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Alleged Amnesty Fraud: Court Declines Ecobank’s Application to Stop Refund of N849m to FG

Ecobank

A federal high court in Abuja has refused to grant an application by Ecobank Nigeria Limited to restrain the federal government from ordering the bank to reimburse over N800 million in losses incurred as a result of duplicate payments made to the beneficiaries of the Amnesty programme.

Alleged Amnesty Fraud: Court Declines Ecobank’s Application to Stop Refund of N849m to FG

Inyang Ekwo, presiding judge, in a ruling on Wednesday, ordered Isaac Oguche, counsel representing the commercial bank, to put the respondents on notice within seven days of the order.

Ekwo also directed Oguche to serve on all the respondents in the suit, the processes filed, and adjourned the matter until May 31.

The federal government had established a Niger Delta amnesty programme, with a key component said to be the payment of monthly stipends to qualified beneficiaries in the oil producing region, via linked banks accounts.

The office of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) had said it was carrying out an investigation into multiple accounts allegedly linked to ex-militants.

Ecobank had, in an ex-parte motion marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/469/2023, sued the attorney-general of the federation (AGF), national security adviser (NSA), and the federal government through the amnesty programme (as 1st to 3rd respondents respectively).

In the motion dated April 5, Anthony Idigbe, the bank’s lawyer, sought for an order of interim injunction restraining the respondents from arresting its directors, staff or agents or taking steps to disrupt its business without following due process of law, pending the hearing and determination of originating motion.

It also sought an order of interim injunction restraining the respondents — either by themselves or agents — from taking steps “to further harass the applicant, directors, and staff”.

The affidavit in support of the motion deposed to by Oladipupo Raji, regional operations head of Ecobank in FCT, claimed that since inception of the programme till January 2023, there had been no allegation against the bank for fraud in relation to monies paid to its customers.

He said on January 19, commercial banks, including Ecobank, were summoned to a meeting by Babagana Monguno, NSA, in respect of the amnesty programme.

“That the NSA at the meeting which I attended informed the banks’ representatives that some of the beneficiaries of the amnesty scheme have been receiving double payments from the federal government of Nigeria by opening multiple accounts in several banks and that the 3rd respondent has also been paying funds to unknown individuals,” Raji said.

“That the NSA, thereafter, sought for the support of the banks in tackling the challenges in sanitising the system and ensuring the leakages are blocked.”

But to the bank’s surprise, according to Raji, Aliyu Mohammed, permanent secretary, special services office, office of the secretary to the government of the federation, informed all the banks that the federal government had purportedly lost the sum of N13 billion through the leakages and thereafter noted that the the sum of N849,408,000 must be refunded by Ecobank within two weeks.

Raji, in response, said Ecobank was not “involved in the processing of payments, approval of payments or verification of the list of the beneficiaries of the scheme”.

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