Court Freezes 45 Bank Accounts of companies involved in rice smuggling

A Federal High Court has ordered the temporary freezing of forty-five (45) bank accounts belonging to three companies that are allegedly involved in the smuggling of rice into Nigeria.

Specifically, the companies involved are Sun Sam A1 International Limited, Sun Sam International Limited and Sunchrist O. Trans Nigeria Limited. The three companies reportedly have ten accounts domiciled with commercial banks in Nigeria

Further details: While delivering the judgment yesterday in Abuja, Justice Ahmed Mohammed directed ten banks where the bank accounts are domiciled to freeze forthwith all transactions from those accounts for 45 days.

The Banks mentioned are First Bank Nigeria PLC, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Union Bank PLC, United Bank for Africa (UBA), Zenith Bank PLC, Sterling Bank, Access Bank, First City Monument Bank (FCMB), Polaris Bank and Eco Bank Nigeria.

According to Justice Muhammed, the interning freezing of the account is pending the outcome of the investigation and inquiry currently being carried out by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Justice Muhammed granted the apex bank permission to freeze the accounts for only 45 days as against the ex-parte application filed on behalf of the apex bank by its counsel, Nosike Nicholas, to freeze the accounts for 90 days.

This is, however, subject to renewal. According to justice Muhammed, the order of freezing for 45 days was subject to renewal for further days upon an application by the CBN, in the event that its investigation could not be concluded within the first 45 days.

The CBN’s counsel anchored the application on section 60, Paragraph (B) of the Banks and other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA) 1991 as amended. He told the court that there was an ongoing investigation against the defendants who are customers of the commercial banks.

According to him, transactions under the accounts can cause significant financial loss to the rice industries in particular and the Nigeria economy in general.

The Back-Story: In an article earlier published on Nairametric in June, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, disclosed Speaking at a consultative round table, in Lagos that the bank is all out to use the instrumentality of being the regulator for Nigerian Banks to provide all details about smugglers and dumpers.

Emefiele disclosed that Smugglers and dumpers are the major sabotage to the country’s economic policies. According to him, “Nigeria is very good at making brilliant economic policies but we have identified smugglers and dumpers as those who sabotage these policies and we have decided we will deal with them and the strategy we came up with is that we will not bother ourselves.

“We will not only block their accounts, but we will also close their accounts in all the Nigerian banks simultaneously. We will close the accounts of the owners of those companies and we will close the accounts of top management members of those companies because they know that their companies are involved in smuggling and they should not be supporting those keep and of things.”

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