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Source: Thenation/Eric Ikhilae -
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A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) sitting in Apo yesterday found Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) guilty of illegally withdrawing N5.3billion from an account owned by one of its customers, Dr. Ted Iseghohi Edwards of Edwards and Partners Law firm.

Justice Valentine Ashi, in a judgment, held that GTBank was without any defence to its action and ordered the bank to pay the money – N5,240,516,186.21 to the owner through his Zenith Bank Plc account.

The judge further ordered that the N5.3billion should attract 10 per cent post-judgment interest, and another 21 per cent interest from December 12 last year when GTBank illegally withdrew the money, until the bank eventually paid Dr. Edwards.

The judge struck out the Central Bank (CBN), the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), Jonah Otunla, Minister of State for Finance Ambassador Yuguda, Anaocha Local Government Area and the Incorporated Trustees of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) from the suit as defendants on the ground that they were not necessary parties.

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Edward initiated the suit marked FCT/HC/CV/939/2015 in January, this year after GTBank carried out the illegal withdrawal of the money on December 12, last year.

The money was paid into Dr. Edwards' law firm's account with GTBank on January 2, last year by the AGF as a settlement of a judgment got by his clients, Impecca Services Limited and His Royal Highness, Eze Samuel Ezekwo against ALGON for the consultancy services they rendered to the 774 local governments.

The plaintiff stated, in the suit's originating processes, that shortly after the money was paid into his account on behalf of his clients, GTBank made some disbursements from the account as directed, but that he was only informed on December 12 by an official of the bank that the CBN has withdrawn the N5.3billion.

Edwards said when he enquired from the bank why it made deduction from his account without his consent, he said GTBank only insisted that the withdrawal was made in obedience to the CBN's directive, which it could not disobey.

Justice Ashi, in his judgment, faulted GTBank for betraying the banker/customer relationship between it and Edwards.

He noted that it was wrong for GTBank to have withdrawn from the customer's account without his knowledge and consent.

The judge held that GTBank's claim that it was helpless and that the withdrawal was at the instance of CBN was of no substance. He wondered whether GTBank would have obeyed a similar directive even if it was illegal.

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