Omirhobo Prays Court To Void Sections Of Finance Act 2020
Posted: 24/Feb/2021

Human right activist and lawyer, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, has sued the Federal Government and 38 others at the Federal High Court, Lagos, challenging section 77 of the Finance Act 2020, which empowers Nigerian banks to transfer all unclaimed dividend of public limited liability companies quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, totalling N895.5 billion, to crisis intervention fund.
 
Some of the other defendants in the suit are, the Attorney General of Nigeria, the Accountant General of Nigeria, the minister of finance, the National Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Crisis Intervention Fund, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and all Nigerian banks among others.
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The applicant, who said he is suing for himself and the Nigerian public, argued that creating such crisis intervention funds violates sections 1 (1)(3) (4)(the second schedule, legislative powers part I, exclusive legislative list and part II, concurrent legislative list), 40 and 44 (1)(2)(H)(I) of the 1999 constitution.
 
Omirhobo argued that by the construction and interpretation of the provisions of Section 1(1)(3) of the 1999 Constitution, the Constitution is the supreme law of Nigeria and its provisions have binding force on all the defendants and all persons and authorities throughout the country and that if any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution, the constitution shall prevail and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void.

He insisted that Section 77 of the Finance Act 2020, which empowers the 9th to 39th defendants to transfer all unclaimed dividends of public limited liability companies quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange worth N158 billion and all the unutilised amount in all dormant bank accounts maintained in or by deposit money bank worth N737.5 billion, totalling the sum of N895.5 billion, which has remained unclaimed or unutilised for a period of not less than six years from the date of declaring the dividend or domiciling the funds in bank accounts throughout Nigeria in lawful custody of the 9th to 39th defendants to a crisis intervention trust fund or any Trust, is unlawful.

According to him, such provision is in conflict with the provisions of Sections 1(1)(3), 4, (the second schedule, Legislative powers part I, exclusive legislative list and part ii, concurrent legislative list), 40 and 44 (1)(2)(h)(i) of the 1999 constitution and therefore illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional incompetent, invalid, null and void.

He wants the court to declare that by the construction and interpretation of the provisions of Section 44(1) of the 1999 Constitution, the applicant and Nigerian citizens are entitled to own moveable properties in Nigeria.

Omirhobo also prayed the court to declare that by the construction and interpretation of section 44(1) of the 1999 Constitution, dividends of public limited liability companies quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and unutilised amounts in bank accounts maintained in or by deposit money banks belonging to the applicant and Nigerian citizens constitutes moveable property as contemplated by the constitution.
 
He prayed the court to also declare sections 75, 76, 77, 78 and 79 of the Finance Act 2020, as improper, illegal, unlawful.

He also seeks to get the court to declare as unconstitutional, any attempt by the federal government to compel, prosecute, convict and fine banks and registrars who did not transfer all unclaimed dividends of public limited liability companies quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and all unutilised amounts in dormant bank accounts maintained in or by a deposit money bank, which has remained unutilized for a period of not less than six years from the date of declaring the dividend or domiciling the funds in bank accounts to a crisis intervention trust fund.
 
In a 96 paragraph affidavit in support of the originating summons sworn to by the applicant, he said, the Nigerian constitution guarantees every Nigerian citizen the right to own property. 
 
“The Nigerian constitution frowns at the forceful takeover of Nigerian citizens private properties by the first defendant (FG) without the backings of law and due process of law,” he swore. 
 
Omirhorbo, therefore, prayed the court to restrain the first defendant, her servants, agents and privies from unduly interfering in his properties and that of other Nigerians as it violates the advancement and protection of their business and commercial interests.