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Economic Crimes Body Unblocks State Bank Accounts

Economic Crimes Body Unblocks State Bank Accounts

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has lifted restrictions on bank accounts run by two state governments.

Authorities in Benue and Akwa Ibom States recently raised alarm that their accounts had been frozen, trapping workers’ salaries, pensions and crippling public activities.

But while Benue officials have confirmed unblocking of all the accounts affected, Akwa Ibom was only able to confirm a partial relaxing of limited access imposed on its accounts in commercial banks.

“Some of them have been unfrozen, not all of them,” Akwa Ibom information commissioner Charles Udoh told PREMIUM TIMES Thursday night.

The confirmation comes hours after Governor Samuel Ortom confirmed in a statement that Benue State’s accounts are now fully active.

Mr Ortom expressed his gratitude to Nigerians for helping ramp up pressure on the EFCC, reiterating his position that the EFCC was out to victimise him for leaving the ruling All Progressives Congress to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.

The state raised an alarm on Tuesday that its bank accounts were frozen without any explanation. The Vanguard reported that the accounts were held in GTBank, Fidelity Bank and First Bank.

Terver Akase, a spokesperson for Mr Ortom, said the banks did not cite any reason for freezing the accounts, saying they only told the state’s attorneys general that documents relating to the measure were “confidential.”

Mr Akase also said the accounts were holding salaries of thousands of workers, as well as pensions.

Mr Akase quoted Mr Ortom as describing the action of the EFCC as an impunity.

“Condemnation of EFCC’s freezing of the state’s accounts and general outcry” led to the restrictions being lifted, Mr Akase said, adding that Mr Ortom also thanked the presidency for intervening to end impunity and the siege on the legislature.

A spokesperson for the EFCC did not return requests for comments on the restrictions in the two states.

The EFCC said recently it was investigating Mr Ortom for his use of security earmarks, saying up to N22 billion had not been accounted for.

Mr Ortom denied the allegations.

The agency has also investigated Akwa Ibom finances, and the residence of its finance commissioner was said to have been raided by anti-graft agents a few weeks ago.

Mr Udoh, however, insisted to PREMIUM TIMES that the state had non prior indications that it was under the radar.

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