Frozen Account: Co-operatives Society Accuses EFCC, FBN of Disobedience to Court Order

The Eleme Petrochemicals Co-operatives Investment and Credit Society Limited has accused the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of alleged harassment, intimidation and infringement on the rights of the members of the society by denying them access to their funds trapped in First Bank Nigeria Ltd.

According to them, the action of the commission goes against a subsisting court order of a Federal High Court, Abuja.

Justice Evelyn Maha had on January 15, 2021 ordered that the restriction placed on the account of the co-operatives society be lifted but First Bank has refused to obey the court order, citing counter-directive from the EFCC.

It was learnt that the bank is demanding that the society signs an indemnity against claims by the EFCC before obliging to honour its own obligations to the cooperatives society, a demand that is contrary to the contract between a bank and its customer and against all extant rules of banking.

The co-operatives society said it has written to First Bank to explain if there is any superior court order served on them by the EFCC restricting it from honouring its obligations to the cooperatives society but the bank has not produced any such order but was only referring to a counter-directive and alleged harassment from EFCC.

The group alleged that EFCC had sort to pervert the course of justice from the beginning having joined issues with the co-operatives society in a suit to enforce the fundamental rights of the shareholders of the group but surreptitiously went behind to another court of co-ordinate jurisdiction to obtain an order freezing the account of the society.

It added the attempt, however, failed as the court after discovering the orchestrated sharp practice by EFCC, granted an order lifting the interim restriction on the said account.

It noted that First Bank continues to act in flagrant disregard to the court order while EFCC had filed an appeal against the order lifting the restriction placed on the cooperatives’ bank account even as no stay of execution order has not been granted.

From reports and court judgments it is confirmed that the original members of staff of Indoroma Eleme Petrochemicals Ltd, Port Harcourt, Rivers State before its privatisation are the initial members of the cooperatives society.

Recall that in 2009, the federal government through the National Council on Privatisation had approved the sale of 10% of its equity shares in Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals Ltd to the host community and interested staff of the company.

The 10% equity shares was shared as 7.5% allotted to the host community while the remaining 2.5% was allotted to the staff of Indoroma Eleme Petrochemicals, who came together under Eleme Petrochemical Co-operatives Society in compliance with the federal government’s directive that a special purpose vehicle be formed where all members will belong to enable them buy the shares at the time.

Problem started in 2013 when 10 members of staff who initially subscribed to the purchase of the 2.5% equity shares had their jobs terminated from the employment of the company.

Indoroma Petrochemicals since then began a legal battle as to whether the laid-off staff can continue to enjoy dividends since they are not longer staff in the company and in so doing sought to replace the laid-off staff with new recruited staff.

When the shareholding claims became an issue, the laid-of staff approached the River State Ministry of Commerce and Industry to arbitrate between them and the company, and the Ministry gave an arbitral award in favour of the former members of staff and consequently the exited staff of the co-operatives society approached the Federal High Court to enforce the arbitral award and as required by law it was granted and the award became a judgment of the court.

But the newly recruited staff being allegedly instigated by the company, approached the National Industrial Court, stating that the arbitral award was illegally procured but the industrial court in striking out the case stated that it can not sit on an appeal over a matter that has been decided by a court of co-ordinate jurisdiction.

But according to court documents, the EFCC despite the subsisting judgment of the Federal High Court Abuja, which affirmed the shareholding of the exited staff, has continued to freeze the account in contravention of an earlier order of Justice Taiwo .O. Taiwo of the Federal High Court Abuja in suit FHC/ABJ/SC/1222/2020, granting an order stopping the EFCC from arresting, inviting, detaining and prosecuting or inquiring into the acquisition of shares of Indoroma Petrochemicals Ltd.


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