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Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Court strikes out FG’s case against 7 commercial banks, FG should pay N20m damages, banks tell court


The Federal High Court Sitting, Lagos, has struck out a suit filed by the Federal Government against seven commercial banks.

The FG previously sought to seek the remittance of the sum of $793,200,000 allegedly hidden with them in contravention of the Treasury Single Account policy.

Justice Chuka Obiozor struck out the suit on Wednesday morning and awarded a cost of N200,000 against the FG and in favour of all the affected banks except Skye Bank which was not represented in court.

Although, the case has been struck out, the banks, which were accused of hiding monies, claimed that the allegation against them was false.

They urged the judge not to merely strike out the suit but to dismiss it and award N20 million cost against the Federal Government.

They noted that any case struck out could be re-filed while a dismissed case could no longer be re-filed.



Counsel for the banks, including Mr. Seyi Sowemimo (SAN) and Mrs. Abimbola Akeredolu (SAN), took turn to argue that the proper order that the court ought to make in the circumstances of the case was to dismiss the suit and not strike it out.

Akeredolu, who represented Sterling Bank Plc, argued that the Federal Government decided to withdraw the case having realised that it was filed in error.

“My Lord should not allow the instrumentation of the law to be used as a vehicle of mischief. And nobody is above the law, even the Federal Government of Nigeria…We are praying the court to make an order for a meagre cost of N10m against the plaintiffs,” Akeredolu said.

Counsel for Keystone Bank Limited, Mr. Babatunde Ogungbamila, however, insisted on a cost of N20 million against the Federal Government, saying his client had suffered a substantial damage to its reputation.

“They have destroyed the reputation of our banking industry and they did this recklessly because the fundamental economic underpinning of this country was actually targeted,” Ogungbamila said.

But the Federal Government’s lawyer, Akinseye-George, countered them, arguing that the parties had yet to join issues because the Federal Government had yet to respond to the court processes filed by the banks.

He added that the Federal Government came to court early enough before the maturation of time for the court to listen to arguments on the substantive suit.

Akinseye-George also argued that the banks were not entitled to any cost because they did not file any affidavit to particularise the nature of the damage they claimed to have suffered.

He urged the court to discountenance their arguments and strike out the suit as prayed by the Federal Government, rather than dismiss it.

He said the suit was not being withdrawn because it lacked substance or was baseless but because it was in the overriding interest of the public to withdraw it.

After taking arguments from the parties, Justice Obiozor adjourned till August 9, 2017 for ruling on whether the case would be struck out or dismissed.




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