Suit against Ecobank over alleged unethical practices for fresh hearing

By The Rainbow

Will Ecobank be made to pay the sum N100 million for damages as being demanded by  a senior manager with the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Francis Ogaree,  against the bank   for defamation and accounts manipulation?

Will the court grant the plaintiff's (Ogaree's) request for an order on the Central Bank of Nigeria to revoke the bank's licence on the grounds of unethical practices?

These are the questions that will form the fulcrum of legal disputations between Ogaree and Ecobank in the days ahead as the case which was being handled by Justice Okechukwu Okeke will now be heard by a new judge de novo (afresh).

This follows the retirement of Justice Okechukwu Okeke as a judge of the Federal High Court, Lagos.

Justice Okeke had shortly before he retired forwarded the file back to the Chief Judge of Federal High Court for reassignment.

Ogaree, had in suit No- FHC/L/CS/410/2012 filed by his lawyer, Dr. Yemi Oke, demanded for N100 million damages for alleged harm caused to his professional, business, social and institutional reputation as a result of defamation willful publication of false account statements by the bank and disseminated to credit Bureaus and other financial institutions.

Besides, the claimant also sued the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as second defendant.

The claimant is also asking for an order of court directing the Central Bank of Nigeria to revoke Ecobank's licence for what he termed unethical practices.

According to him, the bank is  in the habit of illegally deducting monies from his domiciliary account without his consent.

Ogaree in his statement of claim averred that he operates three different domiciliary accounts namely; 0012510100651801 (now 0012047436) and 0015010100651801 (0012068781) and one other at the bank`s headquarters on Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island, Lagos.

The claimant added that he had earlier in 2007/2008 experienced unauthorized deductions in his account and informed the bank's management which put up an apathetic attitude until he instituted a lawsuit against the bank.

He said despite repeated complaints and objections on the alleged un-authorised deductions Eco bank deliberately refused to take appropriate actions to reverse the trend.

Ogaree added that since the bank continued and repeatedly making illegal deductions by allegedly cloning a separate credit card (ATM) attached to his domiciliary account simply because he (Ogaree) being a very busy executive who have no time to cross-check details of his spending until the recent one which was the last straw that broke the camel`s back.

He averred that he was involved in a business transaction which required the approval  of the Credit Bureaus to clear him of any indebtedness with any company in Nigeria, a process which necessitates his banker`s clearance via the issuance of a Letter of Non-Indebtedness.

He stated that on March 1, 2012 at 14: 49pm, the representatives of the bank sent a reply to him to the effect that the ''Letter of Non Indebtedness''; could not be issued because he (Ogaree) was seriously indebted to the bank in the sum of USD $224.03.

Ogaree stated further that he became worried, embarrassed and emotionally distressed as a result of the reply sent by the ECO bank and immediately got across to the bank to reconcile its records and rectify the account.

He added that despite his appeal for ratification, Eco bank allegedly went ahead to forward and widely circulate the purported indebtedness position to the Credit Bureaus and other financial institutions. But, Eco bank in its statement of defence urged the court to dismiss the suit with substantial cost.

The bank in its 12-pragraph statement of defence signed by its lawyer T. O. Ighalo admitted that the Plaintiff opened a dollar denominated domiciliary Current account on January 12, 1998 at its Ahmadu Bello Branch, Victoria, Island, Lagos.

The bank stated that sometimes in 2008, the plaintiff complained that he had problems accessing his master card and that the bank immediately commenced an investigation into his complaint and issued the plaintiff with another MasterCard.

The bank further stated that on March 16, 2012; it received a letter from the plaintiff alleging that he was prevented from concluding a transaction with the Credit Bureaus and that it was because of his indebtedness to the bank.

The bank stated that it could not be held liable and that during the proceedings it would raiseSuit alleging unethical practices against Ecobank  an objection on the ground that the court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the suit.