N20b Bailout Fund: Kogi Assembly Gives Sterling Bank MD New Ultimatum

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By Friday Idachaba.

Kogi State House of Assembly has extended to December 8, the ultimatum given for the appearance of Managing Director of Sterling Bank Plc, Abubakar Suleiman to offer explanations on the N20 billion bailout fund.

Prince Matthew Kolawole, Speaker of the House disclosed this at plenary on Tuesday in Lokoja.

He said that the extension followed the failure of the Managing Director to appear before the House on Tuesday as directed on November 9.

It would be recalled that on August 31, 2021, Justice Tijani Ringim, a Lagos High Court vacation Judge, had frozen the Kogi state account domiciled in Sterling Bank Plc, following an exparte application brought by the EFCC.

The commission had alleged that the Bail out money, which was meant for the payment of salary arrears in the state, was kept in an interest-yielding account with the name of the state as “Kogi State Salary Bailout Account.”

At the resumption of proceedings on the next date, Kemi Pinheiro, counsel to the EFCC, moved an application dated October 13, seeking discontinuance of the matter.

The EFCC however withdrew the suit following an application to that effect on the ground that N19.3 billion would be returned to the CBN.
In a seeming twist Governor Yahaya Bello’s government also accused Sterling Bank of opening a fixed deposit account on its behalf without its knowledge amid the EFCC probe of financial fraud.

Commissioner For Finance, Budget and Economic Planning Idris Asiru specifically alleged that the bank opened the controversial fixed deposit account in the name of the state government without its knowledge or directive.

Mr Asiru spoke when he, alongside the Accountant General, Jibril Momoh and Auditor General, Yakubu Okala, appeared before the state’s parliament recently.
Continuing on the extension of the ultimatum, Kolawole acknowledged receipt of a letter purported to have been sent by the Managing Director urging the Assembly to reschedule his appearance.

According to the letter as read by the Speaker, the Managing Director is currently attending AFREXIM Trade fair holding in South Africa and would not be available.

Kolawole however observed that it was not written on the Bank’s letter head, pointing out that the paper did not carry the logo or name of the bank and therefore, rejected it.

In his ruling however, the Speaker said that for equity and fairness, the House had resolved that the MD be rescheduled to appear on December 8, in person adding that no form of representation would not be accepted.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the House had on November 9, threatened to issue a warrant of arrest against the Managing Director should he fail to show appearance today (Tuesday).

The House had summoned the Managing Director to appear before it in person to make clarifications on the N20 billion Bailout Fund the bank claimed to have sent back to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) after initial claim that the state government deposited it in a fixed deposit account.

It would be recalled that the Managing Director had failed to honour the invitation of the House on two earlier occasions resulting in the threat to issue a warrant of arrest on him should he fail the third time, (November 16).

NAN further reports that the House at Tuesday plenary also confirmed the appointments of Mr Irojah Femi and Abu Adams as Permanent Commissioners in Kogi State Contributory Pension Commission as representatives of Kogi West and East Senatorial Districts respectively.

The confirmation followed their screening at the “Committee of the Whole” of the House at plenary.

Kolawole urged them to justify the confidence reposed in them by bringing their wealth of experience to bear on the discharge of their duty as Commissioners in the Commission.


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