Justice Chuka Obiozor of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday granted an interim order for seven commercial banks in Nigeria to remit a total of N2.87 trillion ($793 million) said to have been illegally hidden with them.
According to the judge, their action is in violation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy of the Federal Government.
The court ordered that the funds be remitted into the Asset Recovery Dollars Account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The affected banks are the United Bank for Africa Limited, First Bank Limited, Diamond Bank Plc, Fidelity Bank Plc, Skye Bank Plc, Sterling Bank Plc, and Keystone Bank Limited.
It was revealed that about $367.4m was illegally kept by three government agencies in UBA, $41m in a NAPIMS fixed deposit account with Skye Bank, while $277.9m was hidden in Diamond Bank.
Also, $18.9m was hidden in First Bank; $24.5m in Fidelity Bank; $17m in Keystone Bank and $46.5m was also illegally hidden in Sterling Bank.
The banks are accused of hiding the monies in connivance with some federal government officials in contravention of the (TSA).
Vincent Adodo, a lawyer from the law firm of Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN), counsel to the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami deposed to a 15-paragraph affidavit in support of an ex parte application filed by the AGF on the issue.
According to Adodo, the funds were from revenues, donations, transfers, refunds, grants, taxes, fees, dues, tariffs etc. accruable to the Federal Government from different ministries, departments, parastatals and agencies.
He said, “The 1st to 7th respondents (banks), in collaboration with and/or collusion with unknown officials of the Federal Government, conspired to disobey the relevant constitutional provisions, thereby depriving the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of funds belonging to it, which are needed urgently to fund pressing national projects under the 2017 budget.”
Akinseye-George in an ex parte motion on Thursday, prayed the court to remit the funds to the Federal Government in order to prevent them from being moved.
He said “The withheld funds are urgently required for the implementation of the 2017 budget. The budget has a lifespan of 12 months and we are already in the middle of the year. By hiding these funds, the Federal Government is being forced to borrow money from these commercial banks at exorbitant interest rates”.
Justice Obiozor in granting the interim orders, also directed that it should be published in a national newspaper.
He thereafter adjourned the matter till August 8, 2017 for anyone interested in the funds to appear before him to show cause why the interim orders should not be made permanent.
Some of the banks involved in separate reactions all denied culpability, claiming they had remitted all government funds as directed by the TSA policy.
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