Freezing Of Account: Customer Drags Bank To Court

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An aggrieved customer of First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Dr. Samuel Njoku, based in United Kingdom, whose account was allegedly frozen by the bank under the pretext of endless and plethora of investigation has dragged the bank to a Federal High Court in Lagos, southwest Nigeria.

In an affidavit filed in the court by the law firm of FNB law practice, Dr. Njoku, alleged that a contract was introduced to him which turned out to be a scam. He was said to have forwarded the contract papers to First Bank so that he could remit funds from his London Bank as he was advised by his account officer. This was enable them make payment on his behalf as soon as they received the funds.

Dr. Njoku averred further that he instructed his bank, GTB in London, to shift $94,000 on his behalf to First Bank Plc.

On receipt of the funds, First Bank invited him to sign certain documents for the remittance to the seller for which he arrived Nigeria on the 12 April 2011, and was taken to the bank’s headquarters at Marina where he was told that the contract was not genuine. He was later arrested and taken to Ikoyi Police Station where he was detained. His hotel room was thereafter searched and nothing incriminating was found. The case was later transferred to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC.

Dr. Njoku averred further that when he was released on bail by the EFCC, the head of security of the bank who is a retired police officer held a meeting with his younger brother, Francis Njoku, at Omole Estate, Lagos, where he asked for N2.5 million out of the money so that he can assist him to get back his money. He demanded for the sum because of the balance he claimed he has seen in his account.

The applicant contended that EFCC has conducted extensive investigation by writing to his bank GTB in London who shifted the $94,000 to him through First Bank and found out that he was indeed a victim of some fraudsters and that he has not committed any crime, consequently, the $94,000 was returned. His account was also defrozen, all his personal effects and international passport were returned to him.

However, after the conclusion of their investigation, officials of the EFCC were alleged to have been harassing, threatening the applicant and his brother, Francis. As a result of this latest development, he, on 20 July, 2011, petitioned the Managing Director and CEO of First Bank to complain of his ordeal orchestrated by the head of security of the bank who is a lawyer as well as a retired police officer.

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The applicant then urged the court not only to restrain the respondent and their agents but to also declare that his undue harassment, intimidation, arrest, detention and further threat of arrest is unconstitutional and unlawful.

However, in a counter affidavit sworn to by the head of enforcement unit of the bank, Mr. Tim Mkpa, and filed in the court by a Lagos lawyer, Barrister E. Pipa, the bank denied almost all the averment of the applicant. Mkpa averred that Dr. Njoku was a customer of the bank and upon his application, a domiciliary account was opened for him.

The bank alleged that the applicant failed to disclose the source of the funds as specifically requested by the bank but, in curious and suspicious manner, instructed the bank to transfer the funds to a personal account of another person in another bank, consequent upon which the bank became suspicious and contacted NNPC to confirm the contract which turn out to be fake as it did not originate from NNPC.

In the course of renewing the said transaction, the bank averred that the applicant’s account with the Aba branch of the bank which had been dormant with balance of N9,801.55 was suddenly credited with N40 million. In view of the failure of the applicant to disclose the source of the funds, the respondent had to report the matter to the police who started investigation and later transferred the matter to Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which is yet to issue any report on the matter.

The respondent contended that it has not interfered with the investigation of police neither has it instigated EFCC arrest or intimidate the applicant.

The presiding judge, Justice Okechukwu Okeke, adjourned the case for further hearing.

 

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