More revelations have come to light about the order from the Federal High Court in Abuja to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to freeze 11 accounts belonging to customers of the First City Monument Bank (FCMB).
Sources close to the CBN disclosed that the Bank may have sought the court order to enable it investigate suspicious transactions on the accounts strongly linked to illegal foreign exchange operators in excess of USD $160 million.
The CBN had, on Wednesday, April 7, 2021, published on its website, the list of 11 accounts with the FCMB, which the Federal High Court had ordered it to freeze for a period of 45 days, pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation.
Investigations revealed that the bank accounts owned by a certain Albert Austin Ugochukwu and five other business concerns, are suspected to be involved in in operating as illegal foreign exchange operators; an act that contravenes the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring & Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1995 and Section 58(1) of the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA) 1991 (as amended).
On the application of the CBN, the court ordered the Bank to direct the head office of FCMB to freeze all transactions on the bank accounts listed on the motion paper for a period of 45 days only pending the outcome of investigation currently being conducted by the CBN.
While directing the CBN to publish the order on its website within three days from the day the ruling was delivered, the Court ruled that the order is renewable on expiration, but only for good reasons shown.
However, it stated that persons affected by the order were entitled to approach the court to seek to set aside, discharge or have the order reviewed for good reasons shown.
Meanwhile, contacted for clarification, the Acting Director of the Corporate Communications Department, Osita Nwanisobi, declined comments on the investigation but noted that the CBN will do all within its mandate and the extant laws of the country to check any act contrary to its goal of ensuring sanity in the Nigerian foreign exchange market. According to him, it was the Bank’s statutory duty to maintain external reserves to safeguard the international value of the Naira, hence it would carry out actions to check pressure on the foreign exchange rate.