June 18, 2009

Customers sue Bauchi branches of banks over closure

… demand N10bn exemplary damage

By Patience Ogbodo

BAUCHI — CUSTOMERS of all the commercial banks that have branches in Bauchi State have gone to a Bauchi High Court to claim the sum of N10bn as exemplary damages for a breach of contract following the closure of the banks from 28th May to 1st June 2009.

This development made life unbearable for the customers just as the court impounded one of the Toyota Corolla official cars of UBA for failing to offset a judgment debt.

According to counsel to the plaintiffs, Yakubu Bako, his clients who are acting for others instituted the suit so that the banks will be alive to their contractual obligations to their customers no matter the situation, saying that the closure of the banks for whatever reason was a breach of the gentlemanly contract entered into with the customers.

The plaintiffs, according to the lawyer, are also claiming that the banks breached a contract by contravening the laws guiding their interest as they were made to undergo difficult situation during the days that the closure lasted as they could not withdraw from their deposits which they willingly made at the banks with the understanding that they can access them at any time of the day with the introduction of ATM services.

Bako condemned the banks’ action, saying that even if the banks had a problem with the state government, they do not have any legal right to shut all their doors against the pressing customers but that   due process ought to have been followed to amicably resolve the matter without subjecting the customers to untold hardship which they experienced while the closure lasted.

He then stressed that the step taken by his clients was the best in such a situation in order to guide against the re-ccurrence of the situation and assured judicious sharing of the damages if at the end the court decided to rule in favour of the plaintiffs

According to him, “We are in a democracy where the Rule of Law remains the cardinal objective of the judiciary.”
The case which came up before Justice Bala Umar of High Court 2 was adjourned to 20th July, 2009 for hearing.

It would be recalled that following the rift between commercial banks in Bauchi and a government tax agency, BASSAM, over tax and signage fees all the banks closed their doors for three working days to protest what they described as high fees by the agency.