The Kogi State Government has instituted a whopping N35 billion damages suit against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over allegations that it fixed N19.3 billion bailout funds received from the Federal Government.
Meanwhile, a Kogi State High Court has restrained the EFCC from issuing further official or unofficial publications over the issue of the said N19.3 billion in a Sterling Bank Account with No. 0073572696 or any other account purportedly belonging to the Kogi State Government.
Justice J. J. Majebi, made the order in a ruling on an exparte application brought by Kogi State, seeking to temporarily restrain the defendants from further publication of the alleged defamatory materials, pending the hearing and determination of the main suit. The Trumpet Gathered
The judge in the ruling further restrained EFCC from inviting or investigating officials of the state in respect of the bail-out fund.
While plaintiffs in the suit are; Kogi State Government, Accountant-General of Kogi State, Momoh Jibrin; and Commissioner for Finance, Budget and Economic Planning, Asiwaju Asiru, defendants include the EFCC, Sterling Bank, and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as 1st to 3rd respectively.
The claimants in a 62 paragraph affidavit and 6 paragraph further affidavit in support of the motion exparte with number HCL/536m/2021 accused the EFCC of mischief, adding that they will suffer irreparable damages if the court does not intervene.
Delivering the ruling, Justice Majebi agreed with the applicants that, “there is urgent need to restrain the defendants by this application to preserve the status quo and to prevent the 1st defendant from fostering upon the court a situation of complete helplessness pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice”.
The judge subsequently fixed December 17 for a hearing of the main suit.
In the main suit marked: HCL/128/2021, plaintiffs are asking the court to declare that the publication by the EFCC containing, amongst others, false and unfounded allegations of N19.3 billion being returned was defamatory of the character of the Kogi State Government.
Part of the reliefs sought include, “an order of court compelling the 1st Defendant to, within 48 hours of the order of this Court, publish in three national dailies, a retraction of her frivolous allegations and also tender unreserved apology to the Claimant for the defamatory publication written against the Claimant.”
Plaintiffs also sought a declaration that the publication of the EFCC was “misconceived, wrongful, illegal, null and void and that the conduct of the 2nd defendant (Sterling Bank) was also wrong, illegal, null and void in opening a fixed deposit account number 0073572696 and naming it Kogi bailout account without an application, request, authority or consent of the government.
The Kogi State government had earlier threatened to take the EFCC to Court if the commission failed to retract and apologize over statements it continually made in the media with the aim of disparaging the state.
Particularly, the government said it could not understand how the EFCC kept attributing an account number to the state even after Sterling Bank had written to explain that there was never a time it gave the bank the mandate to open the said account.
It said it was also alarmed by what it described as “the falsehood in the activities of the EFCC claiming that N20 billion bailout funds, belonging to Kogi State, was hidden in a fixed deposit account with Sterling Bank, which surprisingly now has a balance of less than the fixed N20 billion even after allegedly being kept for some years.”
They therefore asked the court to order “the 2nd Defendant to within 48hours of the order of this Court to tender unreserved apology to the Claimant for Opening a fixed deposit account in the name of the Claimant without an application, request, authority or consent of the Claimant first hand and obtained.
“An order of Perpetual Injunction Restraining the 1st Defendant either acting by itself, or through agent, privies, howsoever described from any further publication of the defamatory words complained of or any other similar libelous articles about the Claimant or in any other manner, or online or on print media, or say or produce any other material on TV or radio which is contrary to the order of this Honourable Court.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st Defendant either acting by itself, or through agent, privies, howsoever described from continuing in the dissemination, distributing, or further publication of the defamatory words complained of or any other similar libelous articles about the Claimant or in any other manner, or online or on print media, or say or produce any other material on TV or radio which is contrary to the order of this Honourable Court.
“The sum of Thirty Five Billion (N35, 000,000,000.00) Naira only as damages against the 1st Defendant for the defamatory publication titled ‘Hidden N19.3bn Kogi Salary Bail-Out Funds returned to CBN’ made on the 19th of November, 2021 on her Facebook page containing amongst others, false and unfounded allegations of N19, 333, 333, 333. 36 being returned from Kogi State Bailout account, which portrays fraud and misappropriation of public fund against the Claimant.
The die is now officially cast for an interesting legal battle between the EFCC and the Government of Kogi State”.