A Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday ordered seven of the Nigerian banks to remit a total of $793.2 million allegedly still domiciled with them in contravention of the TSA policy.
Justice Chuka Obiozor ordered the seven banks – Diamond Bank, United Bank for Africa (UBA), FirstBank, Skye Bank, Fidelity Bank, Sterling Bank and the defunct Keystone Bank (acquired by Heritage Bank) – to remit the various amounts allegedly kept “illegally in their custody” to the designated federal government asset recovery dollar account domiciled with the CBN.
According to the court papers filed by counsel for the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN), a total of $367.4 million was illegally hidden by three government agencies in UBA, while the sum of $41 million was illegally kept in a National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMs) fixed deposit account with Skye Bank.
The court papers further stated that $277.9 million was hidden in Diamond Bank; $18.9 million in FirstBank; $24.5 million in Fidelity Bank; $17 million in Keystone Bank; and $46.5 million 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 the 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, 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 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 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 include the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), the exploration and production subsidiary of NNPC.
Moving the ex parte application 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 funds, the federal government is being forced to borrow money from these commercial banks at high-interest rates,” Akinseye-George added.
After listening to the counsel, Justice Obiozor granted the interim order.
He directed that the order should be published in a national daily newspaper.
He also adjourned till August 8, 2017 for anyone interested in the funds to appear before him to show cause why the interim order should not be made permanent.