Four commercial banks in the country have complied with the order of a Federal High Court, Abuja, directing the freezing of all bank accounts of the Benue Government.
The four banks include First City Monument Bank Plc, Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria, Suntrust Bank Nigeria Ltd, and Wema Bank Plc.
Counsel to the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Ogechukwu Okeke, on Tuesday, told the presiding judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo, when she presented the report on compliance to court order.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justice Ekwo had, on October 26, made an interim order, freezing all bank accounts of Benue government maintained in some banks in the country following its inability to pay back N333 million loan borrowed in 2008.
The judge, who gave the order following an ex-parte motion brought by AMCON, also directed that the bank accounts of HPPS Multilink Services Ltd be frozen pending the hearing and the determination of the substantive suit.
NAN reports that the affected bank accounts for the two respondents are domiciled with Access Bank Plc; Citibank Nigeria Limited; Eco Bank Nigeria Plc; Fidelity Bank Plc; First Bank Nigeria Plc; First City Monument Bank Plc and Guaranty Trust Bank Pic.
Others include those in Heritage Bank Plc; Keystone Bank Limited; Polaris Bank Limited; Stanbic IBTC Plc; Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria Limited; Sterling Bank Plc; Suntrust Bank Nigeria Limited; Union Bank of Nigeria Plc; United Bank for Africa Plc; Unity Bank Nigeria Plc; Wema Bank Plc and Zenith Bank Plc.
NAN also reports that while AMCON is the claimant, the company and the state government are 1st and 2nd respondents respectively.
However, in the affidavit to show cause of compliance filed before the court, all the banks were listed as 1st to 18th garnishees.
When the matter was called, Okeke informed that the matter was slated for mention and for the banks to show compliance.
She, however, said that so far, only four banks had been able to show compliance.
“That is the 6th, 12th, 14th and 17th respondents. We are applying that they be discharged from the proceedings,” the lawyer told court.
Justice Ekwo, then, made an order, discharging the four banks.
Okeke, thereafter, applied for a date for hearing the suit and to avail the rest of the banks another opportunity.
But counsel to the state government, Terkura Pepe, SAN, told the court that though they had not been served with the court processes, he came out of the respect the defence had for the court.
“We saw the publication and because of the respect we have for the court, we applied for certifed true copy of the processes before the court and before the end of the day, we will file our processes,” he said.
The judge, then, adjourned the matter until Nov. 22 for hearing.
NAN reports that AMCON had, on Oct. 26, brought an ex-parte motion, with suit number: FHC/ABJ/AMC/74/2021 dated and filed on Sept. 30 by its Counsel, Darlington Ozurumba.
The motion prayed for five reliefs.
The court, which granted the reliefs, also made an interim order “freezing and attaching the JAAC Bank Accounts (Joint Accounts Allocation committee), Internal Generated Revenue Accounts, all bank accounts both current, savings, fixed deposits and/or investments accounts of the 2nd respondent (Benue Government) maintained with all the banks mentioned above pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
“An interim order is hereby made restraining all banks and/or other financial institutions above mentioned in Nigeria forthwith from releasing or dealing in any manner howsoever with monies held in any account to which the respondents are signatories pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
“An order is hereby made directing all banks and/or other financial institutions in Nigeria to, within seven (7) days of the date of service of this order, file and serve an affidavit of compliance disclosing with statement on each account howsoever designated, held and/or maintained by the respondents and ail accounts to which the respondents are signatories for a period of sic months prior to the date of service of this order till date.”
Meanwhile, in the affidavit in support of the motion deposed to by Abubakar Isa, a staff of AMCON, the corporation described the loan as a toxic loan of eligible bank assets transferred to it by law to recover.
AMCON told the court that the 1st respondent (the firm), which has its office in Kaduna State, had collected a N333 million loan facility from Bank PHB PLC (now Keystone Bank Ltd) on Jan. 31, 2008 “for the purpose of purchasing 5, 000 pieces of motorcycles to the 2nd defendant and its workers through the Nigeria Labour Congress of its state vide an irrevocable standing payment order (ISPO}.
“That the 2nd respondent is the state government of the beneficiaries who equally gave ISPO guarantee for the repayment of the loan through deduction from the salaries of its workers and make payment to the bank but failed to do so.
“That the loan was for the agreed period of 24 months at the interest of 19 per cent per annum.