Law News
Contempt: Bank seeks imprisonment of CBN governor

A Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday granted an application by Ecobank Nigeria Limited to commence contempt proceedings against the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele.

The commercial bank accused the CBN under Emefiele’s watch of frustrating its effort to recover a huge debt allegedly owed it by an oil marketing firm, First Deepwater Discovery Limited.

The bank claimed to have been hamstrung by the alleged refusal or failure of CBN to comply with an order of court made on July 1, 2015 despite being duly served since July 16, 2015.

The said order mandated the CBN to redeem a Sovereign Debt Note issued in favour of Ecobank by the Debt Management Office in respect of fuel subsidy claims accruable to First Deepwater, being kept in the custody of the CBN.

On Friday, counsel for Ecobank, Mr. Kunle Ogunba (SAN), appeared before Justice Mohammed Yunusa with an ex parte application seeking the court’s permission to commence contempt proceedings against Emefiele and two directors of the CBN, Mr. A.O. Ogundana and Mr. Dipo Fatokun.

Ogunba claimed that Emefiele, Ogundana, CBN Director of Legal Services, and Fatokun, CBN Director of Banking and Payment Systems Department, were directly responsible for the refusal of the CBN to obey the order of the court.

He claimed that their alleged refusal had obstructed Ecobank from performing its preservatory functions over assets of First Deepwater, through the receiver/manager appointed by the bank in line with a court order dated November 13, 2015.

While urging the court to allow service of Form 48 on Emefiele, Ogundana and Fatokun, Ogunba said, “There is an urgent need to proceed against the individuals whose job description at the Central Bank of Nigeria resulted into gross disregard and flagrant disobedience of the order of this honourable court.

“It would be in the interest of justice to direct the service of Form 48, which is a Notice of Consequence of Disobedience to Order of Court, on the cited persons in view of the various positions they occupy in the CBN.”

One Olumide Phillips, in the affidavit filed in support of the ex parte application, claimed that though there was no denial that the management of CBN received the court order, yet rather than comply “the persons cited authored a letter dated 17th June, 2015 and predicated their refusal to comply on several red herring suits.”

Phillips, however said a further letter written to the CBN to address the red herring issues raised, was never replied and the court order was not obeyed.

In granting the bank’s prayer on Friday, Justice Yunusa ordered Form 48 to be served on Emefiele, Ogundana and Fatokun, either personally or through substituted means such as posting it to the CBN head office in Abuja or publishing it in any weekday edition of either The Punch or ThisDay Newspapers.

Yunusa adjourned till October 20, 2015 for report of compliance with the order and to also take all pending applications, including the one seeking a stay of proceedings in the main suit.

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