BusinessJim Ovia's Zenith Bank accused of breach of trust

Jim Ovia’s Zenith Bank accused of breach of trust

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Jim-Ovia’s Zenith Bank Plc, one of the leading commercial banks in Nigeria has been identified as a high risk financial institution which general public must be wary of.

This was according a Lagos judge, Justice O.O. Abike-Fadipe of the Special Offences Court, sitting in Ikeja, said this while delivering a judgement in case brought before it between the bank as first defendant, State Universal Basic Education as second defendant and Real Integrated And Hospitality Ltd as the claimant.

According to the case, the claimant approached the court and accused the bank of breach of contract, inability to access its account number 1012465427 domiciled with latter and prayed the court cause the bank to pay interests on over N8million naira, the fund the bank refused it access to since 2011.

Not only that, the claimant is also demanding interest of 10% on judgement sum till when the case is finally liquidated and with a cost of N5million naira as cost of action.

Though the counsel to the bank initially denied knowledge of the business transaction between his client and the claimant, the presiding judge insisted that the bank carried itself in a fraudulent manner by ensuring it benefited from holding onto the sum of N872,780,552.84 in its custody without paying interest since 2011.

“The first defendant has been the beneficiary of the malevolent game of chess it plunged both claimant and the 2nd defendant into, holding the sum of N872,780,552.84 in its custody without paying interest thereon from 17th February 2011 until 2nd February 2016 when the Court ordered that the money be paid into an interest yielding account in the names of the claimant and the 2nd defendant pending determination of the suit, which order was curiously varied by the consent of all the parties on 20th September 2016 so that the money remained in the 1st defendant’s custody without interest,” she said.

While granting the four reliefs sought by the claimant, Justice Abike-Fadipe also chided Zenith Bank and its management over what she referred to as unreasonable and deliberate act against the interest of the claimant and the bank’s customers in general.

“The act of the first defendant (Zenith Bank) was unconscionable and detrimental to the goodwill of the claimant and its trade credit with its customers. It was a deliberate and malicious act against the interest of the claimant and the first defendant continues to enjoy the largesse in bad faith,” she said.

The judge also accused the bank of deliberate and nonchalance to the needs of its customer as a banking institution.

“Exhibits C4 and C5 clearly state that the funds to be transferred were to offset part of the claimant’s indebtedness for the importation of dictionaries, but the first defendant was impervious to this need. I therefore find and hold that the claimant is entitled to substantial damages against the first defendant for the injury caused to it.”

Having established that the bank is liable, the court then ruled in the favour of claimant that Zenith Bank breached contract of agreement signed between it and its customer by depriving the claimant access to its fund.

“The reliefs are that the 1st defendant (Zenith) was in breach of contract when on 7th October, 2011 it refused the claimant to draw from its account No. 1012465427 despite the fact that the said account was in enough credit to cover the withdrawals sought to be made on the said date.

“First defendant is also restrained from disturbing or refusing the claimant from operating its account No. 1012465427 in the first defendant’s bank or from honouring the claimant’s transfer or payment obligations to third parties from the said account as long as same is in credit,” the judge ruled.

Real Integrated And Hospitality Ltd was also granted an interest of 15% per annum on the sum of N872,780,552.84 from 7th October 2011 when the Zenith Bank denied the claimant access to the funds in its account which was in credit at that date till judgment.

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