The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has interrogated 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.
The troubled lender is responsible for everything from fraud to sloppy balance sheets and other nefarious acts, making it almost impossible to bank with the supposed “One Customer Bank” with both eyes closed.
In August 2021, the EFCC stated that it had credible intelligence that funds alleged to be proceeds of illicit activities were in an account named Kogi State Salary Account with account number 0073572696 at Sterling Bank Plc.
The money was supposed to be a rescue fund for the state to pay workers’ salaries, but it was allegedly moved to an interest-bearing account as state employees moan in poverty.
The state government, on the other hand, 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 apparently 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 of November 5, 2021 on the aforementioned subject with Ref. No: CR:3000/EFCC/LS/CMU/REC-STE/VOL.4/047 and desire to confirm the following information of the receipt of the amount: The commission stated, “Bank: Sterling Bank Plc; Amount: N19, 333, 333.36; Date of receipt: 04 November 2021.”
Newsthumb Newspaper reports that 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 the purpose of which it was granted as at 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 court. The EFCC knows this, which is why it withdrew the suit it filed in court on the bailout fund.”
The Kogi State House of Assembly had also summoned the CEO of the bank to appear before it in person for clarification on the N20 billion bailout fund.
However, Sterling Bank had admitted that Kogi State Bailout Account exists in its record and “categorized under the account type ‘Intervention Fund,’” even though it was not opened by the state government or at its instance.
According to insider source, rising from this development, the EFCC invited and interrogated the Sterling Bank boss, Abubakar Suleiman alongside two other officials of the bank for several hours to get the true picture of the circumstances around the said account. Abubakar Suleiman and other officials were released after intense interrogation and they were to return anytime the EFCC needed them on the matter.
It was however gathered that Abubakar Suleiman has allegedly made a useful statement to the commission while investigation is still on.
“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.”
Recent events have however placed the Abubakar Suleiman led Sterling Bank nulli secondus with scandals. The troubled lender is responsible for everything from fraud to sloppy balance sheets and other nefarious acts, making it almost impossible to bank with the supposed “One Customer Bank” with both eyes closed.