The Federal government has dragged commercial banks to court, accusing the banks of shielding owners of accounts without Bank verification Number (BVN).
At the hearing of the suit filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday, the Nigerian government also sought an order of forfeiture of funds in the accounts without BVN.
The suit was filed through the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, against the 19 commercial banks and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Lawyer to the federal government, Ade Okeaya-Inneh (SAN), said:
“Our contention is that the banks do not have the locus (legal right) to defend this action (suit).
“Our contention is that the plaintiff has a public duty to ensure that a regulation made pursuant to a law by the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria is obeyed.”
“If the defendants say they did not know those who own the money in the accounts without BVN, how can they then come to defend the case?
“What locus do they have if they did not disclose the owners of the money despite the order of the court to that effect? If they are to be heard, on whose behalf?
“They (the lawyers representing the respondents) are defending the suit on behalf of the bank, but the action and the order of the court is not against the banks per se, it is against the supposed owners of the funds.
“The court’s order was for them to verify the owners of the accounts.
“They have not done that and did not disclose any body as the owners of the accounts.
“So, we are arguing that they cannot act for unknown persons, whose identities they have not disclosed. If they do not know who their customers are, then they cannot defend the suit.”
The SAN called on the court to reject all the processes filed by the defendants in the case while another member of the Federal government’s legal team, James Igwe (SAN) urged the court to grant the plaintiff’s prayers in the main suit.
Meanwhile, the Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed June 11 to deliver judgment with respect to the matter.