Account Freezing: You Met the Wrong Person — Barr. Agbasiere Tells Access Bank

Account Freezing: You Met the Wrong Person — Barr. Agbasiere Tells Access Bank

By Izunna Okafor, Awka

Barr. Anthony Kelechi Agbasiere has condemned and frowned at the rate at which banks unlawfully freeze customers' accounts in Nigeria, without being cautioned challenged or lawfully dealt with.

Barr. Agbasiere, populary known as the Celebrity Barrister disclosed this to newsmen in Awka, Anambra State capital, while sharing his banking experience and litigation with Access Bank Plc.

Giving a background of the case, he narrated that Access Bank Plc. unexpectedly froze his account last year, without giving him any notice. The bank, he said, claimed it acted in adherence to a purported ex parte order it claimed to have to received from one Supreme Magistrate Court, FCT, Dutse, dated September 1, 2020, and addressed to the Operational Manager, Access Bank, Central Area, Abuja.

He narrated that after several stressful but unsuccessful attempts to withdraw from the account or have it unfrozen, he consequently filed a suit in March 2021 against the Bank, challenging its action, on the ground that not only was he not notified before the freezing of the account, but the purported court order also appeared ingenuine, and unlawfully issued, in every sense of it. 

Highlighting some of the flaws spotted in the purported court order, Barr. Agbasiere observed that the said order, which was not signed by a known Magistrate, erroneously bears High Court stamp, and was said to have been obtained from one Supreme Magistrate Court FCT Dutse, Abuja, which is a non-existent court of law, in addition to other flaws that he spotted that make the said order appear less credible and unlawfully issued.

He further explained that the court, on Monday, July 19, gave judgement in his favour on the matter.

According to him, "In its judgement on the suit, with the suit No. A/MISC.96/2021, presided over by Hon. Justice Chukwudi Okaa of the State High Court sitting in Awka, the court held that the action of the  Bank, freezing my account was unlawful, unconstitutional and a breach of Fundamental rights guaranteed by section 44 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999."

He also stated that "The court also ordered Access Bank to unfreeze the account and/or remove forthwith the post No Debit Order placed on my account and pay me a sum of N3,000,000 (Three Million Naira) as damages and N100,000 as cost.

The Celebrity Barrister, however, confessed that he was shocked that after serving the Bank with the court judgement and even giving them some days and money to go and verify the authenticity of the order (as they requested of him), the Bank still went ahead and disobeyed the judgement and the order of the court by not defreezing his account and not endorsing his cheque when he went to withdraw from the account on Friday, which was about five days after the court delivered the judgement.

He revealed that although the Bank filed a Stay of Execution in the court  after receiving the judgement (which obviously may not have been granted by the court, as at the press time), the areas covered in their request in the Stay of Execution are the N3,000,000 damages and the 100,000 the court awarded against them, and not on the area of unfreezing his account, which was even one of the major things contained in the court judgement, and which was meant to be obeyed 'forthwith' as the court directed in its judgement last Monday.

He therefore argued that the Bank has no reason or justification whatsoever to still have his account frozen with the Post No Debit order, since last year.

Agbasiere told newsmen that after delaying and stressing him for almost five hours in the banking hall, the Bank ended up turning down his withdrawal request and bounced back his cheque into his hands with the inscription "...Matter still in the court..."

He said the bank insisted that it will not obey the court judgement until it hears from its legal team, a response, he noted, sounded demeaning and daring to the court.

"They don't really know what they are doing. They are disobeying court judgement, a High Court for that matter," he said, adding that "this is how banks frustrate and unlawfully freeze accounts of their customers, and even threaten to arrest or deal with the customer, for no just cause."

"This is what Access Bank wants to try with me, but I must show them that they met the wrong person. You are dealing with the wrong person, Access Bank; I tell you, you are dealing with the wrong person," he added.

He said his major reason for seriously pursuing the case with the bank was to enlighten the populace on their rights, and to serve as deterrent to other banks that do similar thing to their customers, especially to those who may not have the boldness or what it takes to challenge them.

Advising individuals who may experience or may have experienced similar unlawful treatment, the legal luminary said, "I know there are many victims who may experience or may have experienced similar unlawful treatment as this. My advice is that peoople should start enforcing their rights and stop dying in fear and silence."

"If you feel that your right has been trampled upon, challenge it, and don't die in silence, because if we don't challenge these things, our society will never get better. A situation is better when openly challenged and tested. Always defend your rights," he added.

All efforts made to reach the Manager or any top-ranking official of the bank proved abortive, as they all declined to speak with press.