The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC Friday withdrew its suit seeking the forfeiture of the N20billion bail out funds granted to the Kogi State Government by Sterling Bank.
The money was meant for the payment of Kogi State workers, but was alleged to have been instead domiciled in an interest yielding account with the bank.
Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke granted the order of withdrawal sequel to a motion filed and argued by the counsel to EFCC, Mr Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, leading Mr Rotimi Oyedepo.
Pinheiro listed six grounds upon which the judge granted the prayer, adding that “the EFCC is a responsible body”.
One of the grounds was that questions resulting in the commencement of the suit had been clarified, and an intention had been shown to return the sum of N19,333,333,333.36 back to the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Justice Tijjani Ringim had on August 31, granted an ex-parte application brought by the EFCC for an interim forfeiture of the N19, 333, 333, 333.36 billion, said to be warehoused in state’s Sterling Bank account number 0073572696.
Justice Ringim made the order of the interim forfeiture after taken arguments from the EFCC’s counsel, Abbas Muhammed.
The judge ruled that the order was pending the conclusion of an investigation or possible prosecution by the EFCC.
When the matter came up on September 28, 2021, before Justice Aneke, he adjourned to hear all applications relating to the loan.
At the resumption of proceedings Friday, Pinheiro presented the EFCC’s grounds for discontinuance as contained in an October 13, 2021 application.
The application titled ‘Notice of discontinuance’ stated that ‘the Applicant, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission 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 discontunuance 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 STATE SALARY BAIL OUT 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 STATE SALARY BAIL OUT 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 N19,333,333,333.36 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 21st September, 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 of N19,333,333,333.36 back to the coffer of the Central Bank of Nigeria where the said bailout funds was disbursed.”
Granting the EFCC’s application, Justice Aneke held: “I have listened to the submission of the learned Silk for the application, Mr Kemi Pinheiro SAN vis-a-vis perused the motion to withdraw. My humble opinion is that application is meritorious and ought to be granted
“Accordingly, the application is granted as prayed.”
Counsel to the Kogi State Government Professor Sam Erogbo (SAN) commended the EFCC for its “professional approach”.
He prayed the court that the interim forfeiture order earlier granted should be vacated for the purpose of clarity. But Justice Aneke declined.
The judge noted that the EFCC was “very clear in their motion to withdraw which is clearly established in paragraph 6.”