27th October, 2021
By Taiye Agbaje
A Federal High Court, Abuja has made an interim order, freezing all bank accounts of Benue State Government maintained in some banks in the country following its inability to pay back N333 million loan borrowed in 2008.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, who gave the order following an ex-parte motion brought by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), also directed that the bank accounts of HPPS Multilink Services Ltd be frozen pending the hearing and the determination of the substantive suit.
While AMCON is the claimant, the company and the state government are 1st and 2nd respondents respectively.
The affected bank accounts for the two respondents are domiciled with Access Bank Plc; Citibank Nigeria Limited; Eco Bank Nigeria Plc; Fidelity Bank Plc; First Bank Nigeria Plc; First City Monument Bank Plc and Guaranty Trust Bank Pic.
Others include those in Heritage Bank Plc; Keystone Bank Limited; Polaris Bank Limited; Stanbic IBTC Plc; Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria Limited; Sterling Bank Plc; Suntrust Bank Nigeria Limited; Union Bank of Nigeria Plc; United Bank for Africa Plc; Unity Bank Nigeria Plc; Wema Bank Plc and Zenith Bank Plc.
The ex-parte motion, with suit number: FHC/ABJ/AMC/74/2021 dated and filed on Sept. 30, was moved by Counsel to AMCON, Darlington Ozurumba.
The motion prayed for five reliefs.
The court also made an interim order “freezing and attaching the JAAC Bank Accounts (Joint Accounts Allocation committee), Internal Generated Revenue Accounts, all bank accounts both current, savings, fixed deposits and/or investments accounts of the 2nd respondent (Benue Government) maintained with all the banks mentioned above pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
“An interim order is hereby made restraining all banks and/or other financial institutions above mentioned in Nigeria forthwith from releasing or dealing in any manner howsoever with monies held in any account to which the respondents are signatories pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
“An order is hereby made directing all banks and/or other financial institutions in Nigeria to, within seven (7) days of the date of service of this order, file and serve an affidavit of compliance disclosing with statement on each account howsoever designated, held and/or maintained by the respondents and ail accounts to which the respondents are signatories for a period of sic months prior to the date of service of this order till date.”
Meanwhile, in the affidavit in support of the motion deposed to by Abubakar Isa, a staff of AMCON, the corporation described the loan as a toxic loan of eligible bank assets transferred to it by law to recover.
AMCON told the court that the 1st respondent (the firm), which has its office in Kaduna State, had collected a N333 million loan facility from Bank PHB PLC (now Keystone Bank Ltd) on Jan. 31, 2008 “for the purpose of purchasing 5, 000 pieces of motorcycles to the 2nd defendant and its workers through the Nigeria Labour Congress of its state vide an irrevocable standing payment order (ISPO}.
“That the 2nd respondent is the state government of the beneficiaries who equally gave ISPO guarantee for the repayment of the loan through deduction from the salaries of its workers and make payment to the bank but failed to do so.
“That the loan was for the agreed period of 24 months at the interest of 19 per cent per annum.
“That the loan granted to the respondents has crystalized to the sum of seven hundred and eighty four million, three hundred and forty thousand, five hundred and twenty eight naira, three kobo (N784, 340, 428.03) as at 2014 from the sum of N333,000,000 (Three hundred and thirty three million naira) granted to the 1st defendant in 2008 and guaranteed by the 2nd defendant as contained in the letter of Aug. 15, 2014 which represents the interest and the principal sum as at Aug. 15, 2014 and same has remained unpaid till date.”
Justice Ekwo then adjourned the matter until Nov. 2 for mention.