EFCC freezing of Kogi account a joke too far —Gov Bello

Yahaya Bello: Between autocracy and political sagacity

Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, has asserted that none of the state accounts has been frozen at the request of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), restating his government’s position that the N20 billion bailout fund it received was appropriately applied.

According to him the reported freezing of the state’s account was a joke taken too far.

He made the clarification while fielding questions from reporters at the presidential villa, Abuja after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.

A federal high court sitting in Lagos had been reported to have frozen a Kogi salary bailout account domiciled in Sterling Bank Plc, over a N20 billion loan obtained from the bank.

But Bello said the bank in which the money was said to have been deposited has denied having such an account.

Asked to disclose the status of the account, he said: “No Kogi state government salary account is frozen. None whatsoever. None of our accounts were frozen or embargo placed on any of our accounts by EFCC at all.

“I think it’s just a misrepresentation of facts or is a joke taken too far.

“My Information Commissioner and all those that are concerned with that lies peddled by the EFCC, I think they have responded appropriately. And I will urge each and every Nigerian to please go to Kogi state website and all the facts are there.

“The banks have denied that we have such an account. And besides that, the bailout fund that we obtained, we appropriated in line with the agreement and understanding between Kogi state government and the workers. And all of these were done, we finished all of these, you know, in the year 2019.

“So first, there’s no N20 billion account, or N19 billion era, no fixed deposit account. So, I don’t know where the lie is coming from.”

While noting that the issue would soon be resolved, he described himself as someone with integrity who would not steal from the government purse.

The governor further stated: “I think in the days ahead, you will hear exactly where the matter shall be resolved. That’s why I said that is a joke taken too far. And I want to believe that either the officials of the EFCC may have misled the commission.

“Remember that we will not just allow this to lie low because Mr President pride in fighting corruption. And EFCC is one of the agencies that is being used to fight corruption.

“EFCC should not be seen to be going on a voyage of no discovery in order that the reputation of the commission and integrity of this particular government remains intact.

“As a person, I came into this office with my integrity high. And I will leave this office of government with higher integrity and all of my names that are ringing bell everywhere across the world today will know that actually, I earned these beautiful names, not because of stealing.

“I will never touch one kobo of Kogi state. I will never and I will never allow any of my officials to do so.

“Today, Kogi state is among the first that has published all of our accounts online. And all of these spendings have been put out there for the whole world to see from bank accounts to statements of account, to payroll, all of the documents are all out there. That is transparency.

“I think I challenge Nigerians to challenge all of those governors to publish that same particular bailout fund utilisation. And then you’ll be able to join me whichever way.”

Governor Bello also admonished the Chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, not to allow himself to be used for personal vendetta, saying that if anyone was targeting him because of his expressed ambition to contest the 2023 presidential election, they would not get him.

He added: “Well, as I said, Mr President’s fight against corruption has nothing to do with politics. So, whoever wants to probably attack my towering name and integrity, because of 2023 is making a mistake. Because fighting corruption should ordinarily have nothing to do with political affiliation or political interest.

“So, I wouldn’t want to say that because of 2023 I am being targeted. If you’re targeting me because of 2023, it is a big mistake, you will not be able to get me.

“For 2023, I still say it is in the hands of God Almighty. Nigerians, millions, men, women, youth are all yearning that I should contest for 2023. There is still time to give an appropriate answer when the time comes. And I believe that when the time comes, we are going to give a very wonderful response that will satisfy Nigerians.”

He also stated: “As you said, I am the very first not among the first to have congratulated Bawa for his appointment as EFCC Chairman as a young man. And I appreciate that, Mr President, for identifying a young man, a very young, vibrant, courageous man as chairman of the EFCC. I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed in him. Because so far there’s an allegation, we have responded. We’re waiting for their own reaction to our response so far.

“But I want to believe that those who may have orchestrated that phantom lie should be brought to justice as soon as possible so that the good name that EFCC has earned will continue to tower high.

“So, I will continue to urge him, that is Bawa, to continue to do a very wonderful job he has started.

“He shouldn’t allow anybody to use him, for whatever reason, and I don’t think he will allow anybody to use him for political vendetta.

“He as a young man has a very long way to go just like myself, and we should be able to guide ourselves very well in serving this great country.”

On his mission to the presidential villa, Bello explained: “I came to see our father, Mr President to appreciate him on behalf of the good people of Kogi state that today, Kogi is the first Nigerian northern state to be referred to as oil-producing states.

“We came to appreciate Mr President, for that magnanimity, and also to congratulate the people of Kogi state, and Nigerians, generally.

“We equally brought a request to the effects that the Ajaokuta steel company is still moribund, and his efforts in ensuring that he revives Ajaokuta steel complex. We made a submission to the effect that he should in the life of his administration, be able to complete that Ajaokuta complex.

“And Mr President received all of these and more with pleasure and he promised that something is going to be done to ensure that Ajaokuta is revived and running before the end of this administration.

“The fact that we are oil-producing today, I want to assure all the citizens of Kogi state and Nigerians that the mistake that we made in the past where Nigeria depends on oil alone, as a source of revenue today, will not be repeated.

“Whatever is going to be accruing to Kogi state will be used to support all other sectors, the Agric sector, manufacturing, and several other sectors of our economy to ensure that… it is going to serve as a catalyst. It’s not going to be just the only single means upon which we shall depend, no. We will not make that mistake. Thank you.”