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Court orders CBN, Zenith Bank to refund stamp duty three-year deductions

The Federal High Court in Asaba, Delta State, has ordered the refund of the cumulative N50 stamp duty charges deducted from the account of a customer of Zenith Bank Plc and remitted to the Central Bank of Nigeria for over a period of three years.

Justice Nnamdi Dimgba ruled that the continued stamp duty deductions from bank customers were a flagrant violation of the subsisting judgments of the Lagos Divisions of the Court of Appeal and the Federal High Court.

The judge also awarded N2m damages in favour of the Zenith Bank customer, Mr Rupert Irikefe, against the bank and the CBN “for the wilful, flagrant, arbitrary and contemptuous disregard of the law and or jungle actions.”

He also awarded N500,000 against the apex bank and Zenith Bank as the costs incurred by the plaintiff in prosecuting the case.

“This relief is granted to set an example that it is reprehensible conduct to wilfully disobey decisions of competent courts of law,” Justice Dimgba held in his judgment delivered on December 9, 2020.

A certified true copy of the judgment was made available to our correspondent on Sunday.

Irikefe, a lawyer who prosecuted the case himself, had filed the suit on October 15, 2020 joining the CBN, Zenith Bank and the Attorney-General of the Federation as the defendants.

The plaintiff had in his amended originating summons contended, among others, that “the valid and subsisting decisions” of the Court of Appeal, Lagos, and the Federal High Court, Lagos, “found that there was no express provision in the Stamp Duty Act or any law authorising the deduction or imposing any obligation to deduct and remit N50 as stamp duty on teller deposits or electronic transfers of money from N1,000 upwards.”

Upholding the plaintiff’s case, Justice Dimgba noted that Zenith Bank and CBN did not dispute “the fact that they continued with the deductions from the plaintiff’s account as stamp duty charges despite the courts’ judgments.”

He added the plaintiff’s statement of account showed the deductions of N50 and N100 from his account as stamp duties charges from the period of April 24, 2015 to November 30, 2019 despite the judgments delivered in 2016 and 2017.

He noted that the two defendants never placed “any judgment or orders of a superior court overriding the decisions in suits: CA/L/437A/2014 and FHC/L/CS/126/2016 that the plaintiff is relying on, and which authorities empowered them to continue to make the deductions”.

“It therefore means that the 1st and 2nd defendants (Zenith Bank and CBN) continued with the said deductions for about three years,” he added.

The judge wondered why “agencies of the government treat decisions of courts of law with disdain, and carry on as if this decisions were not in existence.”

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