N3.1 billion debt: Court fixes January 17 to hear Ecobank’s suit against Zamfara

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A Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed January 17 to hear pending applications including objection to a `garnishee’ proceeding by Ecobank against Zamfara State over N3.1 billion debt.

The bank had commenced the garnishee proceeding against the state seeking to recover the debt.

Joined in the suit are the Zamfara State 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.

The News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, recalls that Justice Okon Abang had in September 2015 ordered the defendants to pay the judgment sum of N3.1 billion to Ecobank, its outstanding indebtedness to the bank.

The judge 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 Mr. Abang from the Lagos Division, Justice Babs Kuewumi assumed jurisdiction in the suit.

The plaintiff subsequently commenced a garnishee proceeding against the defendants joining more than 15 banks.

The garnishee proceeding was taken out against the banks to compel them to disclose and remit the total funds of Zamfara State domiciled with the banks to offset the debt.

Some of the banks listed as garnishees include: UBA, Fidelity bank, First City Monument bank, Skye bank, Union Bank, Diamond, and Stanbic IBTC among others.

In the garnishee proceedings, all defendants in the substantive suit are now listed as judgment debtors while the plaintiff (Ecobank) is the judgment creditor.

In the proceeding, 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 November 1, 2016, the court had discharged UBA, Fidelity, Diamond and Stanbic IBTC banks from the proceedings for disclosing funds of the judgment debtor with their banks.

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

Meanwhile, Ecobank on December 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 Zamfara domiciled with the bank.

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

Also, Nkechi Ogbonna appeared for Union bank, Femi Onibalusi appeared for FCMB and O.A Owolabi appeared for Skye bank.

Mr. 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 December 8, 2016, should not be made absolute against UBA.

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

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

Following the development, Justice Kuewumi fixed January 17 for hearing of applications.

However, 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.

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

Mrs. Ogbonna 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 January 17.

(NAN)


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