Sunday, August 27, 2017 3:47 pm
Popular Nigerian socialite and businesswoman, Hajiya Muinat Bola Shagaya, has dragged Unity Bank plc to the High Court of Lagos State over freezing of her account by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC).
Shagaya, who is a friend of former Nigerian first lady, Patience Jonathan has over N8, 627,458,773.36 billion in the three accounts which she said were ordered frozen by the anti-graft agency without a valid court order.
But the businesswoman says the freezing of the accounts violates Section34 (1) of the EFCC Act, 2004. In addition, she said the ban placed on one of the accounts prevented her from defraying N514, 800,000 incurred as cumulative costs in the course of an Aircraft Lease Agreement of a bombardier Jet with her forfeiting US$1millionin documents she filed and deposed to at the Court alongside with her counsel, Napoleon Emeaso-Nwachukwu.
According to her, Unity Bank’s refusal to allow her to make transactions on Account 000326118 including payment of N514, 800,000 to Global Apex Air Limited, through Heavywind Integrated Services, for the lease of a bombardier revealing that the Aircraft Lease Agreement between her and Global Apex Air Limited has been terminated.
“The official of the Defendant (Unity Bank) whom my Personal Assistant relayed the development to, informed him that on the 3rd of November, 2016, the Defendant received a letter from the EFCC through their Lagos office informing it that my account with it is under investigation and requested that the account be put on “Post No Debit” pending the outcome of the investigation hence the Defendant’s inability to honour my payment instruction,” she stated.
“Initially I laughed off the excuse as a ploy of the Defendant to deter me from taking legal actions against it for dishonouring my payment instructions especially that of the 31st of October 2016 which ultimately led to the termination of the Aircraft Lease with Global Apex Air Ltd. And the loss of the sum of One Million United States Dollars deposited with the Lessor by me.
“On the 27th of January, 2017 the Defendant responded to my Solicitor’s letter. In its response, the defendant stated that: “it observed that long before your client forwarded her cheques and payment instruction to the Bank as indicated in your letter under reference, the EFCC had formally informed the Bank that an investigation relating to your client’s account was ongoing and sought the cooperation on the Bank accordingly.” The Defendant’s letter ended by stating that “Based on our understanding and the fact that the Bank was already aware that the Law Enforcement Agency had taken definite steps to comply with Section 34(1) of the EFCC Act, 2004, behoves the Bank not to allow the dissipation or removal funds in your client’s account without appropriate clearance from the Law Enforcement Agency or a judicial order directing the release of the funds to your client.”
“I will also contend at the hearing of this Suit that the Defendant negligently and wrongfully failed to exercise the requisite due diligence and by extension, the duty of care it owed me as my banker prior to complying with the alleged freezing instruction from the EFCC.
“The Defendant did not request and ensure it was obliged the Freezing Order from a court of competent jurisdiction prior to complying with the instruction to freeze the Claimant’s account
“The Defendant failed to honour the Claimant’s payment instructions of the 31st of October 2016 as well as those of the 1st and 2nd November 2016 which preceded the alleged instruction from the EFCC.
“The Defendant failed to promptly notify the Claimant of the freezing other account. The freezing of the Claimant’s account did not comply with Section 34(1) of the EFCC Act, 2004.
“Since the unlawful freezing of my account by the Defendant, I have not been able to transact with that account due to my inability to access same thereby causing business losses and opportunities.
“By reason the Defendant’s action, I have suffered loss of reputation and damages and my person brought to disrepute, public opprobrium and odium. The actions of the Defendant which consist in unlawfully freezing my account without an Order of a Court of competent jurisdiction and failing to disclose same to me promptly was unreasonable as well as defamatory of me before my business associates who now see me as a criminal and an untrustworthy fellow who is in the habit of issuing due cheques and payment instructions that she knew would not be honoured.
“If not compelled by this Court, the Defendant will not on its own volition unfreeze my account even when it is glaring the Defendant had wrongfully breached the duty of care it owes complying with an illegal instruction in freezing my account.”
But in a letter to Shagaya’s counsel by its Head, Legal Services Department, Mr. Alaba Williams and Mr. Olusegun Olukoya, Unity Bank said it complied with the EFCC’s order on Shagaya’s accounts based on responsibility it has to give assist law enforcement agencies in the performance of their jobs.