By Akin Kuponiyi
Global Statelite Mobile services (GSM) provider MTN communications Limited must have run into troubled waters as Federal Government of Nigeria has obtained an order of Federal high court to temporarily forfeit to the Government N8 billion in its account number 0012005379 domiciled with ECOBANK suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity.
Also affected by the order of the court is another account number 1013607079 Containing billions of Naira domiciled with SKYE bank whose owner has not file any paper before the court to contest ownership.
A suit number FHC/L/CS/1676/2016 was filed before a Federal high court in Lagos south west Nigeria by an Abuja based lawyer, Barrister John Samuel Opeyemi, on behalf of the Federal Government, Attorney General of the Federation and an Asset Recovery Agent of the Federal Government of Nigeria, Algaita Group Nigeria Limited to obtain the order.
In an affidavit sworn to by the Managing Director of Algaita Group limited Abdullahi Mohammed Maiturare who was formerly an operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and filed and argued before the court by Mr John Samuel Opeyemi, Mr Maiturare averred that Attorney General of the Federation appointed his company Algaita Group Nigeria Limited as Asset Recovery Agent of the Federal Government of Nigeria to track, freeze and recover funds and ensure it is remitted to the designated bank account of the Federal Government of Nigeria through legally permissible means as may be directed by the Attorney General of the Federation.
Consequently his company has credible information at its disposal which reveals that funds which are strongly believed to be Federal Government of Nigeria’s funds stolen, diverted and laundered are hidden in some coded accounts in the two banks ECOBANK and SKYE bank.
He continued: “Further credible information at our disposal from reliable sources indicates that there is an account maintained at Ecobank Nigeria Limited in the name of MTN Nigeria Communications operating account number 0012005379 that has a credit balance of N8 billion.
“From the totality of the credible information at our disposal, the applicants reasonably believed and satisfied that the funds in the possession of the two banks are unclaimed properties or proceeds of unlawful activity of stealing, diversion and money laundering of some public officials and their cronies in the private sector.
“Consequently if urgent steps are not taken to obtain certified documents of the accounts and statements thereof as well as stop outward transactions on the accounts, the funds may be dissipated and the account documentation or statements may be tampered with.
In his ruling, the presiding judge Abdulaziz Anka:
That an order be made granting interim forfeiture to the Federal Government of Nigeria of the funds lying in the accounts listed in the schedule in the custody of the two banks
That an order be further granted directing the publication of a notice in two National Daily newspapers inviting any person(s) who may have interest in the subject funds to, within 14 days of the publication of the order, show cause why a final order should not be made forfeiting the said funds to the Federal Government of Nigeria
That an order be made directing the service of the order on the respective branch managers of the respondents banks and to stop forthwith all outward payments from the subject accounts and to immediately deliver to the court the respective statements of account with certificate of authentication and other relevant documents as at the date and time of service of the court order on them.
However MTN Communications Limited has filed an application before the court, urging the court to discharge and set aside the orders made as it relates to its account held with Ecobank Limited.
In an affidavit sworn to by a legal practitioner Ibukunoluwa Owa on behalf of MTN communication and filed before the court by Mr Adeniyi Adegbonmire SAN ,the deponent averred that from information delivered to him by Babatunde Adewumi, the Manager, Banking and Treasury in the employment of MTN communication limited ,contended that the applicants did not comply with the order of the court as the order of the court was not published as directed by the court, therefore they were not aware of the order of the court until, Ecobank wrote a letter to the company to intimate it of the said order.
Mrs Owa averred further that the subject account was opened by Ecobank Nigeria PLC upon instructions given by MTN on the 9th day of October, 2007 and MTN has operated the account since then till date in accordance with banking practice applicable to current account held by corporate bodies in Nigeria, therefore the order has adversely affected the smooth running of the business of MTN as it finds it difficult to utilize the funds held in the account in pursuit of its lawful business, as the funds are not Suspected proceeds of unlawful activity,therefore urge the court to discharge the order.
MTN’s application to discharge the order was accompanied with affidavit of urgency and application urging the court to hear the case during Christmas vacation, consequently no further date has been fixed for hearing.
The author of this story Mr Akin Kuponiyi can be reached at email@example.com