A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria and the 19 commercial banks in the country to freeze any account without Bank Verification Number.
It also ordered them to disclose all accounts in their custody and the balances in such accounts, their owners and their proceeds in their affidavit of compliance deposed to by their Chief Compliance Officers.
The court also directed the CBN and the Nigeria Interbank Settlement Systems “to validate the information contained in the affidavit of compliance/disclosure filed by the respective 19 banks” within seven days from the date of service of the orders on them.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba had made the orders on October 17, 2017, upon an ex parte motion filed on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Attorney General of the Federation.
Named as defendants are Access Bank Plc, Citi Bank Nigeria, Diamond Bank Plc, Ecobank Nigeria, Fidelity Bank of Nigeria Plc, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, First City Monument Bank Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc and Heritage Bank Plc.
Other banks are Keystone Bank, Skye Bank Plc, Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, United Bank for Africa Plc, Unity Bank Plc, Wema Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc and the CBN.
The enrolled order obtained by Punch showed that the ex parte motion, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/911/2017, was moved on behalf of the applicants by A. D. Tyoden.
The title of the ex parte application indicated that the accounts without BVN allegedly had insufficient Know Customer Guidelines, contrary to the directive of the CBN and Section 3 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended).
The title reads, ‘In the matter of an application seeking an interim order directing all the money deposit banks (commercial banks) to disclose/declare all individual and corporate accounts in their custody not covered by Bank Verification Numbers and for an interim order of forfeiture of the monies therein being accounts with insufficient Know Customer Guidelines contrary to the directive of the CBN and Section 3 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended).’
The court directed that the order be equally served by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
It further ordered the banks to advertise the accounts without BVN in a widely circulated national newspaper as notice to those who might have any interest in any of the accounts.
Justice Dimgba adjourned until November 16 for the hearing of the substantive application seeking the forfeiture of the proceeds of the accounts without BVN.
The court order read in part, “That an order is hereby made freezing the said accounts by stopping all outward payments, operations or transactions (including any bill of exchange) in respect of the accounts pending the hearing and determination of the substantive application.
“That an order is hereby made directing the 1st to 19th defendant banks to disclose any investments made with funds from these accounts without BVN in any products including fixed/term deposits and their liquidation and interest incurred, bank acceptances, commercial papers and any other relevant information related to the transaction made on the accounts.
“That an interim order is hereby made directing the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigeria Interbank Settlement Systems to validate the information contained in the affidavit of compliance/disclosure filed by the respective 19 banks within seven days from the date of service on the Central Bank and NIBSS.
“That an interim order is hereby made appointing a Bank Examiner from the Central Bank of Nigeria to examine the books of any bank that fails to comply with the order of the honourable court to file an affidavit of the disclosure.
“That an interim order is hereby made granting leave to the applicants or any officer authorised by them to advertise the accounts without BVN disclosed by the bank in a widely circulated national newspaper as notice to any person or body corporate or financial institution who may have any interest in any of the said accounts to claim ownership of same within 14 days of the publication of the order and show cause why the proceeds in the account should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.”