CBN, 14 Banks Contest N1bn Imo Debt Payment Order
The Central Bank of Nigeria and 14 other banks are contesting a Garnishee Order being considered by an FCT High Court to compel them to pay debts being owed to contractors by Imo State Government.
The court is considering issuing the order in response to a plea by contractors, who alleged that they were being owed N1bn by Imo State and needed court intervention to recover their money.
A garnishee order is a legal way of enforcing debt payment by a debtor to the person owed. The court enforces the payment through a third party who holds the funds belonging to the debtor.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the denials by the banks were contained in the respondents’ briefs filed by the concerned banks and made available to newsmen on Sunday in Abuja by Mr Anthony Agbonlahor, counsel for judgement creditors.
The judgment creditors, E.F. Network Nig Ltd and Mr Gideon Egbuchulam, on April 17 approached the court with an exparte motion praying it to compel 17 banks allegedly overseeing Imo State Government accounts to effect the payment.
Justice Bello Kawu went ahead to grant the prayer by directing the listed banks to show caused why the order should not be made absolute.
The banks are Central Bank of Nigeria, Access Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc, Jaiz Bank, Union Bank Plc, United Bank for Africa, First Bank Plc, Ecobank Plc, Keystone Bank Plc, and Diamond Bank Plc.
The rest are Fidelity Bank Plc, Polaris Bank Plc, GTBank Plc, Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Unity Bank Plc, Heritage Bank Plc, and FCMB Bank Plc.
But the Central Bank of Nigeria has said it is not in a position to effect the order of the court since it only has administrative and supervisory powers over banks.
Counsel for the CBN, Mr Ahmed Abdullahi, in the respondent brief said the apex bank did not maintain accounts in the name of the judgement debtor.
Abdullahi, therefore, prayed the court to vacate the order and discharge the bank in the interest of justice.
Access Bank Nig. Plc, in its response, agreed to oversee a number of the judgement debtor’s account but claimed the balances in those accounts were abysmally negligible, adding that they were no recent transactions on the accounts.
But Agbonlahor, reacting to the response filed by the Access bank, claimed the bank’s testimony was incorrect.
“Access Bank today filed a return denying the existence of the account numbers we had tracked belonged to the judgment debtors.
“This denial goes contrary to the letter of the prayers that contained specific account numbers maintained by the judgement debtors with the bank.
“The act of concealing of existing accounts on the part of the bank is a despicable action capable of making it incur liabilities of the judgement debtors.”
He added, “Whether this will be the beginning of charges bordering on perjury against the deponent, only time will tell.’’
Meanwhile, Imo State Attorney-General, Chief M.O. Nlemedim (SAN), has filed a motion on notice seeking the termination of the garnishee proceedings for want of competence.
The state is also seeking the setting aside of the garnishee order made April 17 in a motion mark: FCT/HC/5309/2019, for allegedly being an abuse of court process.
Justice Bello Kawu has fixed June 25 for continuation of hearing on the matter.