N19bn bailout: EFCC Bows, Withdraws Suit against Kogi State

A federal high court in Lagos on Friday granted a motion by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), seeking to discontinue a suit against the Kogi Government.

EFCC had brought the suit, seeking an interim order to freeze the sum of the N19.3 billion bailout fund, in the account of the state.

EFCC had alleged that the money meant for the payment of salaries of the state workers was domiciled in an interest-yielding account with Sterling bank.

However, at the resumed hearing of the case on Friday, EFCC’s counsel, Mr. Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, presented the applicant’s grounds for discontinuance as contained in an application of Oct. 13.

In the application titled ‘Notice of Discontinuance’ the commission stated that:

“The applicant 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.

“The grounds upon which discontinuance is brought are:

“That the account upon which this suit was instituted, was frozen by an order of this honourable court.

“That the management of sterling bank plc, where account No 0073572696 with the name Kogi Salary bailout account is domiciled, has clarified the questions resulting to the commencement of this suit.

“That the management of sterling bank plc, where account No 0073572696 with the name Kogi salary bailout account is domiciled, has since acknowledged the existence of the said account in their book but claimed same was a mirror account.

“That the sum of N19.3 billion is still standing in the credit of the account frozen pursuant to the order of this honourable court.

“That the management of sterling bank plc, where account No 0073572696 is domiciled, has pursuant to a letter dated Sep.21, 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.

“That it is expedient for the instant suit to be discontinued and the account unfrozen to enable the management of sterling bank plc, effect the transfer/return of the sum to the coffer of the Central Bank of Nigeria where the said bailout funds was disbursed.”

Ruling on the motion, Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke held:

“I have listened to the submission of the learned silk for the applicant, 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,” he said

Counsel to the respondent, Prof. Sam Erogbo, SAN, commended the EFCC for its “professional approach”.

He, however, prayed to the court that the interim order earlier granted, be vacated for purposes of clarity.

In response, the judge simply noted that the EFCC was “very clear in its motion to discontinue which is clearly established in paragraph 6.

Justice Tijjani Ringim had during the court’s vacation, on Aug. 31, granted an ex-parte application brought by the EFCC.

The commission sought an interim order freezing the sum N19.3 billion, said to be warehoused in the state’s account.

Ringim had granted the interim order, after taking arguments from the EFCC’s counsel, Mr. Abbas Muhammed.

The judge had ruled that the order was pending the conclusion of an investigation or possible prosecution by the EFCC.

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