The federal government on Monday filed a notice to discontinue its case against 7 banks accused of hiding the sum of $793,200,000 (about N249,659,700,000) from the Treasury Single Account (TSA).
Counsel to the federal government, Prof Yemi Akinseye-George SAN who filed the notice of discontinuance at the Federal High Court in Lagos said the government had decided to explore an “out of court settlement” with the banks in the public interest.
The government had in July accused the banks – United Bank for Africa Plc, Diamond Bank Plc, Skye Bank Plc, First Bank Ltd, Fidelity Bank Plc, Keystone Bank Ltd and Sterling Bank Plc – of hiding the dispute sum on behalf of ‘unknown government officials.’
The dispute sum was said to be revenue accruing to the federal government which ought to have been paid into the TSA but was hidden in the 7 banks, in obvious contravention of the TSA policy.
Upon the application of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami (SAN) through Akinseye-George, the Federal High Court in July granted an interim order directing the banks to remit the $793.2m to a designated account at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Justice Chuka Obiozor thereafter gave the banks till August 8 to show cause why the interim order should not be made permanent.
However, at the resumed hearing of the matter yesterday, Akinseye-George notified the court that he had been instructed by the AGF to discontinue the case in the overall 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 lawyers to the banks in response to the federal government’s request to strike out the suit urged the court to dismiss the suit to prevent the government from re-filing it and to award up to N20 million damages for the damage done to their reputation.
Akinseye-George countered that the banks had failed to file any documents to support the claims that they suffered any damage to reputation and urged the court to simply strike out the suit.
Justice Obiozor, according to The Nation, after listening to the arguments adjourned to Wednesday to rule on whether to dismiss the suit or to simply strike it out.