By OLUGBENGA SOYELE, Lagos
The federal government yesterday filed a notice of discontinuance of the suit it filed against seven commercial banks seeking the remittance of the sum of $793,200,000 allegedly hidden with them in contravention of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy.
The notice of discontinuance dated the 7th of August was brought pursuant to Order 50 Rule 2 Subsection 1 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules of 2009.
Counsel to the Federal Government, Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George told Justice Chuka Obiozor that the government is making the move in the public interest as it has decided to explore an ‘out of court settlement’ with the banks.
The government had accused the seven banks of illegally hiding the total sum of $793,200,000 in connivance with some government officials. The money was supposed to be transmitted to the TSA account domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
After listening to an ex parte application filed by the Attorney General of the Federation through Prof. Akinseye-Georgeon, on July 20, 2017, the Judge had order the seven commercial banks to temporarily remit the money to the government.
Justice Obiozor specifically directed the banks: United Bank for Africa; Diamond Bank Plc; Skye Bank Plc; First Bank Limited; Fidelity Bank Plc; Keystone Bank Limited; and Sterling Bank Plc to pay the money into the Federal Government’s Asset Recovery dollars account domiciled with the CBN.
The judge had adjourned till Tuesday for the banks to appear before him to show cause why the interim order should not be made permanent.
At the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, Prof. Akinseye-George, informed the court that he had filed a notice of discontinuance of the suit which he said was brought pursuant to Order 50 Rules 2 (1) of the Federal High Court Rules.
The lawyer urged the court to strike out the suit and that the governments’ decision to discontinue the suit was in the larger interest of the public.
“We have decided that the matter is better resolved through other means apart from litigation. We are all Nigerians and we all meant well for the country,” he said.
The applicant added that, “The rules under which the application was brought allows the withdrawal of the suit without seeking the court’s leave.
“The rules also allow the withdrawal of the suit not later than 14 days of serving the defendants. We are still very much within the 14 days, pleadings have not been concluded while issues are yet to be joined.
“For these reasons, I enjoined the court to strike out the suit.”
In their seperate reactions, the lawyers representing all the banks with the exception of Skye Bank Plc, urged the court to rather dismiss the suit instead of striking it out. There was no legal representation for Skye Bank Plc in court yesterday.
In his submissions, UBA’s lawyer, Dr. Ajibola Muraina, disclosed that he was only served with the notice of discontinuance after filing all necessary court papers.
Muraina insisted that issues have already been joined and as such the proper thing to be done by the court is to dismiss the suit and not to strike it out.