The presiding judge, Justice Chuka Obiozor ordered the banks to remit the various sums allegedly being kept illegally in their custody to the designated Federal Government’s Asset Recovery dollars account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
The banks in question are: United Bank for Africa, UBA; Diamond Bank Plc; Skye Bank Plc; First Bank Limited; Fidelity Bank Plc; Keystone Bank Limited; and Sterling Bank Plc.
Counsel for the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George SAN said 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 officials of the Federal Government to hide the funds in breach of government’s TSA policy.
He said the funds were revenues, donations, transfers, refunds, grants, taxes, fees, dues, tariffs etc 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.
According to him, “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 National Petroleum Developing Company, NPDC.
Moving the ex parte application on Thursday, Akinseye-George said it would 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.
“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 hidden funds, the Federal Government is being forced to borrow money from these commercial banks at exhorbitant interest rate,” Akinseye-George added.
After listening to the senior advocate, Justice Obiozor granted the interim orders, directing that the order should be published in a national daily.
The judge subsequently adjourned till August 8, 2017, for anyone interested in the funds to appear before him to justify why the interim orders should not be made permanent.