Kogi bailout: Outcry as bank returns N20bn allegedly ‘fixed’ by State govt to CBN
Political analyst in Kogi State have knocked the state government for forfeiting the sum of N19, 333,333,333.36 to the central bank of Nigeria.
The money was meant for the payment of Kogi State workers’ salaries, but was alleged to have been domiciled in an interest yielding account with sterling bank.
DAILY POST in this report takes a look at the fate of Kogi workers, pensioner, as many analysts have described the development as a turning point for more pain and hardship for the people of Kogi State amid poor infrastructural development in the last five years under Governor Yahaya Bello-led administration.
Genesis of Kogi bailout
Since Governor Yahaya Bello took over the mantle of leadership from his predecessor, Capt. Idris Ichala Wada in Kogi State in 2016, workers in the state have had different perceptions about governance. When the youthful governor came on board, he introduced screening exercise which according to many was an attempt to downsize the state workforce.
For the government, there were many bad eggs, ghost and unqualified workers who had corrupted the civil service system and it was necessary for them to be flushed out before things got out of hands in the state. During this period, there were reports of some civil servants committing suicide as they had alleged that they were wrongfully booted out of the civil service. Despite these measures put in place by the government in power, the issue of inconsistency in payment and percentage salaries still longer.
Although the then government of Capt. Idris Wada first requested for N50 billion bailout from the Federal Government to offset the backlogs of salaries and also meet with the then economic reality, his request could not see the light of the day before the expiration of his tenure. When Governor Bello came on board, he gained access to the first tranche of bailout fund which is N20 billion.
In July 2019, Governor Bello admitted that his administration had received a fresh N30.8 billion bailout fund from the federal government. Bello made the disclosure in Lokoja, the state capital while performing the ground breaking ceremony of a chapel in the Government House.
He said the money was the balance of the N50 billion bailout fund which his administration had earlier requested for. That brings to a total of N50 billion received by the state as bailout fund on behalf of the state and local government councils.
Bello, in his remarks then said the money would be used to clear the four months salary arrears being owed workers and pensioners in the state. “I want to thank President Muhammadu Buhari for approving our latest request for bailout.
“I also thank the Attah of Igala for leading our traditional leaders to the president to strongly make our case. I thank the CBN Governor and everyone else in the value chain who helped to facilitate the money,” Bello said.
Despite gaining access to this huge amount of money from the apex bank, DAILY POST gathered that the stories of many workers and pensioners is still the same as they are greeted monthly with percentage salaries, poor renumeration and poor infrastructural development in the state, according to analyst, remains very visible.
Kogi govt VS EFCC
The latest faceoff between Kogi State and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) brought a new twist to the bailout scenario. On August 31, 2021, Justice Tijani Garba Ringim, a vacation judge, had ordered the freezing of the account following an ex-parte application filed by the EFCC.
The anti-graft agency, in a 13-paragraph affidavit in support of the ex-parte application, had stated that it received credible and direct intelligence, which led to the tracing of the funds reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities in an account No. 0073572696 domiciled in Sterling Bank Plc with the name Kogi State Salary Bailout Account.
Moving the application for the interim forfeiture of the funds on August 31, 2021, A. O. Mohammed, counsel to the EFCC, had urged the court to grant the order so as to prevent further dissipation of the funds in the account.
Mohammed had also told Justice Ringim that the N20 billion meant to augment payment of salary and running cost of the government was kept in an interest-yielding account with the bank.
According to him, “ Instead of using the money for the purpose it was meant for, Sterling Bank Plc, acting on the instruction of the Kogi State government, transferred it from the loan account and placed it in a fixed deposit account.”
Reacting, Mr Kingsley Fanwo, Kogi State Commissioner for Information debunked the allegation, stating that the State government judiciously used the funds for its intended purpose.
Fanwo said that the allegations have tarnished the reputation of the State and Governor Yahaya Bello.
But Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, granted the application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), seeking to discontinue the matter involving the N20 billion Kogi State salary bailout loan.
The application, according to the commission’s counsel, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), is sequel to the decision of the management of Sterling Bank Plc to return the N19, 333,333,333.36 standing in the credit of the frozen account to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Kogites, analysts react
Reacting to the forfeiture of the N20 billion bailout, workers in Kogi State have described the development as wicked on the part of the state government. According to them, it is an embarrassment and salt added to injuries of workers who are going home monthly with percentage salaries.
One Mr. Henry said, ” it is so painful that we have a government that does not care for its workers. You mean we have such an amount of money domiciled in a bank account, yielding interest when workers are suffering? Can you point out any thing this government has done to better the lives of the masses?
“This money was given to the government to cushion workers suffering. But they decided to hoard it for their own selfish interest. Now, look at it, the money has been returned back to the Central Bank of Nigeria. They know what they are doing. They will never agree ownership of the money because of their political ambition.”
Another individual identified as Paul Ocheni said the State Government is not telling Kogites the real thing that transpired concerning the bailout fund. “What just happened now is a clear indication that this government has lost it. Is it a ghost that owns the money? Why are they taking us for a fool? Things are getting tough on a daily basis here in Kogi State. The roads are bad, our schools are nothing to write home about.
“Look at our health care sector, especially hospitals located in the rural areas, you will cry for Kogi State. Do u know what N20 billion would have done to the lives of Kogi People? Now it is gone and they want us to be clapping for them. Are they telling us that the N50 billion bailout given by the Federal Government is finished? This government has sold their conscience to the devil. They should not forget, there is a day of reckoning”.
A Political analyst, Mohammed Isah said this is beginning of more hardship for workers in Kogi State. Continuing he said,” Let somebody tell me that I’m dreaming. This should not be happening in this jet age. Money that is meant to put smiles on the faces of our pensioners and civil servants has been thrown to the river; all thanks to the self-centeredness and wickedness of the people in power.
“Where do we go from here? Who have we offended in Kogi State? This government should tell us what they have done to better the lives of their people. Is it the so called flyover at ganaja junction, the caricature renovation of specialist hospital in Lokoja and other places, the newly established Confluence University of Science and Technology? What else can they boast of? Nothing! They should all hide their heads in shame”.
Isah, however, called on Governor Yahaya Bello to resign, adding that he had failed the youths is his constituency. ” Governor Bello should resign honourably if he has integrity. He should forget governance and concentrate on his business”.
Similarly, Kogi-born activist, Austin Okai also berated Governor Yahaya Bello for mismanaging the state’s resources.
Reacting to the Friday’s withdrawal of a suit filed against Kogi State government by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the N20 billion bailout loan, Okai said the decision to return the N19.33 billion in the alleged bailout account to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will affect the state economy negatively.
Okai said, “Kogi State just lost N20bn to the EFCC because of Yahaya Bello’s greed and wickedness. The poor workers in the state who are victims of percentage salaries in recent years are the real victims of this obnoxious act.
“Yahaya Bello’s dirty and shady deal orchestrated and coordinated to defraud and milk Kogi State is what led to this harsh decision from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). It is unfortunate that this is happening at a time when civil servants and pensioners are committing suicide due to hunger and starvation.
“I always know that this government has nothing good to offer the good people of Kogi State. I have been called different names whenever I raised alarm of Bello’s counterfactual navigations. But today, I have been vindicated.
“In as much as the unfolding scenario has exposed the high level of corruption in Kogi State financial dealings, it will have negative impact on our workers and the economy,” he said.
Okai queried the alleged decision of the state governor to fix bailout funds meant to offset salaries of workers in the state in an interest-yielding account.
Meanwhile, the State government is yet to officially react to the latest development. (Daily Post)