Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions instructed Stanbic IBTC Bank and Zenith Bank to unfreeze two accounts linked to the former first lady, Patience Jonathan.
Members of the panel took turns to condemn the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for the continued freezing of the accounts by the banks when there was a court order vacating the freezing order and faulted the EFCC for notifying banks on court judgments freezing accounts domiciled in the financial institutions but allegedly refusing to write the banks when the freezing order had been vacated, but later served them with notice of appeal.
Patience had petitioned the Senate through her lawyer, Charles Ogboli (SAN), protesting against the freezing of her accounts in seven banks without court orders. Several members of the committee queried the powers of the EFCC to serve court orders on banks, when the anti-graft agency was not part of the judiciary.
According to them, the banks were “afraid” of the EFCC, which was the reason why they kept flagging the accounts based on letters from the commission. “The EFCC cannot take someone to court, and then be the one to serve the bank. The EFCC is not the judiciary, the judiciary is separate. That is why there are people engaged as court bailiffs,” a member of the panel, Senator Obinna Ogba, said.
He added, “Mr. Chairman, I think you need to give a definite instruction for them to open that account now because this bank has no business freezing that account.” Ogba also accused the banks of taking advantage of such orders to trade with customers’ frozen funds.
The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Sam Anyanwu, also faulted the process, saying, “The court bailiff should be the one to serve the court order and the bank should sign for it. It looks as if they (banks) are taking the advantage. The money is available to you (banks) and you are trading with it.”