The Federal High High Court sitting in Lagos has struck out the federal government’s suit seeking to recover and forfeit the sum of N70trillion it alleged was stashed in 29 bank accounts by some looters.
Justice Peter Lifu held that the federal government’s lawyers and the private lawyers, which it subsequently gave a fiat did not diligently prosecute the case.
The judge expressed shock that the Plaintiff Counsel, Mohammed Ndarani, SAN, and subsequently Femi Falana SAN “suddenly developed cold feet over this alleged public interest case.”The Federal Government of Nigeria and the Attorney-General of the Federation/ Minister of Justice are the Plaintiffs/Applicants in the suit.
The 19 Defendants/Respondents, are Zenith Bank Plc, Polaris Bank Plc, Citi Bank Ltd, Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Standard Chartered Bank Plc, Sterling Bank Plc, Union Bank Plc, Unity Bank Plc, Keystone Bank Plc, Heritage Bank Plc, First Bank Plc, United Bank For Africa Plc, Fidelity Bank Plc, Eco Bank Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Wema Bank Plc, Access Bank Plc, Nigerian Agip Oil Company Ltd and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
The government filed the suit through an ex-parte motion of August 5, 2021 before Justice Tijani Ringim during the court’s annual vacation.
Justice Ringim upheld the applicants’ motion and made an interim order freezing the accounts on August 6, 2021.
Upon resumption from annual recess, the case was re-assigned to Justice Lifu on September 22, 2021.
The new judge began hearing the matter on November 24, 2021, and on May 27, 2022, vacated the Ex-parte Order following the Plaintiffs/Applicants’ failure to comply with the Ex-parte Order after over nine months.