By Innocent Anaba
lagos—A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, yesterday, ordered seven commercial banks in the country to temporarily remit a total of $793.2 million allegedly hidden with them in contravention of the Federal Government’s Treasury Single Account, TSA, policy.
Trial judge, who is also a vacation judge, 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.
According to court papers filed by counsel for the Attorney General of the Federation, Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George, SAN, $367.4 million was illegally hidden by three government agencies in one of the banks, while $41 million was illegally kept in a NAPIMS fixed deposit account with another bank.
The court papers stated that $277.9 million was hidden in one of the banks; $18.9 million in another; $24.5 million in another; $17 million in another and $46.5 million in another bank.
A lawyer from Akinseye-George’s law firm, Vincent Adodo, who deposed to a 15-paragraph affidavit in support of an exparte application filed by the AGF, averred 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, parastals and agencies.
Adodo said the banks had failed to remit the funds to the TSA domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN in violation of the guidelines issued by the AGF, 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 Federal Government 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, NNPC.
Moving the exparte application, yesterday, Akinseye-George said it will 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.
After listening to the SAN, Justice Obiozor granted the interim orders.
He directed that the order should be published in a national daily newspaper and 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.
Reacting, a source close to one of the banks, said: “This is not a new case. In August 23, 2016, our bank and eight other banks were suspended from the forex market by the CBN for non-remittance of NNPC/NLNG foreign currency in their books.
“On August 24, 2016, CBN re-admitted us into the forex market as the bank remitted all NNPC/NLNG foreign currency in its books.”