Court orders GTB to refund N5.3b to customer
Abuja High Court yesterday declared Guaranteed Trust Bank (GTB) guilty for illegally withdrawing N5.3b from an account owned by its customer, Dr. Ted Iseghohi Edwards of Edwards and Partners Law firm.
In a judgment delivered by Justice Valentine Ashi, the court held that GTB had no defence to its action and ordered the bank to pay the money – N5, 240,516,186.21k – back to the owner through his account with Zenith Bank plc.
Justice Ashi also ordered that the N5.3b should attract ten per cent (10%) post judgment interest, and another 21 per cent interest from December 12, 2015 when GTB illegally withdrew the money, until the fund is eventually paid to Dr. Edwards.
The judge struck out the Central Bank (CBN), the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Jonah Otunla, Minister of State for Finance Ambassador Yuguda, Anaocha Local Government Area and the Incorporated Trustees of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) from the suit as defendants on the ground that they were not necessary parties.
Dr. Edward initiated the suit marked FCT/HC/CV/939/2015 in January this year after GTB carried out the illegal withdrawal of the money on December 12, 2014.
The money was paid into Dr. Edwards’ law firm’s account with GTB on January 2, 2014 by the AGF as a settlement of a judgment got by his clients, Impecca Services Limited and His Royal Highness, Eze Samuel Ezekwo against ALGON for the consultancy services they rendered to the 774 local government.
In the originating processes, the plaintiff claim that shortly after the money was paid into his account on behalf of his clients, GTB made some disbursements from the account as directed, but that he was only informed on December 12 by an official of the bank that the Central Bank has withdrawn the N5.3b.
Dr. Edwards said when he enquired form the bank why it made deduction from his account without his consent; he said GTB only insisted that the withdrawal was made in obedience to CBN directive, which it could not disobey.
Justice Ashi, in his judgment yesterday, faulted GTB for betraying the banker/customer relationship between it and Dr. Edwards. He noted that it was wrong for GTB to have made withdrawal from the customer’s account without his knowledge and consent.
The judge held that GTB’s claim that it was helpless and that the withdrawal was at the instance of CBN was of no moment.