Exclusive! How COSON Trashed Access Bank Plc. @ Federal High Court

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Chief Tony Okoroji, COSON Board chairman (L) and Lawyer, James Ononiwu Esq after the legal victory over Access Bank Plc

The news is everywhere that Justice Yellin S. Bogoro of the Federal High Court, Lagos, on May 4, ordered one of Nigeria’s biggest banks, Access Bank Plc, to immediately unfreeze the Copyright Society of Nigeria’s (COSON) bank accounts at the bank and pay it 70 million naira in damages for the unlawful act.

Musicians across Nigeria have been toasting and celebrating the historic feat of COSON which distributes royalties to thousands of musicians across the land many of whose royalties have been unlawfully seized by Access Bank for more than three years. They have also commended the COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji, for his dogged and exemplary leadership and for waging a relentless war against the bank and other organisations assaulting the rights of creative people in Nigeria.

But how did COSON bring down Access Bank in court with the bank’s array of expensive lawyers and to so thoroughly expose the bank’s bad practices? Your top-notch news source, www.beats-onit.com, went to town and has exclusively obtained the final written address which the lawyers to COSON, Whitedove Solicitors, used to nail Access Bank.

www.beats-onit.com recommends that every Nigerian who has a bank account should read this and every lawyer in Nigeria should study it because it is very revealing.

The overview of the final written address reads as follows:

1.1My Lord, it should not be said that Access Bank does not know the law. With the battery of lawyers employed by Access Bank and the service of very senior lawyers available to the bank, Access Bank is very much aware of the plethora of court decisions across the country: No bank has the power to freeze the account of its customer without a Court Order.

1.2The question may then be asked: Why is it that knowing the law, Nigerian banks continue endlessly to freeze their customers’ accounts without any Court Order?

1.3 The answer is simple: The banks make a huge amount of money from this wicked, reckless and wilful ceasing of the funds of their customers which many times lead to the death or life in penury for their customers.

1.4 My Lord, this case is very simple. The question Access Bank is running from pillar to post and creating every imaginable subterfuge and smokescreen so as not to answer is this: What Court Order empowered Access Bank to freeze the accounts of COSON from February 6, 2019 and to continue to freeze them for the fourth year running?”

1.5 All along, Access Bank knew exactly what it was doing. There is no way that your Lordship will look at the very ‘creative’ defence and final written address of the bank and not see the endless attempts of the bank to create excuses, manufacture smokescreens and shift the goal posts, jettison the duty of care it owes its customer and callously deny its customer the customer’s money trusted in its care. At the end of the day, Access Bank must answer the question: What Court Order empowered Access Bank to freeze the accounts of COSON from February 6, 2019 and to continue to freeze them for the fourth year running?”

1.6 The game is clear: Delay, delay and delay. Use every legal manoeuvre and set up every imaginable road-block! After a while, the customer who the bank has wilfully starved of its funds will become weary and die or discontinue the pursuit of its funds. The bank earns free money while the customer dies or goes into liquidation. What we have in this suit is an example of a huge national scam in which banks use every pretext to hold on to their customers’ funds at no interest, sometime for a lengthy period, other times, in perpetuity. It has become a national epidemic and scandal. Sadly, billions of Naira in customers’ funds have been so wickedly appropriated by banks in Nigeria. While their officials live like kings and princes, their customers face liquidation or die in penury.

1.7 Going through the Access Bank’s significantly verbose and incredibly repetitive Final Written Address, your Lordship would not have missed the fact that Access Bank is fervently prosecuting the case of the adversaries of its customer, using many fancy terms like “withdrawal restriction”, “commercial solution”, etc, not because Access Bank is interested in justice but because Access Bank deliberately and maliciously wants to keep trading with its customer’s funds at no cost.

1.8 Your Lordship is respectfully invited to read the report of the very recent decision of Hon Justice O.O. Fadipe of the Lagos State Special Offences Court in which she awarded 2.5 Billion Naira in damages against Zenith Bank PLC in Suit No. LD/ADR/186//2014 (Real Integrated & Hospitality Limited v. Zenith Bank Plc.). It is reported that in her judgment, her Lordship said:

“’Zenith Bank is a scam, and people should avoid doing business with them’ for fraudulent operations, including defrauding a corporate customer consistently for over 10 years… The act of Zenith Bank Plc was unconscionable and detrimental to the goodwill of the claimant and its trade with its customers. It was a deliberate and malicious act against the interest of the claimant…” With all due respect, the Nigerian banking industry may have become a scam.

1.9 Time was when if any of us wanted to say that something is safe and secure, we said, “It is like money in the bank”. Sadly, not anymore.

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