The Judiciary has once again been described as the last hope of the common man and a system that still retains the confidence of the people.
As reported by journalist Izunna Okafor on IgboRadio, Barr. Anthony Kelechi Agbasiere made this known in Awka, the Anambra State capital, while briefing journalists on a judgement recently delivered by the State High Court in Awka, between him as the Applicant and the Access Bank Plc. as the Respondent.
Giving a background of the case, he narrated that Access Bank Plc. unexpectedly froze his account without any notice given to him. The bank, he said, claimed it acted in adherence to a purported ex parte order it claimed to have to received from one Supreme Magistrate Court, FCT Dutse, dated September 1, 2020, and addressed to the Operational Manager, Access Bank, Central Area, Abuja.
He narrated that after several stressful but unsuccessful attempts to withdraw from the account or have it unfrozen, he consequently filed a suit in March 2021 against the Bank, challenging its action, on the ground that not only was he not notified before the freezing of the account, but the purported court order also appeared ingenuine, and unlawfully issued, in every sense of it.
Highlighting some of the flaws spotted in the purported court order, Barr. Agbasiere, popularly referred to as the Celebrity Barrister, observed that the said order, which was not signed by a known Magistrate, erroneously bears High Court stamp, and was said to have been obtained from one Supreme Magistrate Court FCT Dutse, Abuja, which is a non-existent court of law.
While stating that Magistrate Court has no power to make an order ex parte freezing a citizen’s account, he also opposed the fact that said court that issued the said order is an Abuja-based court, rather than a court based in Anambra State, where the purported offence was said to have been committed, in addition to other flaws that he spotted that make the said order appear less credible and unlawfully issued.
He said, “A Magistrate cannot grant an order ex parte, freezing somebody’s account. I know a lot of people are victims of this; and that is why I want to use this medium to educate people on that, for them to know their left and their right.
“You don’t just wake up one day and freeze people’s account just like that. If you want to freeze somebody’s account, you can get that by ex parte at the High Court, because that is what the Bank and Other Financial Institutions Acts (BOFIA Acts) states. Go to High Court, get such an order ex parte, then put the owner of the account on notice, let him come and respond why the order should stay or be set aside. That is what the court held.”
In its judgement on the suit with the suit No. A/MISC.96/2021, presided over by Hon. Justice Chukwudi Okaa of the State High Court sitting in Awka, the court held that the action of the Respondent (Access Bank) freezing the Applicant’s (Agbasiere’s) account was unlawful, unconstitutional and a breach of Fundamental rights guaranteed by section 44 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
The court also ordered Access Bank to unfreeze the account and/or remove forthwith the post No Debit Order placed on the applicants account and pay a sum of N3,000,000 (Three Million Naira) damages to the Applicant for contravening his Fundamental Rights without a lawful court order, and also pay him N100,000 as cost.
Describing the judgement as a very quick one, Barr. Agbasiere who pledged to make the Certified True Copy of the judgement available and accessible to people, advised members of the public to stop subscribing to or propagating the armchair speculations that the Nigerian Judiciary has lost public confidence. According to him, the Judiciary is still the last hope of the common man and still upholds justice, irrespective of the social status or background of the persons involved.
He said, “I know there are many victims of similar case like this in our society today. My advice is that peoople should start enforcing their rights and stop saying Nigerian Judiciary did this or did that. Do your own part and leave the rest.
“If you feel that your right has been trampled upon, file a suit, consult a lawyer and let him tell you what is involved. Don’t say you don’t have the money. There are even some lawyers who are willing to take up such matters pro bono. In fact, one of the criteria for award of SAN is how many matters one has done pro bono. So, that is to tell you that even the legal profession itself strongly encourages doing matters pro bono.”
“Again, people should stop giving excuse that court takes time. We filed this matter in March, and this is July, it has ended and judgement delivered. So people should wake up, because if we don’t challenge these things, our society will not get better. A situation is better when openly challenged and tested; and that is simply my advice to the public. Don’t die in silence. There is still confidence in the Judiciary,” he added.
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