In an aggressive drive towards shoring up its revenue base, the Federal Government has through Nnamdi Dimgba, a judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja, secured an order granting temporary forfeiture of funds kept in accounts without Bank Verification Number (BVN) and whose ownership could not be clearly identified, to it.
Also granted was an order to seize funds held in bank accounts “with insufficient Know Your Customer (KYC) guidelines”.
The order which followed an originating motion of notice filed by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, on behalf of the Nigerian government on September 28, was issued on October 17.
The court ordered that all the 19 Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) operating in the country release to the Nigerian government, names of accounts not yet connected to BVN, account numbers, their outstanding balances, domiciling locations, as well as domiciliary accounts without BVN and where they are domiciled.
The DMBs listed as respondents in the ex-parte suit are, Access Bank, Citi Bank, Diamond Bank, Ecobank, Fidelity Bank, First Bank and First City Monument Bank.
Others include, Guarantee Trust Bank, Heritage Bank, Keystone Bank, Skye Bank, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Sterling Bank, Union Bank and United Bank for Africa.
“That the 1st-19th defendants shall disclose a) the names of the accounts as operated, b) account numbers, c) account balances d) domiciliary accounts, e) the branch/location where the accounts are domiciled of all accounts without BVN.
“That the 1st-19th defendant banks to disclose any investments made with funds from these accounts without BVN in any product including fixed/term deposits and their liquidation and interest incurred, bank acceptances, commercial papers and any other relevant information related to the transaction made on the account.
“That an order is hereby made freezing the said accounts by stopping all outward payments, operations or transactions (including any bit of exchange) in respect to the accounts pending the hearing and determination of the substantive application.
“An interim order of forfeiture to the monies in the said accounts without BVN to the claimants being accounts with insufficient Know Your Customer (KYC) guidelines contrary to Section 3 of the Money Laundering Act, 2011 and CBN guidelines pending the determination of the Originating Motion on Notice.
“That an interim order is hereby made granting leave to the applicants or any officer authorized by them to advertise the accounts without BVN disclosed by the banks in a widely circulated national newspaper as notice to any person or body corporate or financial institution who may have any interest in any of the said accounts to claim ownership of same within 14 days of the publication of the order and show cause why the proceeds in the account should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government of Nigeria”, the order read.
Also, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigeria Interbank Settlement Systems (NIBSS) were directed to verify the data provided.
Recall that the BVN registration began in February 2014 to limit fraud. Earlier in 2017, the CBN had extended the registration exercise to microfinance banks and other financial institutions on the request the Minister of Finance, of Kemi Adeosun.
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