BY TOYIN KOMOLAFE
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Apo, Abuja, yesterday ordered the Guaranteed Trust Bank Plc to refund N5.3bn illegally withdrawn from the account of one its customers, Dr. Ted Iseghohi Edwards.
Justice Valentine Ashi in his judgment ordered that the N5.3bn should attract 10 per cent interest from Monday, when judgment was delivered, till the time the money was paid back to the owner.
The court also ordered that the money should attract another 21 per cent interest from December 12, 2014 when GTB illegally withdrew the money, until the fund was eventually paid back to Edwards.
The judge, while reviewing the case, in his judgment held that the bank did not have any defence to its action of the withdrawal of the total sum of N5,240,516,186.21 from the customer’s account and thereby ordered the bank to pay the money to the owner through his Zenith Bank Plc account.
Edward, a lawyer of Edwards and Partners Law Firm, had initiated the suit, FCT/HC/CV/939/2015, in January 2015 following the alleged illegal withdrawal of the money on December 12, 2014.
The money was paid into the plaintiff’s law firm’s account with the GTB on January 2, 2014 by the Accountant-General of the Federation, Jonah Otunla.
The money was said to be for the settlement of a judgment got by his clients, Impecca Services Limited and His Royal Highness, Eze Ezekwo, against the Association of Local Government of Nigeria, as cost of consultancy services they rendered to the 774 local governments.
But in his judgment on Monday, Justice Ashi struck out the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Accountant General of the Federation, Minister of State for Finance, Anaocha Local Government Area and the Incorporated Trustees of ALGON from the suit as defendants on the grounds that they were not necessary parties.
The plaintiff stated, in the suit’s originating processes, that shortly after the money was paid into his account on behalf of his clients, GTB made some disbursements from the account as directed, but that he was only informed on December 12 by an official of the bank that the Central Bank of Nigeria had withdrawn the N5.3bn.
He said that when he enquired from the bank why it made deduction from his account without his consent, he said GTB only insisted that the withdrawal was made in obedience to CBN directive, which it could not disobey.
Justice Ashi held in his judgment that GTB betrayed the banker-customer relationship between it and the plaintiff.
The judge held that it was wrong for GTB to have made withdrawal from the customer’s account without the customer’s knowledge and consent.
The judge held that GTB’s claim that it was helpless and that the withdrawal was at the instance of CBN was of no moment.