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Kogi N20 billion bailout scandal: Workers fate nailed as funds return to CBN

Concerned Nigerians and supporters of the controversial N20 billion Kogi workers’ bailout fund were informed last week Friday that the fund had been returned to the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Many people have spoken to reporters about the implications of returning money that would have helped workers in Kogi State.

The majority of people have labeled the government narrative as a “cock and bull” story that spanned seven months.

The mystery surrounding the N20 billion in Kogi State workers’ funds has continued to astound analysts, given the circumstances in which such a large sum of money was hidden in a Sterling bank account amid state workers’ misery, poverty, and anguish.

Recall that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), one of Nigeria’s anti-graft agencies blew the lid open that the sum of N20 billion workers’ bailout fund, released to the Kogi State government by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was kept in an interest yielding account number 0073772696 domiciled in a Sterling Bank.

The revelation led to denials and media theatrics and claims of the non-existence of such funds by those involved.

The EFCC in a 13-paragraph affidavit earlier deposed to by a member of the team of investigators had through relevant provisions in the Act that establishes it approached Justice Tijani Garba Ringim to freeze the account since the funds were not used for the purpose they were disbursed.

Now, after seven months of legal battle, the EFCC has secured a return of N19.33 billion Kogi State Salary bailout funds.

The development was confirmed by the Spokesperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr Wilson Uwujaren in a statement.

Part of the statement said: “The EFCC had earlier withdrawn its suit seeking the forfeiture of the N20 billion bailout funds granted to Kogi State government by Sterling Bank.

“The return of the money to CBN would effectively put to rest the campaign of misinformation and unconscionable denials by Kogi State government that no funds were recovered from its bailout account.”

But speaking with DAILY POST on Tuesday, the Executive Director of a popular Kogi based non-governmental organization, Initiative for Grassroot Advancement (INGRA), Comrade Hamza Aliyu said the kind of government in place in Kogi State since 2016 cannot be trusted.

He said the state workers’ audit which was carried out between 2016 and 2017 was targeted at sacking workers who would have benefitted from the bailout funds of N50.8 billion approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria for State and Local government employees during the previous administration of Idris Wada before Yahaya Bello inherited the funds.

Aliyu maintained that three institutions cannot be wrong even as the Kogi State government has continued to deny the existence of such funds domiciled in Sterling Bank.

He said: “Kogi State cannot be trusted. The audit which was carried out in 2016 and 2017 was meant to deny workers of bailout funds which has been approved before the administration of Yahaya Bello.

“Three institutions, that’s the EFCC, Court and the Central Bank of Nigeria cannot be wrong in the circumstances. My people said, in every smoke, there is a fire.

“The amount of money Kogi State government was accused of was weighty and instead of Kogi which claimed that such did not exist to go to Court, they were busy ranting on pages of newspapers.

“The EFCC is an investigative institution, and I believe it would not have approached the Court without evidence and since April till date, Kogi hasn’t proven the anti-graft agency wrong. Kogi State government is not only guilty and liable but corrupt and irresponsible.”

Meanwhile, a letter dated November 9, by the Central Bank of Nigeria which was addressed to the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, confirmed that the sum of N19,333,333,333.36 has been returned to its vault by Sterling Bank PLC as proceeds in the name of Kogi State Workers’ Salary account number, 0073772696.

The CBN’s confirmation letter was in response to EFCC’s letter of inquiry dated November 5, 2021, Ref. No. CR:3000/EFCC/LS/CMU/REC-STE/VOL.4/047 asking the anti-graft agency to furnish it with details of the funds in compliance with the October 15,.2021 order of a Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos.

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As anger continues to trail the return of the bailout funds, a female teacher in one of Kogi State-owned Secondary Schools in Ogaminana in the Central Senatorial district who pleaded anonymity lamented the plight of workers.

She told reporters that she is on level 12 step 6 and gets between N17,600 and sometimes N16,000 as monthly salary.

According to her, no teacher was a happy person at the state and Local Governments’ level, stressing that when the controversial workers’ N20 billion bailout fund was made public in the press, they recalled how workers expected the intervention without any news at that time.

Also, a social critic, Comrade Austin Usman Okai lamented that the development has deepened Kogi workers’ woes, recalling that the funds were originally meant for payment of arrears of State and Local Government workers.

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