N3.7bn controversy: Ecobank MD escapes arrest

Managing Director of Ecobank Nigeria Limited, Charles Kie has gotten restrain order from a Federal High in Lagos, restraining the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris and the Commissioner of Police in Lagos, Edg Imohimi from arresting him over a N3.7bn transfer controversy.

This followed an ex-parte application by Kie and Ecobank argued on their behalf by Mr A. I. Olawoye of the firm of Punuka Attorneys and Solicitors that questioned the invasion of Ecobank’s Head Office for the purpose of arresting Kie.

In his ruling, Justice Muslim Hassan ordered that status quo be maintained as Kie’s motion on notice for an order of perpetual injunction stopping his arrest is heard and determined by the Court.

“I have carefully read the application, the affidavit in support, the exhibits attached and the written address of learned counsel. I am of the view that the interest of justice will be better served if the respondents are put on notice. Meanwhile, status quo ante bellum should be maintained pending the determination of the motion of notice” Justice Hassan submitted.

The issue under contention is the refusal of Ecobank to transfer about N3.7billion from the account of a customer, INT Towers Limited, to that of Emirates Fuel Exploration and Production, as ordered by a Lagos Magistrate, Mr W.B. Balogun.

Supporting the ex-parte motion of Kie’s lawyers, Adetoro Ojelabi, a Litigating Officer of Ecobank, explained that the bank received letters from the IGP requesting for information on an account being investigated for armed robbery, fraudulent act, obtaining money by false pretense and stealing.

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Despite this, the bank received another letter from DCP Salami asking it to transfer N3.7billion from the same account belonging to INT Towers to Emirates Fuel based on an order by a Magistrate’s Court.

The letter was more surprising given the fact that Ecobank was never served with court processes in the proceedings before the Magistrate Court, the holder of the account was not made a party, and the amount was far above the magistrate court’s jurisdiction, which is limited to N10million.

As a result, the bank said it filed an application seeking to set aside the order, a stay of execution and a motion for leave to appeal against the order. It was despite this application that officers of the Police Force stormed the corporate headquarters of the bank to arrest Kie.