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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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Fidelity Bank Wins Best SME Bank Nigeria at Global Banking & Finance Awards 2022

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Fidelity Bank Plc, has been announced as the 2022 Best SME Bank in Nigeria by the Global Banking & Finance Review at its Annual Global Banking & Finance Awards which held in London, UK recently.

 

Global Banking & Finance Review is the leading online, digital, and print magazine for the banking and financial sector. The website receives over 7 million page views each year thanks to its balanced views and informative, independent news centered on the financial sector. The Global Banking & Finance Awards was created to recognize companies of all sizes that are prominent areas of expertise and excellence within the global financial community.

 

“Global Banking and Finance Review is privileged to honor those financial institutions that have achieved outstanding results and who stand out in their particular area of expertise in the banking and finance industry. Global Banking & Finance Review would like to congratulate the award winners and look forward to their continued success.

 

“The awards were created to recognize companies of all sizes that are prominent in particular areas of expertise and excellence within the financial community. They reflect the involvement of leading financial organizations and recognize the accomplishment, achievement, innovation, strategy, and progressive and motivating changes taking place within the financial sector”, reads a statement on the Global Banking and Finance Awards website.

 

Commenting on the award, MD/CEO Fidelity Bank Plc, Mrs. Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe said, “We are grateful for this recognition and dedicate the award to our customers who rely on us to provide the right support for scaling their business. Receiving this award at the beginning of the year, provides us with increased motivation to do more in helping our clients achieve their strategic business goals.”

 

Fidelity Bank is a full-fledged commercial bank operating in Nigeria with over 7.2 million customers serviced across its 250 business offices and digital banking channels. The bank was recently recognized as the Best Private Bank in Nigeria and Best Private Bank Digital Solutions for Clients in Africa in the Global Finance’s World’s Best Private Banks 2023 Awards; as well as the Best Commercial Banking Brand in Nigeria by the Global Brands Magazine Awards. The bank has also won awards for the “Fastest Growing Bank” and “MSME & Entrepreneurship Financing Bank of the Year” at the 2021 BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BAFI) Awards.

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Buhari Will Commission Dangote Refinery Before May 29 -Dangote Group

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The attention of Dangote group has been drawn to some misleading reports regarding the commissioning of its Dangote Refinery during the present working visit of President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR to Lagos State.

 

In a terse statement signed by the Group Chief, Branding & Communications Officer, Dangote Industries Limited, Mr Anthony Chiejina, the Group averred that “We want to state categorically that our 650,000 barrels per day (bpd) Refinery project was never part of the President’s programme on projects to be commissioned.

 

“For the record, the projects slated for commissioning in Lagos State by President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR include: Lekki Deep Sea Port; 32-Metric Tonnes Lagos Rice Mill, Imota; 18.75km Eleko to Epe T Junction Express road; John Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture and History, Onikan, Blue Line Rail (Phase 1) commissioning (Marina to Mile 2); Groundbreaking for the Blue Line Rail Phase 2 (Mile 2 to Okokomaiko), and MRS Lubricant, a private project in Apapa.

 

However, our Refinery will be commissioned before President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR formally leaves office in May, 2023, and the public will be duly informed and invited to the epic event.”

Before this statement today, Business Hilights recalls that there had been a fake news in an unverified twitter handle saying President Buhari will among other things commission the refinery which the company debunked and described as fake.

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