Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court Abuja, has ordered the freezing of seven bank accounts said to have been operated by the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF).
The order followed an application brought before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The commission alleged that the accounts we’re used to launder the sum of N10 billion derived from the proceeds of the Paris Club refund, which was given to the state’s by the federal government as bailout funds for the payment of arrears of workers’ salaries
The judge had while giving the direction on Wednesday, said that the order would last for 45 days by which time the EFCC must either institute charges in respect of the transactions against the relevant suspects or apply to the court for an extension of the order.
Justice Kolawole further gave seven days to the account owners to file an application that must be served on the EFCC if they are interested in seeking the setting aside of the freezing order.
The seven accounts the court ordered to be frozen were 0002184449 with Jaiz Bank Plc and operated by HAD Properties Limited; 0025600864 with Guaranty Trust Bank Plc operated by Hassan Ahmed Danbaba; as well as 0005892453 with Access Bank Plc operated by Melrose General Services Coy.
There is also an Access Bank account, 0045824054 and another Zenith Bank Plc account 1010948906, both of which belong to Bina Consult and Integrated Services.
The remaining ones are two Access Bank Plc accounts – 0700755576 and 0700946008 – belonging to Farouk Adamu Aliyu and Malam Alu Agro Allied Company Ltd., respectively.
Counsel to the anti-graft agency, Mr. Ben Ikani, had moved an ex parte application seeking the freezing of the accounts on November 27. The trial judge had then adjourned the matter till Wednesday, November 29, for ruling.
The EFCC had in its ex parte application claimed that it discovered in its preliminary investigation that the N10 billion was fraudulently diverted by the NGF under the guise of paying consultancy fee to BizPlus GSCL Consortium which the Forum engaged “to carry out reconciliation of accounts and recover the amounts due to the states” from the refund of the over-deducted payment of Paris Club debt by the Federal Government from 1995 to 2002.
In the commission’s affidavit filed in support of the ex parte motion, a member of EFCC’s Special Investigation Committee commissioned to look into the alleged Paris Club refunds scam, Osas Azonabor, claimed that preliminary investigation had revealed that the NGF caused the Central Bank of Nigeria to pay N19,439,225,871.11 into its account for onward payment to BizPlus as consultancy fee.
However the investigator said that N10 billion of the N19.4 billion paid to the NGF account by the CBN was allegedly fraudulently disbursed to the seven accounts of companies and individuals who were not part of the said BizPlus GSCL Consortium.
On how the fraud was allegedly carried out, Azonabor explained that the NGF had agreed to pay success fee of two per cent to BizPlus GSCL Consortium.
He said that the NGF upon the success of the recovery declined to stick to the two per cent fee it earlier agreed on and caused the Central Bank of Nigeria to deduct five per cent, amounting to the N19.4 billion.
Azonabor also said.“That sometime in January 2017, the applicant (EFCC) received intelligence in respect of a case against the Nigerian Governors’ Forum alleging conspiracy, criminal misappropriation of public funds involving the sum of N19,439,225,871.11 out of the Paris Club refund made by the Federal Government in favour of the 36 states of the federation.
“That preliminary investigation conducted by the commission revealed that the 36 state governments, under the auspices of the NGF, engaged the services of Bizplus GSCL Consortium to carry out reconciliation of accounts and recover amounts due to the states from line charge made on them from 1995 to 2002 for a success fee of two per cent payable by the NGF.
“That investigation further revealed that contrary to the agreed fee of two per cent as stated in paragraph 6 above, NGF caused the Central Bank of Nigeria to deduct five per cent of the amount due to the states which amounted to the sum of N19.4bn (stated in paragraph 5 above) and paid the same into the NGF account, supposedly for onward payment to the Bizplus GSCL consortium.
“That our investigation of the case further revealed that a larger part of the amount stated in paragraphs 5 and 7 above was fraudulently disbursed by the NGF to individuals and corporate entities that were not part of the consortium.
“That the names, account numbers and bankers of the fraudulent beneficiaries of the criminal diversion of the public funds are as stated in the schedule to this application and that copies of the statements of accounts showing the disbursements is hereby attached and marked Exhibits EFCC1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 respectively.
“That further investigation revealed that those individuals and corporate entities were used by the NGF to launder over N10bn under the guise of paying consultancy fees to the Bizplus GSCL Consortium which, however, found its way to the various accounts listed in the schedule to this application,” Azonabor said.
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