The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, on Monday, obtained an order of the Federal High Court in Abuja permitting it to freeze an account of the Bauchi State Government domiciled in First City Monument Bank.
The commission said the order was necessary to enhance its probe of some suspects, including the immediate-past governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar, for alleged money laundering involving about N19.9bn.
It alleged that the ex-governor was planning to launder the state government’s N11.5bn contained in the account through the issuance of mandates and cheques for the payments of non-executed contracts and fictitious claims to individuals and contractors.
The account is dubbed as the ‘Bauchi State Government Operational Account’, according to the anti-graft agency.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo issued the freezing order on Monday following an ex parte application moved by the commission’s lawyer, Abubakar Aliyu.
The judge, in granting the application marked FHC/ABJ/CS/858/2019, made an order “empowering the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission or any other officer of the commission to instruct the Managing Director of the First City Monument Bank to freeze the bank account details stated as: “Account name: Bauchi State Government Operational Account.
“Account number: 0998552074.
Bank name: First City Monumental Bank.”
The court ordered the two respondents to the application, Bauchi State Government and FCMB, to show cause why the money should be handed over to them within 21 days.
The judge, however, adjourned further hearing until Sept. 3.
It also ordered that the commission must give a progress report of its investigation at the next hearing date.
An investigator in the Abuja zonal office of the Economic Governance section of the EFCC, Yakubu Sani, alleged in an affidavit filed in support of the application that an intelligence report revealed that the immediate-past governor of the state, Abubakar, in the twilight of his administration, initiated “a process of overdrawing to launder the sum of N19,897,809,334.08”.
Sani stated that the immediate-past governor was planning to launder the N11.5bn paid into the ‘Operational Account’ by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Sani stated, “That it is a fact that between May 24 and 28, 2019, the applicant received an intelligence that the then outgoing governor of Bauchi State initiated a process of overdrawing to launder the sum of N19,897,809,334.08 (nineteen billion, eight hundred and ninety seven million, three hundred and thirty four naira eight kobo ), property of Bauchi State Government.
“That the bank account subject matter of the intelligence is the Bauchi State Government Operational Account number 0998552074 domiciled in First City Monument Bank.
“That the actual amount in the said account is N11,500,000, 000 (eleven billion, five hundred million naira ) which was paid to the Bauchi State Government of Nigeria via the Central Bank.
“That the process of laundering employed by the suspects includes, the issuance of mandates and cheques to the First City Monument Bank for the payments of non-executed contracts and fictitious claims to individuals and contractors.
“That the Bauchi State Accountant-General is one of the signatories that cleared the said cheques and mandate for the said suspicious payments and still remained a signatory to the said account under investigation.
“That based on the intelligence received, attempts were being made to activate the withdrawal of such funds while still under investigation by the current government of Bauchi State.
“That the investigation has since commenced.
“That applicant needs to obtain the order of this honourable court to cause the freezing of the said account and the funds therein.
“That deflating the said funds by way of withdrawal will greatly obstruct the applicant from getting to the root of the matter and conclusion of the investigation seriously.” (PUNCH)