- FG Serves Forfeiture Order on Banks
The Federal Government has served seven banks with the order of the Federal High Court in Lagos directing a temporary forfeiture of $793.2m allegedly hidden with the banks in contravention of its Treasury Single Account policy.
The Federal Government’s lawyer, Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN), who obtained the ex parte order on July 20, confirmed this to our correspondent in a telephone interview on Monday.
He said although the banks was on Saturday served through substituted means by advertising the court orders in newspapers, for the order to be fully enforceable, it required physical service on the relevant personnel of the lenders.
Akinseye-George stated, “We could not serve the banks on Friday because as of the time the certified true copy of the enrolled order was processed and released by the court, the banks had closed for work.
“Therefore, we commenced service on the banks today (Monday) at their headquarters in Lagos. By 4pm, before the close of work, we had served all the banks.”
The concerned banks are United Bank for Africa Plc, Diamond Bank Plc, Skye Bank Plc, First Bank Limited, Fidelity Bank Plc, Keystone Bank Limited and Sterling Bank Plc.
Justice Chuka Obiozor on Thursday ordered the seven banks to remit the various amounts being allegedly kept illegally in their custody to the designated Federal Government’s Asset Recovery Dollar Account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
According to court papers filed by counsel for the Attorney General of the Federation, Akinseye-George, 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 TSA policy.
The funds, he said, were revenues, donations, transfers, refunds, grants, taxes, fees, dues and tariffs 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 stated, “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 the National Petroleum Developing Company.
Moving the ex parte application on Thursday, Akinseye-George had said it would best serve the interest of justice for Justice Obiozor to order the banks to remit the funds to the Federal Government so as to prevent them 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 funds, the Federal Government is being forced to borrow money from these commercial banks at exorbitant interest rates,” Akinseye-George added.
After listening to the SAN, Justice Obiozor granted the interim orders and directed that they should be published in a national newspaper.
He subsequently adjourned 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.