A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered a temporary seizure of N8 billion belonging to telecommunications giant, MTN.
The money, domiciled in ECOBANK, was alleged to have been made through illegal and unlawful activities.
But MTN has objected to the order, claiming it had hampered its operations.
The order was obtained by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Court papers showed that Justice Abdulaziz Anka ordered MTN to temporarily forfeit to the government the N8billion in its ECOBANK account 0012005379, which was suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activity.
Also affected by the order was another account number 1013607079 containing billions of Naira at Skye Bank, whose owner had not filed any paper before the court to contest ownership.
An Abuja based lawyer, Mr John Samuel Opeyemi, had filed the suit marked FHC/L/CS/1676/2016 at the Federal High Court, in Lagos, on behalf of the Federal Government, Attorney-General of the Federation and an Asset Recovery Agent of the government, Algaita Group Nigeria Limited.
In an affidavit sworn to by the Managing Director of Algaita Group Limited, Abdullahi Mohammed Maiturare, a former operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), filed and argued before the court, Mr Maiturare averred that the Attorney-General of the Federation appointed his company Algaita Group Nigeria Limited as “Asset Recovery Agent of the Federal Government of Nigeria to track, freeze and recover funds and ensure it is remitted to the designated bank account of the Federal Government of Nigeria through legally permissible means as may be directed by the Attorney-General of the Federation”.
In his ruling, Justice Anka ordered that “an order be made granting interim forfeiture to the Federal Government of Nigeria of the funds lying in the accounts listed in the schedule in the custody of the two banks.
He also granted that an order “directing the publication of a notice in two National Daily newspapers inviting any Person(s) who may have interest in the subject funds to, within 14 days of the publication of the order, show cause why a final order should not be made forfeiting the said funds to the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
MTN, however, filed an application, urging the court to discharge and set aside the orders made as it relates to its account held with ECOBANK Limited.
In an affidavit sworn to by a lawyer, Mrs Ibukunoluwa Owa, on behalf of MTN and filed before the court by Mr Adeniyi Adegbonmire SAN, the deponent averred that information delivered to him by Babatunde Adewumi, the Manager, Banking and Treasury in the employment of MTN Communications Limited, contended that the applicants did not comply with the order of the court as the order of the Court was not published as directed by the Court, therefore they were not aware of the order of the Court until, ECOBANK wrote a letter to the company to intimate it of the said order.
Mrs Owa further averred that the account was “opened by ECOBANK Nigeria PLC upon instructions given by MTN on October 9, 2007 and MTN has operated the account since then till date in accordance with banking practice applicable to current account held by corporate bodies in Nigeria; therefore the order has adversely affected the smooth running of the business of MTN as it finds it difficult to utilize the funds held in the account in pursuit of its lawful business, as the funds are not suspected proceeds of unlawful activity”. She urged the court to discharge the order.
MTN application to discharge the order was accompanied with affidavit of urgency and application urging the court to hear the case quickly.
No date has been fixed for hearing of the application.