A N200 million suit has been instituted against Access Bank Plc by Image Merchants Promotion Limited, and its promoter, Yushau Shuaib, over an alleged unlawful freezing of the Abuja-based media firm’s four different accounts with the bank in the past two years.
The bank was dragged before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja by the two plaintiffs who had jointly claimed the N200 million as damages for the hardships inflicted on them by the bank with the freezing.
In the suit with No. FCT/HC/CV/0657/2018 filed on their behalf by Yunus Abdulsalam, the plaintiffs are asking the court to declare that the freezing of their account by the bank is unlawful and a clear breach of the duty of care owed them by the bank.
They are also praying for an order of the Court directing the bank to unfreeze their Private, Salary, Operational and Domiciliary Accounts of the company and its promoter with Access Bank Plc.
The award-winning media outfit and its promoter are the publishers of Economic Confidential Magazine and PRNigeria, a public relations firm.
They claimed that their attempt to get the bank to unfreeze their accounts met brick walls each time and later metamorphosed to their solicitors writing the final letter to the bank.
In the suit, Shuaib said that the inexplicable freezing of his account has kept him struggling to meet up with his responsibilities as the breadwinner of his family thereby putting his four children, wife and aged parents in a state of avoidable hardship.
Also due to the inexplicable freezing of the accounts, the company claims that its businesses have suffered the following catastrophic developments: Over 20 employees and volunteers in the payroll resigned their employment because of the inability of the company to access its salary account for the purpose of paying monthly salary; The company has also lost patronage as it can no longer advise clients to pay into the operational accounts knowing fully well no withdrawal could be made to execute the job of its clients.
In addition, the media outfit says that the freezing of its domiciliary account prevented its financial obligations to foreign partners, subscriptions to products, services and professional membership fees. It also added that for the first time since inception, the company’s monthly print edition of the Economic Confidential Magazine could not see the light of the day.
Their solicitors had written a letter dated December 21, 2017 and addressed to the Branch Manager, Access Bank Plc, Plot 1244, Samuel Ladoke Akintola Boulevard, Garki 2, Abuja, and received same day. The bank was informed that failure to unfreeze their accounts within seven days would resort to court action as there has been no official explanation by the bank.
The plaintiffs further claimed that since “the absence of their clients from the public service, Mallam Yushau Shuaib has been the alter ego of Image Merchants Promotions Ltd- the publisher of the widely read Economic Confidential Magazine and whose subsidiary is a leading and multi-international award-winning PR firm, PRNigeria.”
They claimed that from the record of accounts in question, it was clear that the firm has been carrying out legitimate business of PR consultancy with a vast clientele base especially from the security and financial sectors of the Nigerian economy.
The plaintiffs claimed that they asked for an explanation from their mutual account officer as to the lawful justification upon which their accounts were frozen by the bank and that the response was rather evasive, opaque and vague.
Therefore, the plaintiffs applied for an order of the court in directing the defendant to unfreeze the four accounts and also sought for an order of the court in awarding N200 million only being general and exemplary damages against the bank for unlawful freezing of their account and breach of duty of care owed to them by the bank.
In addition, the plaintiffs demanded another N1 million against the bank being the cost of the suit. They also sought payment of 10 per cent of the judgment sum from the date of delivery of judgment until the entire sum is liquidated.
Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for hearing of the suit.