A family in Anambra state has demanded a whopping five-million-naira compensation from First Bank following alleged illegal closure of their deceased father’s estate account.
The family who are indigenes of Nanka but resident in Awka, Awka South local government area, Anambra state accused the financial service company of illegally freezing of an estate account belonging to their deceased father, Ezeasor Emmanuel Okeke.
According to the family, the estate account belonged to the deceased and held his pension, death benefits and other personal funds.
In a suit filed by the family, it claimed that the bank unilaterally and deliberately closed the current account of the deceased with a balance of N149,500.90 without the written mandate of the family, the deceased’s next of kin or a valid court order.
The family claimed that, before the closure of the said account, the bank had consistently and illegally been deducting N50 from it as stamp duty charge, adding that the bank foot-dragged and relied on questionable protocols to pay the family the said balance of N149,500.90.
The family, which had the deceased’s wife, Esther Ezeasor and son, Uchenna Ezeasor, as next of kin to the late Ezeasor, disclosed that it approached the bank authority in February 2020 at her Enugu-Onitsha Express branch in Awka having been granted letters of administration over the deceased’s estate by the Probate Registry, at the Awka High Court in Anambra state and requested to be paid the sum of N149,500.90.
However, mother and son, as joint administrators of the deceased’s account said they did not, at any time, authorise the closure of the said account. They described, in the suit filed by their lawyer, Chibuike Okafo, that the bank’s action was premeditated, mischievous and a mere display of power over the family because of their social status and what they called ‘not too bogus purse.’
They claimed that all their efforts to protest and reverse the bank’s action on the said account were fruitless as the financial institution turned deaf ears to their demands.
Narrating their ordeal, the family claimed to have frequented the bank’s Enugu/Onitsha Expressway Awka branch about 15 times between February 2020 and the first week of September 2020, to the detriment of their work, private enterprise and engagements.
They claimed that the financial company had stressed, traumatised, frustrated and wasted their time and resources during those visits, a situation that compelled them to seek the services of human rights lawyer, Chibuike Okafo, for assistance over their travails.
The son, Uchenna, an Awka-based architect, said the family had endured untold hardship in the course of the many visits they made to the bank. He said his business had suffered huge losses due to the bank’s refusal to meet its obligations to his late father’s patronage since February 2020 as he had had little or no time to attend to his clients and execute jobs at his disposal.
They also claimed that the health of Mrs Ezeasor, a pensioner, had deteriorated following the stress of constant visitation to the bank which exposed her to stress, trauma and depression during those visits.
As a result of the failure of the bank to meet its obligation on the account and the unilateral closure of it, the family, through their counsel, resolved that the bank must pay them the sum of N5, 149, 500.90, being compensation for the aggregate loss it incurred in pursuance of the money, including loss of income within the said period, illegal stamp duty charges deducted from the account as well as deterioration in the health of the pensioner wife, Mrs Ezeasor.
The counsel to the family, Barr Chibuike Okafo, reminded that no bank has the power to close any customer’s account when there is still money in it and without the written authorisation of the account holder.
He said that an account can only be closed through a court order where a valid application is made to that regard by persons authorised to make such application.
He maintained that “no person has the right to make mockery of or ridicule the institution of law, in this case, the judiciary; be it accountant general of any state, branch manager of any bank or persons perceived to be in a position of authority.”
Efforts to get comments on the matter from the manager of First Bank, said to be Chioma, as of the time of filing this report, were not successful as she refused to comment on the matter.
Also, the area legal manager of the bank, Chukwudi A. Obiaraeri, proved futile as he did not pick his calls after several attempts.