By Onozure Dania – Lagos

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has discontinued the Economic and Financial Crimes  Commission EFCC suit seeking the forfeiture of the N20billion bailout funds allegedly granted to the Kogi State Government.

Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke granted the order following EFCC’s prayer to withdrawal
the N20billion, suit against the Kogi State government.

The counsel to EFCC, Mr Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, leading Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, 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.

It will be recalled that 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 bank account number 0073572696.

Justice Ringim made the order of the interim forfeiture after taking 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.

Meanwhile, counsel to the Kogi State Government Professor Sam Erogbo (SAN), had in the grounds of a motion on notice, dated September 14, 2021, urged the court to vacate the interim forfeiture order earlier granted the EFCC.

He said that the respondent’s application leading to the grant of the order of the court dated August 31, was speculative.

Prof Erugo said there was misrepresentation of facts before the court leading to the granting of the order.

He said “There was no material before the court linking Kogi State Government Salary Bail Out Account with the application and subsequent order of court.

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“That the account opening package attached to the respondent’s application with account No 0072969301, is at variant with account No 0073572696.

“That account No 0073572696 was neither opened nor operated by the Kogi State Government, but an internal (Mirror) account opened for its purposes, as there is no such account with credit balance of N19,238,493,150.71 or N20,000,000,000, as alleged.

“That the applicant’s application was speculative and with no true material facts placed before the court.

“That the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain application as the applicant lacked the locus standi to initiate the case,” he said.

At the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, 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 discontinuance 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 the bank, 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 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 the bank, 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 the bank, 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), prayed the court that the interim forfeiture order earlier granted should be vacated for the purpose of clarity.

Justice Aneke held that the discontinuance order granted already covers the interim forfeiture order.

The judge noted that the EFCC was “very clear in their motion to withdraw which is clearly established in paragraph 6.”

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