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Bola Shagaya sues Unity Bank for complying with EFCC order to freeze her accounts

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Bola Shagaya sues Unity Bank for complying with EFCC order to freeze her accounts

Bola Shagaya never held an office while Goodluck Jonathan was president of Nigeria, however, her close relationship with the former first lady, Patience Jonathan, ensured that she was very influential in that administration. Just like a lot of other people linked to the former administration, Shagaya is currently being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which has frozen over N8.6 billion in accounts linked to her.

Shagaya has sued Unity Bank in a High Court in Lagos for allowing the EFCC to Post No Debit (PND) on her accounts without a valid court order. She said the action infringed on her right and prevented her from defraying N514, 800,000 incurred as cumulative costs in the course of leasing a private jet.

Hearing of the matter is slated for September 28.

However, Unity Bank says its hands are tied by the law in complying with the EFCC’s directives to freeze Shagaya’s accounts.

The EFCC asked Unity Bank to Post No Debit(PND) on several accounts linked with her. The account names are (i) First Deep Water Discovery Limited; (ii) Bola Shagaya; (iii) FAPLiNs Nigeria Limited (iv) Lingo Nigeria Limited; (v) Buri Barclays BDC; (vi) Links Global Synergy Ltd; (vii) OKIOIL Nig. Ltd; (vii) JEMARVIZ Nig Ltd; (ix) PJ Oil and Gas Ltd; and (x) AFDIN Ventures Ltd (xi) Voyage Oil and Gas and (xii) Bola Shagaya.

She said the bank did not exercise due diligence before complying with the EFCC order. She specifically referred to the 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 Jet. She said the Aircraft Lease Agreement between her and Global Apex Air Limited has been terminated with her forfeiting US$1million.

She said Unity Bank “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.” She also said she was not promptly notified of the freezing of the account.

“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.”

She said she had lost a lot of business goodwill since her accounts were frozen including

o    The loss of $1,000,000 deposited with Global Apex Air Ltd. Due to her in ability to pay accrued costs in line with Aircraft Lease Agreement which was occasioned by the failure of the Defendant to oblige the Claimant’s payment instruction to Heavywind Integrated Services.

o    Loss of business opportunities and goodwill occasioned by her inability to operate her account domiciled with the Defendant due to its freezing.

o    Loss of reputation occasioned by the Defendant’s wrongful dishonouring of her payment instructions to third parties.

But in a letter to Shagaya’s counsel, Unity Bank said it has a legal and ethical responsibility to render assistance to law enforcement agencies. The bank explained its constraints in a letter by its Head, Legal Services Department, Mr. Alaba Williams and Mr. Olusegun Olukoya of the same department.

The bank said:  “While the Bank respects the contractual nature of the relationship with your client, it is without prejudice to the Bank’s standing as a responsible law abiding Corporate Citizen. In spite of the Bank’s contractual relationship with your client, that relationship is not without a legal and ethical responsibility to render assistance to law enforcement agencies when required of the Bank.

“The need for the Bank to exercise due caution in the matter of the operation of your client’s account after receipt of notification of the ongoing investigation by the EFCC was informed by our understanding of various existing statutory provisions  relevant to the request of the EFCC received by the Bank.

“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) the EFCC Act, 2004. It behoves the Bank not to allow the dissipation or removal of the funds in your client’s account under investigation, before the Court Order seeking to preserve the funds was obtained.

“The contractual relationship between your client and the Bank does not permit us to pre-empt the investigation by the Law Enforcement Agency and the related Court Proceedings which outcome could lead to forfeiture of the funds in the same account.

“The Bank could be considered an accessory after the fact if it allowed the dissipation of the 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.

“Therefore contrary to the allegation in your letter, the Bank had a proper justification for refusing the payment instructions from your client for funds to be removed from her account in issue when there was an ongoing investigation by the EFCC in respect of the said funds. The Bank is therefore not in breach of any contractual obligation to your client. The Bank is also not liable to your client for the sum of N700,000,000.00 (Seven Hundred Million Naira) or any other sum that matter as damages claimed by you.

“In addition to adopting best practices; ethical and legal considerations always guide our commercial decisions protecting the good name and the reputation of the bank remains the primary consideration in all actions taken by the Bank. Accordingly, the Bank protects its products and services from being involved in allegation of unlawful activities. Hence we  will cooperate fully with all Regulators and Law enforcement Agencies.

“We are of the humble opinion that your client should kindly resolve any outstanding issues with the Law Enforcement Agency and facilitate the removal of the “Post No Debit” on her account with the Bank.

“Litigation against the Bank will therefore not be necessary in the circumstance.”

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