The Federal High Court, Abuja, has dismissed a suit filed by the federal government seeking permanent forfeiture of accounts not linked to Bank Verification Number (BVN).
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba dismissed the motion on notice seeking permanent forfeiture of accounts without BVN in a judgment he delivered on Friday.
Mr Dimgba said the motion was dismissed on the grounds that the federal government did not show verifiable evidence that it had urged the banks to comply with the court order.
The court also held that there was no evidence to prove the government’s claim that funds in the account were acquired through proceeds of crime.
The court further insisted that the evidential burden of proof lied on the government.
The judge noted that the conditions spelt out in the relevant sections of the Advance Fee Fraud Act as they related to the accounts were not met to warrant an order of permanent forfeiture.
He observed that there was no publication of the accounts not linked to BVNs in some of the national dailies just as there was no evidence to show non compliance by the banks.
The court also held that the plaintiff did not take any steps to enforce the modified order as there was no evidence to show that it had filed contempt proceeding against the defendants.
Mr Dimgba, however, said the order of October17, 2017 that was modified still subsisted and that the plaintiff still had the right to ensure its compliance.
Earlier, the court described the objection raised by the defendants that the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) lacked locus standi to file the suit on behalf of the EFCC as lacking in merit.
The court held that if the AGF could be sued in civil litigation, nothing constitutionally prohibited the office from suing on behalf of any federal government agency.
The judge had on October 17, 2017 ordered 19 commercial banks in the country to, among other directives, freeze and disclose accounts and funds without BVN.
The directive was sequel to an exparte application brought by the AGF, Abubakar Malami.
The 19 banks were then given 14 days from the date of the ex parte order to show cause why funds in the accounts not linked to BVNs should not be permanently forfeited to the government.
The court, however, later modified the order to say that the accounts could be operated once identifiable owners were linked to the BVNs.
However, none of the 19 banks listed as defendants in the suit complied with the court’s order that they provide information about accounts without BVN in their custody.
They had gone ahead to file a motion challenging the court’s jurisdiction instead.