BVN: Court relaxes conditions to unfreeze unlinked accounts

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday modified its orders made on October 17, 2017 directing the 19 commercial banks in the country to freeze all accounts without Bank Verification Numbers.

Following a compromise reached between the lawyers to the Federal Government and 19 commercial banks during Wednesday’s proceedings, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba “revised” the earlier ruling by directing banks to immediately unfreeze accounts that had since been linked to a BVN after the orders were made.

The judge also revoked the Order Number 5 in the ruling, which had directed an interim forfeiture of the proceeds in all the accounts without the BVN pending the determination of the substantive suit.

The applicants in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/911/16 – the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) – were represented by Mr. Joseph Tobi, while the 19 commercial banks were represented by Mr. Adeniyi Adegbonmire (SAN).

Only the Central Bank of Nigeria (the 20th respondent in the suit) was not represented by a lawyer during the proceedings.

In his ruling, the judge noted that the aspects of the order made on October 17 had been posing some “practical problems,” hence the need for the revision by the court.

With the modification of the order on Wednesday, the banks would no longer have to wait for the hearing and determination of the substantive suit to unfreeze the account of any customer that undertook the BVN registration.

He noted that before Wednesday, unfreezing the accounts without BVN even with the account owners visiting the banks to undertake the registration would have amounted to a violation of one of the orders of the court since the ruling did not make BVN registration a pre-condition for unfreezing such accounts.

The judge noted that with the manner the particular order was couched, the freezing order placed on such accounts was to subsist “pending the hearing and determination of the substantive application” and not by the account owner undertaking the BVN registration.

This aspect of the ruling, the judge said, created an “awkward and unfortunate result.”

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