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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has questioned Abubakar Suleiman, the chief executive officer of Sterling Bank Plc, and two other senior executives of the bank over the ‘hidden’ N20 billion reportedly belonging to the Kogi State government.

 

In August 2021, the federal anti-graft agency stated it received solid intelligence that cash alleged to be proceeds of illicit acts were in an account named Kogi State Salary Account and account number 0073572696 at Sterling Bank Plc. The funds were supposed to go to the state’s bailout fund to pay workers’ salaries, but they were allegedly diverted to an interest-bearing account.

The state government, on the other hand, has categorically disputed the allegations. The EFCC, on the other hand, claimed that the diverted funds had been recovered and remitted to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), a transaction that the apex bank had acknowledged.

 

According to the EFCC, the apex bank informed the executive chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, that the money had been received in a letter titled DFD/DIR/CON/EXT/01/099 and dated November 9, 2021.

“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.

 

Even though the money is in the CBN coffers, the Kogi State government has continued to insist that it neither authorized the opening nor operated the bank account, an assertion confirmed by Sterling Bank. “Let it be known that the Kogi government has disbursed its bailout loans for which it was granted as of October 2019,” said Kogi State commissioner for Information and Communication, Kingsley Fanwo. “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 the court. The EFCC knows this, which is why it withdrew the suit is filed in court on the bailout fund.”

Although the Kogi State Bailout Account was not formed by the state government or at its request, Sterling Bank stated that it exists in its records and is “categorized under the account type ‘Intervention Fund.’”

 

According to an inside source, the EFCC invited and interrogated the Sterling Bank boss, along with two other bank employees, for several hours in response to this development to obtain the true picture of the facts surrounding the stated account. After extensive questioning, the bank’s MD and other officials were discharged, with instructions to return whenever the EFCC needed them on the case.

 

However, it has been learned that the bank’s CEO has provided the commission with important information while the probe is ongoing.

 

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

 

Speaking further, the source divulged, “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 authorized 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.”

 

As of press time, neither the EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, nor Sterling Bank had responded to The Witness enquires

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Breaking:Ibrahim Gusau Clears the Old Order – Emerges new NFF President

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Ibrahim Musa Gusau has been elected the new President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

 

Gusau was elected at NFF’s 78th Elective Congress which was held in Benin, the Edo State.

 

He polled 21 votes to beat his closest challenger former Ist Vice President Barrister Seyi Akinwunmi who got 12 votes.

 

Though Gusau did not poll the needed 22 votes to automatically win in the first ballot, other contenders opted out of the possible rerun

 

Amaju Melvin Pinnick was the former Chairman of the board.

 

Recall that the Court of Appeal had on Thursday granted the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) a stay of execution ahead of the forthcoming NFF elective congress.

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TAX EVASION AND FORCEFUL ACQUISITION OF OBAJANA CEMENT, KOGI & AKWA IBOM GOVERNMENT BATTLE DANGOTE

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These are not the best of times for Dangote Group as they face allegations of sharp practices in business from Kogi State government, Kogi Assembly as well as Akwa Ibom State.

Already, the Kogi State House of Assembly has ordered stoppage to the activities of the company in two Local Governments in the State while investigations continue.

The crux of the matter, from our investigations arise from sharp practices in terms of tax payments.

According to exclusive reports from Kogi State, the initial story was that Dangote Group took over the State Cement Company illegally without paying a dime for the takeover.

 

According to our findings, Dangote took over the State Cement Company Obajana Cement without paying the necessary compensation to the State government.

This is corroborated by the State Assembly findings.

According to some media reports, ‘the parliament stated that all available documents showed that the company started as Obajana Cement Company before turning to Dangote Cement company without any considerations.

It also directed that the documents signed at the establishment of the company and relevant receipts of dues claimed to have been paid to the government be made available at the next adjourned sitting date.

 

The Speaker of Kogi State House of Assembly, Hon. Matthew Kolawole, gave the order after interim reports of the ongoing investigative hearing on Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) which was submitted by the ad hoc committee led by Hon. Isah Tenimu and deliberated upon at the plenary on Wednesday.

 

Kolawole said this has become imperative in view of the claims and counterclaims between the Chairman of Kogi State Internally Generated Revenue Service (KGIRS) and representatives of Dangote Cement.

 

The Speaker further directed that the Financial Director of Dangote Cement Company should meet with KGIGRS and the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry to reconcile financial differences.

 

Earlier, during the investigative hearing, the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry had pointed out that Dangote had not been paying business premises fees since operation in the state.

 

Responding, the representative of Dangote, Alhaji Jimoh claimed that on the contrary, Kogi State had 10 per cent share which could only be claimed if the state showed interest, adding that since no interest was shown, the shares had been acquired when Dangote became a conglomerate.

 

While the Financial Director of Dangote, Segun Oyebanjo, claimed that since 2016, the company has paid in total dues the sum of N14 billion to the coffers of Kogi State Government through KGIRS with receipts.

 

But the Chairman of KGIRS said it was not so, adding that the receipts being bandied are not from them.

 

Oyebanjo stated that it was only in 2021 that some certain taxes were not being paid’.

But the Kogi problem with Dangote is not limited to this.

In another development, Following the unrestrained environmental degradation in Ankpa and Olamaboro local government areas, Kogi state House of Assembly on Wednesday, directed the Commissioner of Police and Commandant of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to seal off operations of Dangote Plc in the affected areas of the State. The House gave the order during a public hearing on activities of Dangote Group in the state, especially on the the massive exploitation , environmental degradation and non compensation to the affected owners of the land and without revenue accruing to the state government.

 

The Speaker, Kogi state House of Assembly, Mathew Kolawole, charged the NSCDC commandant to ensure immediate implementation pending when the ad hoc committee on revenue clarifies some grey areas. Kolawole, who lamented the environmental degradation caused by mining activities on Kogi by the Dangote group and its subsidiaries, accused the multi national business concern of making billions in the state but yet fails to give back to it.

 

Akwa Ibom is also finding it difficult to collect its entitlement from the Dangote Group. According to reports from the place, the Itu Local Government blocked Dangote premises with their trucks because the company has refused to pay tax for more than two years despite series of pleas.

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