Banks move to stop deposit forfeiture, lobby AGF

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As the ultimatum for accounts not linked to the BVN expired last week, Deposit Money Banks in the country are lobbying the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation to back down on the plan by the Federal Government to seize monies in the accounts.

National Daily gathered that although the banks had started compiling the lists of accounts without the BVN, they were not in a hurry to publish the details of such accounts, especially before the November 16 scheduled for the substantive hearing on the case.

An Executive Director of one of the banks, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “The banks are lobbying the AGF; we hope to get them to understand why they should not carry out such an order. This money belongs to private people. Why will the government seize what belongs to them?

“Most of the customers who have yet to comply have one reason or the other for not doing so. Some are abroad; some don’t have the time to link the BVN to all their bank accounts; some have issues relating to estate and the need to get a letter of administration.”

The ED noted that such an action might send a wrong signal to foreign investors and the international community.

Another CEO of mid-size bank said government had no business asking private depositors to forfeit their funds for failing to obtain the BVN.

The CEO said, “Government knows how to trace those accounts with monies that are proceeds of crime. Government cannot just seize private funds. It will create confidence crisis and several legal battles. We are talking to them as a group and we hope that the government will get to understand us.”

“Some people have been outside the country for some time now. There are not enough centres overseas to enable them obtain the BVN there. Some have issues relating to estate. Some don’t have time to link the BVN to their bank accounts.”

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A Federal High Court in Abuja had ordered the forfeiture of all monies in bank accounts owned by corporate organisations, government agencies and individuals without the BVN.

The forfeiture order, which was issued by Justice Dimgba Igwe, while ruling on an ex parte application filed by the Federal Government through the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, is not final yet.

The court also ordered the banks to advertise the accounts without the BVN in a widely circulated national newspaper as notice to those who might have any interest in them.

The court gave the order on October 17 following an application that was filed on September 28.

Justice Dimgba adjourned until November 16 for the hearing of the substantive application seeking the forfeiture of the sums in the accounts without the BVN.

Named as defendants in the suit are Access Bank Plc, Citi Bank Nigeria, Diamond Bank Plc, Ecobank Nigeria, Fidelity Bank Plc, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, First City Monument Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc and Heritage Bank Plc.

Other banks are Keystone Bank, Skye Bank Plc, Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, United Bank for Africa Plc, Unity Bank Plc, Wema Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc and the CBN.

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