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Published On: Mon, Jun 23rd, 2014

Court orders FG to re-establish People’s Bank

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By Ikechukwu Okaforadi, with agency report

A Federal High Court has ordered federal government to take urgent steps to re-establish the People’s Bank of Nigeria, even as it directed last month that government should establish education bank to assist indigent students.

The order was made in a landmark judgment delivered last Friday by Justice Mohammed Idris, in the case of activist lawyer, Femi Falana vs Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mohammed Adoke.

The plaintiff had contended that the People’s Bank of Nigeria was illegally abolished when the law establishing it had not been repealed by the National Assembly, praying the court to order the federal government to re-establish the bank.

While countering the argument, the AGF had challenged the locus standi of the plaintiff and the competence of the suit on the ground that it was statute barred.

In his reply to the objections to the suit, Falana submitted that the doctrine of locus standi has given way to public interest litigation in Nigeria, even as he cited the case of Fawehinmi v The President and several other authorities to back up his submissions.

He said the federal government has acknowledged that poverty was on the increase in the country, submitting that it was unjust to abolish the bank when the Central Bank of Nigeria had recently bailed out commercial banks, collapsed by the rich and it is currently wiping out the toxic debts owed by the same set of few pampered citizens.

Recalling that the People’s Bank was established to cater for underprivileged citizens who could not access loans in commercial banks due to lack of collaterals, Falana pointed out that the federal government abolished the bank while it has continued to fund the Bank of Industry, Infrastructural Bank and others only patronised by the rich.

Upholding the contention of Falana, the judge held that the plaintiff had established his locus standi as a concerned citizen in line with the new trend on legal standing in public interest litigation in Nigeria and therefore ruled that since the People’s Bank of Nigeria Act (Cap P7) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 is a valid and existing law, the decision to scrap the bank by the federal government is illegal and unconstitutional.

He said that as a continuous violation, it is not affected by the Public Officers Protection Act, and therefore, ordered the federal government to re-establish the bank to continue to give soft loans to under-privileged citizens, in line with the provisions of the People’s Bank of Nigeria Act.

In the same vein, the same court had last month ordered the federal government to establish the Nigerian education bank to enable indigent undergraduates to access loans and pursue their degree programmes in tertiary institutions.

The suit, praying for the establishment of the bank, was also filed by Femi Falana, who argued that the bank would assist thousands of undergraduates, who are being forced to abandon their studies on account of school fees, to go back to school.

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