacate the interim forfeiture order earlier granted against Kogi State for the purpose of clarity.
But Justice Aneke observed that the EFCC was very clear in its notice of discontinuance, and that vacation of the earlier freezing order was clearly requested at paragraph six of the notice to discontinue.
‘ The application to discontinue is granted as prayed”, ordered the Judge.
Kogi State government, through Prof. Erugo ( SAN), had by motion dated September 14, 2021 applied to the court for an order vacating the order freezing what he described as a fictitious Kogi State Bailout Salary Account.
The State exhibited documents, including Bank Statements and Sterling Bank letters, showing that the real bailout funds had been utilised for the purposes granted, and that there was no transfer of the funds to any individual account to suggest diversion.
Prof Erugo ( SAN) argued that the State had been embarrassed by the freezing order, made over a non- existent account stated in the records of the Bank to be a mirror account.
“At any rate, there was no movement of any funds from Kogi State Bail- out salary fund to private accounts to warrant suspicion,” Prof Erugo ( SAN) said, insisting that Kogi State government and her officials had not contravened any known law, and that the freezing order ought not to have been granted in the first place.
When the application to vacate the freezing order came up on September 28, 2021, it was adjourned till October 15, 2021 to enable counsel to Kogi State respond to EFCC’S counter affidavit, and for argument on motion to vacate the freezing order.
There were indications of further exchange of court processes by counsel, and correspondence with the Bank after that last date in court.
Surprisingly, on October 15, 2021, rather than the matter proceed to argument on Prof. Erugo’s application to vacate the freezing order, the EFCC filed to discharge the order, and to discontinue the entire suit.
EFCC cited the same Bank letter relied upon by Prof. Sam Erugo ( SAN), confirming that the troubled account was a mirror account.
This position appears to vindicate the application filed by Prof. Erugo, ( SAN).