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N784.3M DEBT: COURT ORDERS UNFREEZING OF BENUE GOVT’S ACCOUNTS

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The order was made after adoption of Memorandum of Undertaking by lawyers representing AMCON, Benue State government and a firm involved in the dispute.

The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Tuesday, ordered the unfreezing of bank accounts belonging to the Benue State government.

Inyang Ekwo, the judge, made the order removing restrictions on all accounts belonging to the state government except the one domiciled in Zenith bank.

The order was made after the adoption of Memorandum of Undertaking by lawyers representing parties in the case of indebtness of about N784.3 million to the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).

AMCON is the claimant/applicant in the suit, while HPPS Multilinks Services Ltd and the Benue State Government are 1st and 2nd respondents, respectively.

The MoU dated January 25, 2022, and filed on January 26, 2022, was adopted on February 1, 2021.

T. D. Pepe, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, leading other lawyers adopted the MoU on behalf of the 2nd defendant (Benue State Government), while Val Igboanusi adopted for the plaintiff.

Akin Kehinde (SAN) stood for Fidelity Bank Plc and C. O. Nwosisi, represented GTBank Plc.

Orders
After the adoption, Mr Ekwo made the order directing that Zenith bank with Account No. 1013470079 designated as Benue State Government Ecological Account remains frozen in the sum of the disputed debt vide interim Order of the Court dated 26th October, 2021 pending the determination of the case.

But, the court ordered the unfreezing of all Benue State Government Accounts with Access Bank Plc, Citibank Nigeria Ltd, Ecobank Nigeria Ltd, Fidelity Bank Plc, First City Monument Bank Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Heritage Bank Pic, Keystone Bank Ltd, Polaris Bank Ltd, Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Standard Chartered Bank Ltd, Suntrust Bank Nigeria Ltd, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, UBA Plc, Unity Bank Nigeria Plc, Wema Bank Plc, and Zenith Bank Plc.

Meanwhile, Justice Ekwo has adjourned the matter to March 2.
“Pursuant to discussions and agreement by the parties, all other accounts of the Benue State Government frozen by this Honourable Court vide interim order of 26th October, 2021 are to be unfrozen while Account No. 1013470079 with Zenith Bank Plc, designated BENUE STATE GOVERNMENT ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNT shall remain frozen in the sum of the disputed debt, pending the determination or resolution of the dispute.

“Accordingly, all Benue State Government Accounts with Access Bank Plc, Citibank Nigeria Limited, Ecobank Nigeria Ltd, Fidelity Bank Plc, First City Monument Bank Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Pic (GTCo), Heritage Bank Plc, Keystone Bank Limited, Polaris Bank Ltd, Stanbic IBTC Plc, Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria Ltd, Suntrust Bank Nigeria Ltd, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, UBA Plc, Unity Bank Nigeria Plc, Wema Bank Plc and Zenith Bank Plc, howsoever designated, are to be unfrozen” the court ordered.”

An affidavit deposed to by one Augusta Aver Yaakugh, a legal practitioner in Abuja said, “I was informed by Mr. Agada Godfrey Omaji, the Deputy Accountant-General of Benue State in our office on 25/01/2022 at about 12 Noon, and I verily believed him of the facts hereunder stated.

“That the freezing of all of 2nd defendant’s bank accounts in all the banks in Nigeria has occasioned a lot of hardship to the State.

“That while the court has freed some of the 2nd defendant’s accounts in UBA Plc, Access Bank Plc and Fidelity Bank Plc, other accounts used to finance various sectors of government have remained frozen in all the banks affected.

It would be recalled that Mr Ekwo had upon an ex-parte application dated and filed on September 30, 2021, made an interim order freezing and attaching the accounts of both the 1st & 2nd respondents in all banks, both current, savings, fixed deposits and investment accounts or howsoever described maintained with any of some listed banks.

The listed banks are: Access Bank Plc; Citibank Nigeria Limited, Eco Bank Nigeria Plc; Fidelity Bank Plc, First Bank Nigeria Pic; First City Monument Bank Pic, Guaranty Trust Bank Pic, Heritage Bank Pic; Keystone Bank Limited, Polaris Bank Limited, Stanbic IBTC Plc, Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria Limited, Sterling Bank.

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