Ask ZiVA 728x90 Ads

 

Alleged N20bn Bailout Fund: EFCC Quizzes Sterling Bank CEO Abubakar Suleiman, Two Others

Abubakar Suleiman
Abubakar Suleiman
THEWILL APP ADS 2

February 24, (THEWILL) – The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has again quizzed Abubakar Suleiman, the chief executive officer of Sterling Bank Plc and two other top officials of the bank, over N20 billion bailout fund allegedly kept in a hidden account by the Kogi State Government, THE WITNESS reported.

The EFCC had in August 2021, said that it had credible intelligence that funds suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities were in an account domiciled in Sterling Bank Plc with the name of Kogi State Salary Account and account No. 0073572696.

The money, the anti-graft agency said, was a bailout fund to the state meant to pay workers’ salaries, but allegedly diverted to an interest-yielding account.

According to the EFCC, the Central Bank in a letter referenced, DFD/DIR/CON/EXT/01/099 and dated November 9, 2021 informed the executive chairman of EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, that it had received the money.

“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 wish to confirm the details of the receipt of the amount as stated below: Bank: Sterling Bank Plc; Amount: N19, 333, 333,333.36; Date of receipt: 04 November, 2021″, the commission had said.

THEWILL recalls that the Kogi State Government, had in several statements denied the allegation.

“Let it be known that the Kogi government has disbursed its bailout loans for the purpose of which it was granted as at October 2019.

“There is, therefore, no hidden bailout funds/loan belonging to Kogi that is capable of being returned to the CBN or frozen by order of court. The EFCC knows this, which is why it withdrew the suit it filed in court on the bailout fund”, said Kogi State commissioner for Information and Communication, Kingsley Fanwo.

But the EFCC insisted the diverted money had been recovered and transferred to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), a transaction reportedly acknowledged by the apex bank.

However, the invitation and questioning of Suleiman and the other top officials, a credible source said, is to get the true picture of the circumstances around the said account domiciled in Sterling Bank.

The bank’s MD and other officials were released after intense interrogation and they were to return anytime the EFCC needed them on the matter, the source said, adding that Suleiman has made a useful statement to the commission, while investigation is still on.

“The bank’s officials were grilled for several hours by the EFCC on the matter and going by their statements, heads may roll soon.

“If the bank says the account was not opened and operated by the Kogi State government, then something is fishy and the bank must answer to it.”

“Who authorised the opening of the fixed deposit account and when? Who are/were/was the signatory to the account? How much had been withdrawn from the account since 2019? And who is keeping the N666.7 million which made up the balance of N20 billion initially said to be deposited into the bailout account? These are some of the questions the EFCC is trying to unravel”, the source said.

However, Sterling Bank had admitted that Kogi State Bailout Account exists in its record and “categorised under the account type ‘Intervention Fund”, even though it was not opened by the state government or at its instance.

Both EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, and Sterling Bank were yet to respond to inquiries as at press time.