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Court orders CBN, four other banks to pay N5.5bn before September 1

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A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and four other banks to pay N5.5billion into an interest yielding account before September 1.

According to a report, the order was given by High Court Judge Eden Ekwo as a condition for the hearing of an application to stay the execution of an order of garnishee absolute made by the court, which the CBN and the other banks filed.

The other banks affected are Fidelity, Access, UBA and Zenith and were listed as garnishees in the suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1165/2020, which Maggpiy Trading TFZE initiated, to retrieve about N5.5bn (N3.82billion and $4.95million) judgment sum earlier given in its favour by the court in the suit it filed against the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and the Chairman of its Board.

The Maggpiy Trading had sued the Nigeria Customs Service Board (NCSB) and the National Security Adviser (NSA) for sealing off its warehouse in Calabar, Cross River State.

According to the suit, officials of the Nigerian Customs had sealed off the warehouse housing 90 containers, with 540 bags of rice in each container.

The Company said the warehouses were eventually opened up after four months, after which they were made to re-export the imported rice to the Benin Republic by the defendants. Some of the containers had been stolen, while the remaining had been destroyed.

The defendants had claimed that the plaintiffs breached the Nigerian Government’s fiscal policy on rice importation.

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The trial court had ruled that the NCS had acted outside the law as the Federal Government circular did not apply to Free Trade Zones.

The defendants had disobeyed two interlocutory orders made on December 15, 2017, and June 27, 2018, for the rice to be sold and the proceeds kept in an account that would yield interests pending the determination of the case due to the perishable nature of the goods.

The NSA was exonerated from the case as it was found to have played no role.

Ekwo granted an order of perpetual injunction which would restrain the 1st and 2nd defendants from further interfering with the lawful business transactions of the Company within the Tinapa Free Trade Zone.

He also awarded special and general damages against the 1st and 2nd defendants, which amounted to N3,832,779,450.00 and $4,958,950.

The ICIR called CBN Acting Director of Corporate Communications Osita Nwanisobi, to know if the apex bank plans to challenge the decision in a higher court, but he said he had no knowledge of the judgement at the time of filing this report.
“I’m not aware of that. I need to be aware first before I make any comment,” he said.

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Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via vopara@icirnigeria.org

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