20 September 2017

Nigeria: House Committee Asks Banks to Unfreeze Accounts Without Court, EFCC Caveat

Photo: Premium Times
Patience Jonathan and Goodluck Jonathan.

Abuja — The House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions tuesday directed commercial banks to remove restrictions on accounts which do not have caveat from the law courts and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

This followed revelations that some banks had arbitrarily restricted access on accounts of some customers without reasonable explanation and without any court orders or instructions from the EFCC to that effect.

Ruling at the resumed hearing on the petition by former First Lady, Mrs. Patience Ibifaka Jonathan, to the National Assembly over what she described as "persistent, consistent, unwarranted personal and physical attacks" on her, relatives and friends by security agents, Chairman of the committee, Hon. Abonta Uzoma Nkem (PDP, Abia), also threatened to ensure that interests accruable on such restricted accounts were credited at the prevailing rates.

His position followed the submission of the legal counsel to the former first lady, Mr. Ayodeji Adedipe, who raised concerns that several accounts belonging to the petitioner and relatives had been frozen even without appropriate court orders.

However, representatives of First Bank, Union Bank, Diamond Bank, Fidelity Bank and Ecobank had struggled to provide convincing explanations on the various restrictions- some arguing they were instructed by EFCC to put a lead on the accounts.

But Abonta maintained that commercial bank cannot use the EFCC to cause colossal damage to people by having their accounts frozen for more than a year without concrete reasons.

A member of the committee, Hon. Kingsley Chinda, said it was wrong to place a caveat on citizen's accounts without court backing.

Meanwhile, the committee couldn't reach a conclusion on the matter as the EFCC failed to make an appearance for the umpteenth time.

The chairman said the appearance of the EFCC was critical to resolving most of the petitions and wondered why the commission had declined the committee's invitations without excuse.

Chinda had moved a motion that the EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu be arrested and produced at the next sitting but Abonta decided to issue a final summon to the commission, failing which extreme measures would be taken against the anti-graft agency.

Notwithstanding, the committee insisted that the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) must disclose to the committee, the identity of a whistle-blower who reportedly gave misleading information which had prompted a search on one of the properties of Jonathan.

The search turned out futile as no incriminating evidence was found.

But, NDLEA also reportedly failed to tender apologies to the former first lady.

Representative of the agency, Mr. Femi Oloruntoba, said the sensitivity of its operations would not allow for disclosure of the whistle-blower but the committee insisted he must provide the identity in camera- pointing to relevant sections of the constitution to override him.

However, the committee adjourned further hearing on the petition till October 4.

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