A federal high court in Abuja presided over by Justice Chuka Obiozor on Thursday ordered the temporary forfeiture of the sum of $793.2m believed hidden by seven commercial banks in the country in violation of the Constitution and treasury single account (TSA) policy of the federal government.
Justice Chuka Obiozor ordered the seven banks to remit the various amounts being allegedly kept illegally in their custody to the designated Federal Government’s Asset Recovery dollars account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The concerned banks are United Bank for Africa; Diamond Bank Plc; Skye Bank Plc; First Bank Limited; Fidelity Bank Plc; Keystone Bank Limited; and Sterling Bank Plc.
According to court papers filed by counsel for the Attorney General of the Federation, Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN), a total of $367.4m was illegally hidden by three government agencies in UBA, while a sum of $41m was illegally kept in a NAPIMS fixed deposit account with Skye Bank.
The court papers stated that $277.9m was hidden in Diamond Bank; $18.9m in First Bank; $24.5m in Fidelity Bank; $17m in Keystone Bank; and $46.5m in Sterling Bank.
A lawyer from Akinseye-George’s law firm, Vincent Adodo, who deposed to a 15-paragraph affidavit in support of an ex parte application filed by the AGF, stated that seven banks colluded with Federal Government officials to hide the funds in breach of the government’s TSA policy.
The funds, he said, were revenues, donations, transfers, refunds, grants, taxes, fees, dues, tariffs etc accruable to the Federal Government from different ministries, departments, parastatals, and agencies.
Adodo said the banks had failed to remit the funds to the TSA domiciled in the CBN in violation of the guidelines issued by the Accountant General of the Federation which fixed September 15, 2015, as the deadline for such funds to be moved.
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.”
Among the allegedly culpable government agencies is National Petroleum Developing Company.
Moving the ex parte application on Thursday, Akinseye-George said it would best serve the interest of justice for Justice Obiozor to order the banks to remit the funds to the Federal Government, to prevent the funds from being moved or dissipated.
“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 hidden funds, the Federal Government is being forced to borrow money from these commercial banks at an exhorbitant interest rate,” Akinseye-George added.
After listening to the SAN, Justice Obiozor granted the interim order. adjourned
The Judge then adjourned the case until August 8, 2017.