FG to recover $20.8bn in 19 commercial banks

Federal High Court Headquarters, Abuja

Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and the 19 commercial banks in the country have been ordered by the  Federal High Court in Abuja, at the weekend, to disclose all accounts in their custody and the balances in such accounts to the federal government.

The court ordered the banks to disclose the details of all such accounts, their owners and their proceeds in their affidavit of compliance deposed to by their chief compliance officers.

It also made an interim order directing the banks to freeze all the said accounts by stopping “all outward payments, operations or transactions” pending the hearing of the substantive application seeking the forfeiture of the balances in the accounts to the Federal Government.

The banks were also directed to disclose “any investments made with funds from these accounts without BVN in any products ”. Such investments to be disclosed by the banks as directed by the court include “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 accounts”.

The court also directed the CBN and the Nigeria Interbank Settlement Systems “to validate the information contained in the affidavit of compliance/disclosure filed by the respective 19 banks” within seven days from the date of service of the orders on them.

Justice Nnamdi Dimgba had made the orders on October 17 upon an ex parte motion filed on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Attorney-General of the Federation. Named as defendants are Access Bank Plc, Citi Bank Nigeria, Diamond Bank Plc, Ecobank Nigeria, Fidelity Bank of Nigeria Plc, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, First City Monument Bank Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc and Heritage Bank Plc.

Other banks are Keystone Bank, Skye Bank Plc, Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, United Bank for Africa Plc, Unity Bank Plc, Wema Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc and the CBN. A copy of the enrolled order, made available to judicial correspondents during the weekend, showed that the ex parte motion, marked FHC /ABJ / CS /911 / 2017 , was moved on behalf of the applicants by A. D. Tyoden .

The title of the ex parte application indicated that the accounts without BVN allegedly had insufficient Know Customer Guidelines, contrary to the directive of the CBN and Section 3 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended).

Granting the ex-parte motion, the court ordered banks to file before the court separate affidavits deposed to by their chief compliance officers, disclosing the accounts of individuals, corporate bodies and government agencies in their custody without BVN. The court directed that the order be equally served on the Central Bank of Nigeria.

It further ordered the banks to advertise the accounts without BVN in a widely circulated national newspaper as notice to those who might have any interest in any of the accounts. The court also made an interim order appointing a Bank Examiner from the CBN to examine the books of “any bank that fails to comply with the order of the honourable court to file affidavit of the disclosure.”

Justice Dimgba adjourned until November 16 for the hearing of the substantive application seeking the forfeiture of the proceeds of the accounts without BVN.