By Deji Elumoye
Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State yesterday declared that he is not aware that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has placed any embargo on any of the state’s salary accounts.
Bello, who described the alleged accounts’ freezing as a joke taken too far, also advised EFCC not to allow itself to be led on a journey of no discovery, adding that there is no N20 billion kept in any fixed deposit account in the state.
A Lagos High Court had last week granted an ex-parte application for the EFCC, ordering the freezing of an account allegedly housing around N20 billion, said to be Kogi State’s salary bailout account.
Speaking to newsmen after a close-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja, the governor emphasised that no Kogi state governments salary account is frozen.
“None whatsoever. None of our accounts 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 Commi-ssioner 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 don’t have such an account”.
He stressed that his administration expended the bailout received for the state, according to the agreement reached with workers in the state.
According to him, Kogi was among the first to publish all its account activities for the public to see, including all the details and the documents generated from the activities, challenging Nigerians to demand details of the utilisation of the said fund from other governors, just as he had done.
He said: “The bailout fund that we obtained, we appropriated in line with the agreement and understanding between Kogi state government and the workers. All of these were done, we finished all of these 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.
“I think in the days ahead, you will hear exactly where the matter shall be resolved. That’s why I said that it’s a joke taken too far. 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 prides on fighting corruption.
“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 governor with a higher integrity and all of my name that are ringing bell everywhere across the world today will know that actually I earned this 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 challenge Nigerians to challenge all of those governors to publish that same particular bailout form utilisation and then you’ll be able to judge me whichever way”, he said.
Bello asked the EFCC to unravel the mystery around the said allegation and the orchestrators be made to face the law, even as he charged the Chairman of the commission, Abdulrasheed Bawa, not to be used for political vendetta.
“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 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.
“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 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 is 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”.
Asked if he thought the alleged account freezing might have been triggered by the fact that he had been identified for his 2023 presidential ambition, Bello said it will be a big mistake for anyone to be targeting him because of an ambition.
“Well, like 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’s 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”, the governor said.
On why he met with President Buhari, the Kogi Governor said “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 submit a submission to the effect that he should in the life of his administration, be able to complete that Ajaokuta complex.
“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 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 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”, he stated.