Justice Daniel Osiagor of a Lagos Federal High Court, today, ordered First Bank Plc and Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) to pay a total sum of N2,520,000 to a lawyer and activist, Johnson Odion Esezoobo, whose law firm’s account was unlawfully frozen over false tax default of N54 million.
Justice Osiogor, made the order while granting all the reliefs sought for by Barrister Esezoobo in his fundamental rights enforcement suit brought against First Bank and FIRS.
Barrister Esezoobo had in his suit marked FHC/L/CS/1736/19, asked the court to order both First Bank Plc and FIRS to defreeze and release forthwith the restriction placed on his law firm’s bank account domiciled in Shomolu branch of the bank.
He claimed that FIRS illegally froze the law chambers’ account on allegation of tax default in the sum of N54, 639, 286. 48 million, which were never communicated to him and without due process of law.
He therefore asked the court to order a declaration that the FIRS and First Bank’s action and continuous freezing of his law firm’s current account No. 2005033924 of J. Odion Esezoobo & Co., Destiny Chambers and domiciled in First Bank, Shomolu branch, by placing a lien on the said account without notice upon an allegation of tax default in the sum of N54, 639,286.48, which was never communicated to him is an unlawful deprivation of his fundamental right to his private property guaranteed by Section 44 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
He also asked the court to set aside FIRS’s claim of N54, 639, 286. 48 million and the purported penalty of N100,000 together with additional penalty of N5,000 for six years as unconstitutional illegal null and void.
The lawyer also asked the court for “an order for payment of N50 million, being exemplary damages against the FIRS and First Bank Plc, jointly and severally for unlawful deprivation of his fundamental rights.
Both the First Bank Plc and FIRS in their opposition to the suit, have asked the court to dismiss the suit for lacking in merit.
However, Justice Osiogor while ruling of the respondents’ preliminary objections sometimes in June, dismissed same for lacking in merit.
Delivering judgement in the suit today, Justice Osiogor granted all the reliefs sought for by the lawyer.
The also awarded the damaged cost of N2.5 million and the sum of N20, 000, for cost of instituting the suit against First Bank Plc and FIRS, jointly and severally.
Responding to the judgment, the applicant, Barrister Esozoobo, while commending the the judge said: “what the judgment has done is to rescued me from the banditry’ of executive, because with a tax liability of N54 million is to be put a tag on me, nobody will price me for N54 million”.