'Laughable' — Kogi tackles EFCC over allegation of funds diversion against Yahaya Bello

  


The Kogi government says the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is "desperate to tarnish" the image of Yahaya Bello, former governor of the state.

The state government said EFCC, in an amended charge before the court, included Bello's name and accused him of diverting state funds.

In a statement on Tuesday, Kingsley Fanwo, Kogi commissioner of information, said the commission alleged that Bello was involved in the diversion of the state funds to the tune of N80 billion in September 2015.

Bello was the governor of Kogi from January 26, 2016, to January 27, 2024.

Before his assumption as governor, he did not occupy any elective or appointive position in the state.

Fanwo said the EFCC in the amended charge sheet, claimed that Bello is "at large".

"The fact that the EFCC, in charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/550/2022: FRN V. 1. Ali Bello, Dauda Suleiman, currently pending before Honourable Justice J.K. Omotosho of the Federal High Court, Abuja Division further amended the 'Amended Charge' to include in the count, the name of H.E Yahaya Bello, describing him as being "at large", is ridiculous, laughable and portrays the EFCC as an agency infested with persons whose intents disagree with the noble intention of Mr. President to defeat corruption in Nigeria," the statement reads.

"For the sake of clarity, the original charge is against Ali Bello and Dauda Suleiman, Ali's associate.

"The offence which H.E Yahaya Bello is alleged to have committed upon which he has been named in the count is conspiracy to convert the total sum of N80,246,470,089.88 (Eighty Billion, Two Hundred and Forty Six Million, Four Hundred and Seventy Thousand, Eighty Nine Naira, Eighty Eight Kobo) which offence is said to have occurred on or about September 2015 in Abuja.

"His co-conspirators according to the count are Abdulsalami Hudu (Kogi State Government House Cashier) described as being 'at large' too, Ali Bello and Dauda Suleiman.

"In the EFCC's desperation to nail H.E Yahaya Bello, they forgot their thinking hammer at home.

"The count of the offence is most laughable as the election that produced H.E Yahaya Bello, CON, as Governor of Kogi was only conducted in November 2015.

"Indeed, H.E. Captain Idris Wada of the PDP held sway as Governor of Kogi State at the material time until he handed over to H.E Yahaya Bello on the 27th day of January 2016.

"H.E Yahaya Bello could therefore not have as of September 2015 conspired with anyone, including Abdulsalami Hudu, a Kogi Government House Cashier to convert any money belonging to the Kogi State Government.

"It is to be noted that H.E Yahaya Bello before becoming the Governor of Kogi State had no financial dealings with the Kogi State Government which could have permitted him to convert monies belonging to the Kogi State Government, hence, one's dismay at the allegation.

"The state government warned political actors to steer clear of Kogi State affairs and desist from their campaign of calumny "as the state government has not said its money is missing, and has been adjudged, both locally and internationally, as top in the area of transparency and accountability."

Fanwo asked President Bola Tinubu to wade in to "save the integrity" of the anti-graft agency from those "pushing it into a fight that should be left to politicians".

"The Kogi State Government under the leadership of His Excellency Alh. Ahmed Usman Ododo will continue to support the Renewed Hope Agenda of Mr President," he added.

"We will also continue to promote probity, accountability and transparency and open our books to agencies and institutions constitutionally empowered to look into them. We will continue to win awards in transparency and accountability."

BACKGROUND

Over the past few years, the anti-graft agency has been at loggerheads with the Kogi government over the probe of the state finances.

In August 2021, a federal high court sitting in Lagos froze a Kogi state salary bailout account domiciled in Sterling Bank Plc, over a N20 billion loan obtained from the bank.

Tijjani Ringim, the presiding judge, granted the order after an ex parte application brought by EFCC.

The anti-graft agency had told the court that the N20 billion loan meant to augment salary payment and running cost of the Kogi state government was kept in an interest- yielding fixed deposit account with Sterling Bank.

However, the Kogi state government and Sterling Bank denied the existence of the account in question.

On December 15, 2022, EFCC arraigned Ali Bello, identified as a nephew of the former governor of Kogi, and one Dauda Suleiman on a 10-count charge bordering on alleged misappropriation and money laundering.

The agency claimed the duo, alongside one Abdulsalami Hudu, a cashier at the Kogi state house, withdrew N10.2 billion from the government's treasury for personal use.

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