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Intrigues As Nursing Mother Tackles GTB Over Account Freeze

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A businesswoman, Jessica Adaeze, has sued Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) over its alleged refusal to comply with a court order, directing it to unfreeze her bank account.

Adaeze, through her lawyer, Friday Iburu, in a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed before Justice Anwuli Chikere of a Federal High Court, Abuja, prayed for five reliefs.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that GTB is the sole respondent in the matter.

Adaeze had alleged that her bank account number: 0178246081 was frozen by the commercial bank through an order obtained by the investigation police officer on May 15, 2019, for the purpose of investigation of the said account.

The woman averred that she, however, challenged the legality and constitutionality of the said order, freezing her bank account at the same court but before the Chief Judge, Justice John Tsoho, in a suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/726/2019.

Adaeze, who sued the police, the inspector-general of police and the bank as 1st to 3rd respondents in the case, described the act as a breach of her fundament right as guaranteed by 1999 Constitution (as amended).

She told the court that Justice Tsoho delivered a judgment on Aug. 14, 2020 in her favour, directing GTB to reopen the account but the bank disregard the court order.

She said all efforts made by her and her lawyer for the bank to comply with the court order, including written and telephone communications, were to no avail.

“I was sent a WhatsApp phone number 08091745891 to my phone number 0706498972 being my WhatsApp number and the name of my phone is SAMSUNG A20 wherein I also demanded that they should quickly comply with the order of the court to reopen my account to enable me have access to my bank account but still refused,.

“I did print out our conversations and hereby attached same as ‘Exhibit B,’” she told court.

However, her lawyer, Iburu, in a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1485/2020 filed on Nov. 9, 2020 before Justice Chikere, urged the court to declare that the continued freezing of her client’s bank account in disregard to court order amounted to ‘taking possession compulsorily without any lawful order of the court.

She also prayed the court to order that the unfreezing of her account, is  unconstitutional, unlawful and illegal and a gross violation of her fundamental human rights as enshrined in Section 44(1) 1999 Constitution (as amended).”

NAN reports that the judgment delivered by Justice Tsoho was also attached as “Exhibit A.”

Iburu, who prayed the court to declare that the continued freezing of her client’s bank account amounted to threat to her right to life and dignity of person contrary to Section 33(1), 34 (1) (a) of the Constitution, urged the court to make an order directing the respondent (bank) to reopen the applicant’s bank account forthwith.

The lawyer also asked the court to award a N5 million fine against the bank as compensation for the breach of Adaeze’s right and the humiliation, embarrassment, degradation and inconveniences she had been subjected to.

Iburu said the reliefs were sought on the grounds that Adaeze, who is a nursing mother, was a law-abiding citizen and had rights to life, dignity of her person, liberty, and to acquire property.

The lawyer also said that the applicant has other responsibilities to attend to, including but not limited to her house rent which has long ago elapsed and her landlord had been demanding and threatening to eject her out of the apartment.

The counsel, who adopted all the applications filed, urged the court to grant Adaeze’s prayers in the interest of justice.

But the GTB lawyer, Lukman Tahiru, objected, arguing that Iburu’s application was false, misleading and untrue.

In a counter affidavit dated and filed on Dec. 10, 2020 and deposed to by Mr Ikechukwu Asogwa, the account officer of Adaeze in the bank, the GTB acknowledged the earlier court judgment exhibited in the application.

The bank, however, argued that contrary to Adaeze’s claim, it “immediately and promptly complied with the judgement of the court upon being served with the Certified True Copy of the Judgment, by removing all restrictions placed on the applicant’s account.”

The bank argued further that it also single-handedly “paid the entire judgment sum awarded as general damages against all three respondents in the suit before His Lordship, the Chief Judge of this Honourable Court.

“The applicant has received the payment of the judgment sum awarded as general damages but conveniently failed to disclose this fact in her affidavit; thereby deliberately concealing facts in order to mislead this Honourable Court.”

According to GTB, the removal of the restriction on the applicant’s account was effected immediately by the respondent and before it could pay the damages.

The bank argued that since the removal of the restrictions on her account, Adaeze did not make any attempt to do any transaction on the account but was rather waiting for a written communication from it management to the effect that the restrictions had been lifted.

GTB also refuted the claim by Adaeze that all efforts made to get her account reopened, including written and telephone communications with the bank were unsuccessful.

“Contrary to Paragraph 12 of the applicant’s affidavit in support of originating motion, the whatsapp number: 08091745891 is not a phone number of a staff of the respondent (the bank), rather, it is a self-automated pkatfi introduced by the respondent on the WhatsApp mobile application platform for the ease of transactions by its customers,” it said.

Counsel to the bank, Lukman Tahiru, urged the court to dismiss the application for lacking in merit.

After the two parties had adopted all their processes filed befire the court, Justice Chikere fixed Nov. 18 for ruling.

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