Judge: ICPC Lacks Power to Freeze Bank Accounts Without Court Order

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Wale Igbintade

A Federal Highl Court sitting in Lagos yesterday held that the Independent Corrupt Practice Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) lacks the authority to place a Post No Debit (PND) on a bank account without a valid court order.

Justice Peter Lifu made the order while delivering judgment in a suit filed by a firm, Efoba Construction and Engineering Services Limited against the ICPC and Zenith Bank Plc.

The judge held that restricting the firm’s access to Account No: 1011301207 without a court order amounted to gross and brazen violation of the Applicant’s Fundamental Right to own, acquire and possess property.

The court further awarded cost of N50, 000 against the ICPC and Zenith.

The plaintiff had, through its lawyer Victor Okpara, SAN sued the defendants in a suit numbered FHC L/CS/1796/2020, for placing a lien on its bank account without a valid court order.

The plaintiff prayed the court for a declaration that the compulsory taking possession/forfeiture of its right over its bank account maintained with the Zenith bank without any extant order of court violated its Fundamental Right.

It also prayed the court set aside the purported compulsory acquisition of monies vested in the Applicant and deposited with the 2nd Respondent.

However, Zenith Bank in its 18-paragraphs counter-affidavit deposed to by Eyituoyo Prosper Mogbeyi, informed the court that it only acted on ICPC’s directives.

Delivering Judgment in the suit, Justice Lifu held: “It is hereby declared that the Post No Debit restriction placed on the applicant’s Account No: 1011301207 by the second respondent on the instruction of the first Respondent without a valid court order from a court of competent jurisdiction duly sought and obtained, is a violation of the fundamental right of the Applicant guaranteed by Chapter IV of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) on the right to own and possess property.

“The restriction placed on Account No: 1011301207 belonging to the Applicant by the second respondent sequel to the ‘orders’ of the 1st Respondent as contained in a letter dated 7th of October 2019 is hereby set aside forthwith.

“The second respondent is hereby restrained from further placing any restrictions in whatever manner on the Applicant’s accounts domiciled with it except by the direct and express order of a court of competent jurisdiction specifically made for that purpose.

“Considering all the disappointments, denials of access to account and monies legitimately owned by the Applicant coupled with the psychological and physical trauma associated or occasioned by such brazen recklessness of the second respondent Bank, a punitive damages of N5 million, is hereby awarded against the respondents severally and jointly but in favour of the applicant.