Abuja High Court Dismisses Falana’s Suit Challenging Polaris Bank Sale
In a significant development on Wednesday, January 24, 2024, the Abuja High Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by prominent human rights lawyer and activist, Femi Falana, against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) concerning the sale of Polaris Bank.
Falana had challenged the proposed sale, alleging a lack of transparency and questioning the sale price.
The court, presided over by Justice Inyang Ekwo, ruled that Falana lacked the legal standing to file the suit, stating that he had not demonstrated sufficient personal interest in the matter to warrant judicial intervention.
Justice Ekwo further upheld the CBN’s authority to oversee the banking sector and its actions in relation to Polaris Bank, highlighting the need for regulatory autonomy in such financial matters.
Falana’s suit stemmed from reports in late August 2022 suggesting the CBN planned to sell Polaris Bank for a relatively low price of N40 billion.
Falana, citing public interest concerns and the bank’s significant debt burden, requested detailed information about the proposed sale and the potential buyer, invoking the Freedom of Information Act.
While the CBN acknowledged his request, the sale remained opaque, prompting Falana to take legal action.
The court’s decision has elicited mixed reactions. Supporters of the ruling commend the court for upholding regulatory independence and emphasizing due process.
They argue that public scrutiny should be balanced with the need for the CBN to operate efficiently and decisively in addressing financial sector challenges.
However, some analysts point out that the dismissal potentially hinders public oversight and accountability in matters of crucial public interest. They express concern that the lack of transparency surrounding the Polaris Bank sale raises questions about fairness and potential irregularities.
Falana has not yet released an official statement regarding the court’s decision. Whether he will appeal the judgement or pursue other avenues to obtain information about the Polaris Bank sale remains unclear.
The saga of the Polaris Bank sale underscores the complex interplay between public interest, regulatory autonomy, and transparency in Nigeria’s financial sector.
The court’s decision, while providing clarity on the legal standing of Falana’s suit, leaves open questions about the details and rationale behind the proposed sale, which are likely to continue sparking debate and scrutiny in the coming days.