At the close of last week, something very profound happened at the court. A Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Justice Nnamdi DImgba ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN) and the 19 commercial banks in the country to disclose all accounts in their custody and the balances in such accounts. In the order, the court asked the banks to disclose the details of all such accounts, their owners and proceeds in their affidavit of compliance deposed to by their Chief Compliance Officers.
The court also made an interim order directing the banks to freeze all the said accounts by stopping “all outward payments, operations or transactions” pending the hearing of the substantive application seeking the forfeiture of the balances in the accounts to the Federal Government. The banks were also directed to disclose “any investments made with funds from these accounts without BVN in any products”.
The kind of investments that the court ordered banks to disclose also include: “fixed/term deposits and their liquidation and interest incurred, bank acceptances, commercial papers and any other relevant information related to the transaction made on the accounts”. Furthermore, the court also directed the CBN and the Nigeria Interbank Settlement Systems “to validate the information contained in the affidavit of compliance/disclosure filed by the respective 19 banks” within seven days of receiving the order.
Named as co-defendants in the suit are Access Bank Plc, Citi Bank Nigeria, Diamond Bank Plc, Ecobank Nigeria, Fidelity Bank of Nigeria Plc, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, First City Monument Bank Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc and Heritage Bank Plc. Other banks are Keystone Bank, Skye Bank Plc, Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, United Bank for Africa Plc, Unity Bank Plc, Wema Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc and the CBN.
A copy of the enrolled order, made available to journalists on Saturday, showed that the ex parte motion, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/911/2017, was moved on behalf of the applicants by A. D. Tyoden.
‘In the matter of an application seeking an interim order directing all the money deposit banks (commercial banks) to disclose/declare all individual and corporate accounts in their custody not covered by Bank Verification Numbers and for an interim order of forfeiture of the monies therein being accounts with insufficient Know Customer Guidelines contrary to the directive of the CBN and Section 3 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended),’ read the title.
The court directed that the order be equally served on the Central Bank of Nigeria. While granting the ex parte motion, the court ordered banks to file before the court separate affidavits deposed to by their Chief Compliance Officers, disclosing the accounts of individuals, corporate bodies and government agencies in their custody without BVN. It furthered ordered the banks to advertise the accounts without BVN in a widely circulated national newspaper as notice to those who might have any interest in any of the accounts.
The court order read in part, “That an order is hereby made freezing the said accounts by stopping all outward payments, operations or transactions (including any bill of exchange) in respect of the accounts pending the hearing and determination of the substantive application.
“That an order is hereby made directing the 1st to 19th defendant banks to disclose any investments made with funds from these accounts without BVN in any products including fixed/term deposits and their liquidation and interest incurred, bank acceptances, commercial papers and any other relevant information related to the transaction made on the accounts.
“That an interim order is hereby made directing the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigeria Interbank Settlement Systems to validate the information contained in the affidavit of compliance/disclosure filed by the respective 19 banks within seven days from the date of service on the Central Bank and NIBSS.
“That an interim order is hereby made appointing a Bank Examiner from the Central Bank of Nigeria to examine the books of any bank that fails to comply with the order of the honourable court to file affidavit of disclosure, among others.
Although the matter has been adjourned until November 16, 2017, there is apprehension in the land over the far reaching implications of this order. If properly utilazed, this order will expose alot of shenanigans played by banks on one hand and crooked customers who using their high contacts refuse to play by the rules by disregarding banking rules. By this, many idle monies, some of them proceeds of corruption shall be traced. This is a landmark order, willy nilly. The court order speaks for itself and we commend the judicary for this bold step.