Bank Charges: Court Dismisses Suit against CBN

By James Emejo

The Federal High Court sitting in Abeokuta, Ogun State, has dismissed a suit instituted by a legal practitioner, Mr. Olumide Babalola, challenging the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) policy on Current Account maintenance fee contained in the January 2020 Guide to the Charges by Banks and Other Financial Institutions.

Babalola had instituted the action in the name of his law firm, Babalola LP, in which he contended that the policy and guidelines of the apex bank violated his fundamental human rights.

However, the CBN, through its Counsel, Mr. Adeleke Agbola, of Cheakley Chambers, challenged the suit on the ground that the plaintiff lacked the legal capacity to institute the suit on a policy that affects the public.

In his Notice of Preliminary Objection to the Suit, Agbola had contended that the plaintiff failed to show that the CBN acted in bad faith or breached any law by issuing the guidelines.

The trial judge, Justice M. Shittu Abubakar, after careful analysis of the case, had on February 3, 2021, dismissed the suit in its entirety for lacking in merit and upheld the preliminary objection.

The court held that the guidelines issued by the CBN, authorising deduction of current account maintenance charges was lawful and within its statutory powers.
The court also concurred with the argument canvassed by the CBN counsel that the plaintiff had not shown that the CBN breached any known law by issuing the guidelines.

Justice Abubakar also held that the plaintiff/applicant ought to have negotiated with his bank, Access Bank Plc for a reduction of his charges instead of dragging the CBN to court.

Meanwhile, the new guide to bank charges which was released in December 2019 and became effective from January 2020, detailed a downward review of charges for electronic banking transactions.

It further reviewed other bank charges to align with market developments as well as inclusion of new sections on accountability, responsibility and a sanction regime to directly address instances of excess, unapproved and arbitrary charges.

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