A Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos has dismissed First Bank Plc, preliminary objection to stop an impending judgment of fifty million naira in a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed against it by a Senior lawyer and human rights activist, Johnson Odion Esezoobo.
Justice Daniel Osiagor dismissed First Bank Plc and Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) preliminary objections for lack of merit.
The preliminary objection arguments was canvased by the bank lawyer, C. Z. Ketung, who also held the brief of I. B. Ahmed, Counsel to FIRS.
The senior lawyer had dragged both First Bank Plc and FIRS before the court for freezing his law firm’s account with the bank, without a court order.
First Bank had claimed in its response to the suit that it acted on the directive of FIRS. While FIRS alleged that the Law firm was in default of tax payment to the tune of about fifty five million naira.
But the Senior lawyer, in a fundamental suit marked FHC/L/CS/1736/19, asked the court to order both First Bank Plc and FIRS to unfreeze and release forthwith the restriction placed on his law firm’s bank account domiciled in Shomolu branch of the bank.
Barrister Esezoobo claimed that FIRS illegally froze the Law Chambers’ account on allegation of tax default which were never communicated to him and without due process of law.
He is therefore asking the court for an order of a declaration that the FIRS and First Bank’s actions of continuous freezing his Firm’s current account No. 2005033924 of J. Odion Esezoobo & Co., Destiny Chambers and domociled in Shomolu branch of the bank by placing a lien on the said account without notice upon an allegation of tax default is an unlawful deprivation of the applicants fundamental right to his private property guaranteed by Section 44 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
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He also wants the court to set aside FIRS’s claim of the said sum and the purported penalty of N100,000 together with additional penalty of N5,000 for six years as unconstitutional illegal null and void
Barrister Esezoobo also asked the court for “an order of payment of fifty million naira, being exemplary damages against the FIRS and First Bank Plc, jointly and severally for unlawful deprivation of his fundamental rights.
Delivering ruling on the preliminary objections, Justice Osiagor while cited plethora of authority, held that “the preliminary objections lack in merit and it’s hereby dismissed”.
Justice Osiagor thereafter fixed September 23, for judgment in the substantive suit.