Appeal Court indicted UBA of arbitrary transfer of customer’s N2.2million without consent

The Court of Appeal Lagos Division has indicted United Bank for Africa UBA for acting arbitrarily and taking the law into its own hand when it repatriated N2,200,000 from its customer’s account to WEMA bank plc without the consent of the customer,or Court order.


Consequently, the appellate court in its unanimous decision dismissed an appeal filed by UBA against the judgement of a Lagos high court delivered by Justice S.I Solanke (Mrs.)  describing the appeal as unmeritorious.


Justice Solanke had in a judgement delivered on September 29, 2017, held that the sum of N2, 200,000.00 repatriated from the account of Grace Worldwide Links Limited by UBA was illegal, unlawful and a breach of duty of care owed by the bank to its customer.


Dissatisfied, UBA along with WEMA bank appealed against the judgement and prayed the court to decide whether the first appellant (UBA) is obliged to inform the respondent of its obligation to repatriate the sum of N2, 200,000.00 from the Respondent’s account to the 2nd Appellant (WEMA bank).


Appellant urged the court to hold that owing to the duty placed upon it under Section 6(1) and (2)(b), 9 and 10 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) (the “MLPA”).


In his lead judgment, Justice Gabriel Omoniyi Kolawole held that the appeal is not meritorious and dismissed it accordingly.


Other members of the panel, Justice Joseph Shagbaor Ikyegh (presiding) and Justice Ugochukwu Anthony Ogakwu consented to the judgment.


Justice Kolawole held that there is no provision in the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 which empowers UBA, as a financial institution to unilaterally repatriate monies domiciled in the account of its customer without the latter’s consent or court order.


“My considered view, which I believe to be the correct one, is that not only is the Money Laundering Prohibition Act (MPLA) is inapplicable to the peculiar facts of the instant case; there is nothing on record showing that the Appellants complied with the relevant provision of the MLPA to justify its action in this case. Certainly, it does not accord with right reasoning to hold that the repatriation of funds from the respondent’s account was “an appropriate action” taken by the first Appellant to prevent the laundering of the proceeds of crime when the evidence on record shows that the account in question has already been blocked and the respondent had no access to same.


“While I agree with the Appellants that the MLPA does not prescribe the consent of the respondent as a precondition; in the same vein, I am of the considered view, as earlier stated that the provision of the MLPA cannot be called in aid to justify the Appellant’s action in this case. It is instructive that the learned trial judge made a finding of fact, which I found unimpeachable in the face of the evidence on record, that there is no evidence linking the respondent with the fraud alleged by the appellants other than the fact that the respondent was paid for the goods it supplied to a third party.


“I share the same views with the learned trial Judge that the Appellant took the law into its own hand and acted arbitrarily in repatriating monies from the respondent’s account to the 2nd Appellant in the absence of a court order or approval/consent of the Respondent. A bank has no right to transfer money be it assets or liabilities from one account to the other without prior notice or assent of the customer.


“The decision of the lower court on this issue cannot, therefore, be faulted. I endorse it and order that parties in this appeal queue behind the decision as it is sound and represents the justice of the case. This issue is resolved in favour of the respondent against the appellant,” Justice Kolawole held.


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