…as govt workers in Bassa lament non-payment of salaries
A nephew to Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello, Aliyu Bello, and one Dauda Sulaiman have been arraigned in a Federal High Court in Abuja for alleged money laundering to the tune of N10.2 billion.
Also joined in the suit is Abdulsalami Hudu, a cashier of Kogi State House Administration, who is currently at large.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) filed the suit of 10-count charge of misappropriation and money laundering against the defendants before the High Court presided over by James Kolawole Omotosho.
This is coming at a time Kogi State workers and pensioners have reportedly been receiving salary payments piecemeal with some getting as little as 20 percent.
According to the EFCC, Bello and Sulaiman are accused of fraudulently withdrawing a sum of N10,270,556,800 from the Kogi State treasury, which they delivered to a Bureau de Change operator, Rabiu Tafada, in Abuja to purchase foreign currencies for personal gains.
According to the anti-graft agency, Bello, Suleiman and Hudu committed the crime between January and December 2021 in Abuja.
EFCC told the court that the accused procured Rabiu Usman Tafada to take possession of N5,865,756,800, which forms part of the proceeds of unlawful activity to wit: “criminal misappropriation from the treasury of Kogi State and you thereby committed an offence contrary to sections 18 (c), 15 (2) (d) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under section 15 (3) of the same Act”.
Another count charge reads: “That you, Ali Bello, Dauda Suleiman and Abdulsalami Hudu (now at large) between January and December 2021, in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court aided Rabiu Usman Tafada to retain the total sum of N2,509,650,000.”
According to the charge, the defendants committed the offence contrary to sections 18 (a) 15 (2) (d) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011, as amended, and punishable under section 15 (3) of the same Act.
Both Bello and Sulaiman denied committing the offence before the court.
Justice Omotosho therein granted the accused bail in the sum of N1 billion with two sureties who must provide a bond of N2 billion each and have a landed property valued at N500 million. The title of the properties must be registered with the chief registrar of the Court, Justice Omotosho held while admitting them to bail.
Each of the sureties and the defendants shall submit their bank statements and international passports to the chief registrar of the Court.
The sureties must also produce an affidavit of means and evidence of tax clearance for at least three years.
Counsel to the second and third defendants, Abdulwahab Mohammed, told the court of his application for the bail of the defendants.
Justice Omotosho then ordered the two accused to be remanded in prison custody pending when they are able to meet the bail terms.
With that, counsel to EFCC asked the court to fix a date for the commencement of trial. The matter has been adjourned till February 6, 2023 for hearing.
Meanwhile, civil servants in the employ of Kogi State under Bassa Local Government Area have lamented the non-payment of their November salaries by the state government even as the month of December is already ending.
Bassa LGA has been enmeshed in communal crisis since 2016 over right to fish in a boundary fish pond. Although Governor Bello set up a reconciliation committee, peace is still far from coming to the area, especially between Bassa Komu and the Egbira Mozum communities. Several people have been reportedly killed, houses destroyed and many residents displaced.
However, the affected workers see the action of the state government as wicked and unacceptable. They say the government does not need to withhold their monthly salaries due to existential issue of communal crisis that should be resolved through political intervention.
Their biggest concern not is how to get money for Christmas spendings.
The government was yet to comment on the complaint as at the time of filing this report.