Drama in court as Union Bank pays N170.88k debt to Ecobank

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A drama ensued on Wednesday at a Federal High Court in Lagos hearing applications including objection to a garnishee proceeding by Ecobank against Zamfara State, over N3.1 billion debt.

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Ecobank had commenced the garnishee proceeding against the state, seeking to recover the debt.

Joined as defendants in the suit are: Zamfara state’s Attorney-General, Zamfara State Ministry of Finance; Federal Ministry of Finance, Accountant-General of the Federation; Attorney-General of the Federation and Central Bank of Nigeria.

It will be recalled that Justice Okon Abang had in September 2015, ordered the defendants to pay the judgment sum of N3.1 billion to Ecobank, being it’s outstanding indebtedness to the bank.

The judge had issued the order while delivering judgment in a suit filed by Ecobank Nig. Ltd against the Zamfara State Government over the indebtedness.

Following the transfer of Abang from the Lagos jurisdiction of the court, Justice Babs Kuewumi, assumed jurisdiction in the suit.

The plaintiff (Ecobank) subsequently, commenced a garnishee proceeding against the defendants, joining more than 15 banks as garnishees.

The garnishee proceedings was taken out against the banks, compelling them to disclose and remit the total funds of Zamfara State domiciled with the bank.
Some of the banks listed as garnishess includes: UBA, Fidelity bank, First City Monument bank, Skye bank, Union bank, Zenith bank, Diamond, Stanbic Ibtc.

Meanwhile, all defendants in the substantive suit were now listed as judgment debtors while the plaintiff (Ecobank) is the judgment creditor.

The judgment creditor is seeking an order of court, directing the banks to furnish it with all funds and credit balances in the account of Zamfara State.

At the last adjourned date on Nov. 1, 2016, the court had discharged four garnishees from the proceeding. including, UBA, Fidelity, Diamond and Stanbic IBTC, for disclosing funds of the judgment debtor with their banks, and made the order absolute.

The court had also granted a prayer by Ecobank, compelling the garnishees to continuously disclose through monthly or quaterly statements, accounts standing in the name of Zamfara State.

Meanwhile, Ecobank had on Dec. 8, 2016, filed a fresh application for an order nisi, against UBA, compelling it to disclose fresh sums of money standing in the name of the judgment debtor and domiciled with the bank.

At the resumed hearing of the case on Wednesday, Mr Kunle Ogunba (SAN) announced appearance for Ecobank, Mrs V.C Ibezue appeared for the first to third judgment debtors and Mr A. Uwaka appeared for UBA.

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Moreso, Mrs Nkechi Ogbonna appeared for Union bank, Mr Femi Onibalusi appeared for FCMB and Mr O.A Owolabi appeared for Skye bank.
Ogunba then informed the court that the business for the day was for hearing of their application on why the garnishee order nisi made on Dec. 8, 2016, should not be made absolute against UBA.

In response, counsel to UBA, (Uwaka) also informed the court that the bank had initiated a preliminary objection filed on Dec. 13, 2016, over disclosure of the funds domiciled with it, and had served same on the judgment creditor.

Uwaka added that the judgment creditor had in response, served him with a counter affidavit, for which he required time to respond.

In his preliminary objection, Uwaka is opposing the disclosure of the funds of Zamfara State Government domiciled with UBA, on the grounds that the consent of the Attorney General had to be first sought and obtained before a disclosure.

Following the development Justice Kuewumi fixed Jan. 17 for hearing of all pending applications.

Meanwhile, a mild drama unfolded in court when Mrs Ogbonna who appeared for Union bank, informed the court that the funds of Zamfara state domiciled with her bank, was only N170.88k.

She said: “my lord the amount of the state with Union bank is only N170.88k and I am prepared to give the money here in court from the bar, instead of waking up so early to rush to court at each adjourned date.”

She subsequently took out her purse and produced the money and then asked, “who is taking the money from me so we can be free?”

Following this development, the court also discharged Union bank from the proceedings and urged it to regularise its position with the judgment creditor.
The court will now hear all applications on Jan. 17

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