Court Orders GTBank to Refund Illegally Withdrawn N5.3bn from Customer’s Account
An Abuja High Court sitting in Apo, Abuja issued the order, Monday, asking GTB to refund the said amount to Dr. Ted Iseghohi Edwards of Edwards and Partners Law firm.
In a ruling by the court, presiding judge, Justice Valentine Ashi, held that GTB had no defence for its action and ordered the bank to pay the money – N5,240,516,186.21k – back to the owner through his Zenith Bank Plc. account.
Justice Ashi further ordered that the N5.3bn should attract 10 per cent post judgment interest, and another 21 per cent interest from December 12, 2014 when GTB illegally withdrew the money, until the fund was eventually paid to Dr. Edwards.
In arriving at the decision, Justice Ashi struck out the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Jonah Otunla, Minister of State for Finance Ambassador Yuguda, Anaocha Local Government Area and the Incorporated Trustees of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) from the suit as defendants on the ground that they were not necessary parties.
In a suit marked FCT/HC/CV/939/2015 instituted in January , the bank customer, Dr. Edwards, had dragged GTB to court after the bank carried out the illegal withdrawal from his account on December 12, 2014.
The money was paid into Dr. Edwards’ law firm’s account with GTB on January 2, 2014 by the AGF as a settlement of a judgment got by his clients, Impecca Services Limited and His Royal Highness, Eze Samuel Ezekwo , against ALGON for the consultancy services they rendered to the 774 local government areas in the country.
In the originating processes of the suit, Dr. Edwards said shortly after the money was paid into his account on behalf of his clients, GTBank 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directed, but that he was only informed on December 12 by an official of the bank that the Central Bank of Nigeria has withdrawn the N5.3b.
According to Edwards, 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 turn down.
Ruling on the matter on Monday, Justice Ashi, faulted GTB for betraying the banker/customer relationship between it and Edwards, noting that it was wrong for GTB to have made the withdrawal from the customer’s account without his knowledge and consent.
Maintaining that the GTB’s claim that it was helpless and that the withdrawal was at the instance of CBN , Justice Ashi wondered whether GTB would have obeyed a similar directive even if it was illegal.