In a bid to forestall the arrest of its staff by Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, in respect of alleged debt of N89,767,000, a commercial bank, Keystone Bank Limited (formerly Bank PHB) has filed human rights enforcement suit against the anti-graft agency while a customer of the bank, Pan Fedam Marble and Granite Limited is joined as co-respondent.
Keystone Bank is contending that continual harassment, threat of arrest, detention and telephone calls and summons of the bank’s staff by EFCC operatives at the instance of Pan Fedam Marble and Granite Company is unlawful and unconstitutional, while the company is alleging that the bank’s employees committed fraud on its account.
According to affidavit sworn to by an officer of the bank, Mr. Sulaiman Sadiku, Pan Fedam Marble and Granite Company had a banking transaction with Legacy Bank PHB between 7 March, 2006 and September, 2006. However, years after the conclusion of the said transaction, the company wrote a petition to EFCC seeking the assistance of the agency to recover an alleged debt of N916,651,735.00 from the bank. Thereafter, EFCC made series of telephone calls to the staff of the bank coupled with letters of invitation and another letter mandating the Keystone Bank to pay the sum of N89,767,000 by way of bank draft to the benefit of the company.
The bank is now urging the court to restrain the EFCC and its agents from taking any step in relation to the alleged debt.
However, in a counter affidavit sworn to by the Human Resources/Executive of Pan Fedam Marble and Granite Limited, Mrs. Ihechi Chikezie, the deponent while denying almost all averments of the bank alleged that between February and September, 2006, the quantum of the deposit in the account of the company together with the withheld interest accruable thereto and the bogus charges thereon stood at N895,811,826.
The company made numerous requests to the officers of the bank to reverse the said banking error and to release the funds in it, the bank failed to accede to the said requests and with knowledge that massive fraud had been committed in the said account, the company complained to relevant agencies.
Mrs. Chikezie averred further that the bank neither denied nor contended that it was not indebted to the company. At the conclusion of the investigation, the officers of the bank admitted the fraudulent deductions in the sum of N89,767,000.00. The said officers refused to commit the aforesaid admission into writing but pledged to forward a cheque in like sum to the company within a reasonable time but nothing was done.
Consequently, the deponent alleged further that the culpable officers of the bank commenced this suit to avoid possible arrangement, using the corporate name of the bank as a veil to shield its employees who committed the aforementioned fraud.
Pan Fedam Marble and Granite Company was alerted to have complained to Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON, and National Deposit Insurance Corporation of its intention to bring a civil action to recover the sum it was defrauded by the bank.
The respondent contended that the court has no jurisdiction to restrain EFCC from performing its constitutional and statutory functions.