By Odunewu Segun
The seven banks wrongfully sued by the Federal Government for illegally withholding N247bn funds that were meant for the Treasury Single Account (TSA), may also been heading to court to demand for damages, National Daily has gathered.
Recall that on Tuesday, August 8, the federal government made a U-turn withdrawing the case against the banks citing public interest on Tuesday.
Lawyer representing the government, Professor Yemi George Akinseye-George said he had been instructed to explore settlement with the banks in view of public interest. Lawyers representing several of the banks have however asked for damages to be paid by the federal government.
National Daily gathered that the banks are asking for damages (which is monetary compensation) due to the reputational damage the case has caused them and costs incurred.
The banks, it was gathered have briefed their lawyers to handle the case for them, possibly running into billions of Naira. They claimed that Government agencies, that hitherto did business with them, may decide to shut down their accounts with them to avoid being accused of withholding TSA funds.
A top official of one of the affected banks who spoke with National Daily on condition of anonymity accused the government of rushing to court when it doesn’t have evidence. “This is not the first time government or its agencies will take agencies to court based on charges that are later struck out. There are appears to be a lack of coordination between government agencies, as a simple clarification could have been sought from the agencies that held the funds, before going to court.”
The government had late last month accused UBA, Diamond bank, Skye bank, First Bank, Fidelity bank, Keystone bank and Sterling bank of allegedly withholding the sum of $793 million funds $364 million was allegedly hidden with UBA, $41 million with Skye Bank, $277.9 million with Diamond bank, $18.9 million with UBA, $24.5 million with Fidelity bank and $17.5 million with Keystone bank.
Immediately the issue broke out, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and most of the banks issued statements denying the allegation. But the government insisted, daring the banks to prove their innocence in the court.