By Ibrahim Ikowe Jibril
Some customers of First City Monument Bank (FCMB) have accused Officials of the bank of conniving with internet fraudsters to steal their hard earned monies deposited with the bank.
Gavel International’s investigations into the fraud began on October 21, 2020 when on a visit to the bank, some women gathered in front of the Salolo branch along Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, around Alagbado, Lagos protesting that they received debit alerts deducting their monies from their accounts.
Gavel International reporter Ibrahim Ikowe Jibril was able to trace one of the women, Mrs Okiyi Blessing Ifeoma. It was through her that other women who had similar experiences with the bank surfaced. In all he was able to interview four of the women, Mrs Obatolu Veronica, Mrs Oduma Helen Blessing, and Mrs Janet Adebayo. All of them are petty traders.
Their stories were pathetic. For Mrs Okiyi Blessing, the story started when she went to open an account with the bank. “I opened my savings account with FCMB in early 2020. When my grandmother was sick, I needed money to pay for her medical bills but the bank did not allow me to withdraw from my account. They demanded that I produce my National Identity Card before I can withdraw my money. A lady in the bank gave me someone’s telephone number at the National Identification Management Commission (NIMC) office located at Oke-Odo, Lagos. On getting there the man asked me how much I had in the account. I replied that I had N200,000.00(Two hundred thousand naira only). He now asked me to pay three thousand naira for the National Identity Card. After getting my slip from the man, money started disappearing from my account. The first debit alert was for N50,000.00. Second alert N50,000.00., and the next was N49,000 while the last was N10,000.00. All these happened within ten minutes. I am pleading with the bank to restore all money because I believe that there is an insider in the bank that connived with outsiders to defraud me of my hard earned money”. Mrs Okiyi operates a small restaurant beside Alakuko Police Station, Lagos.
The stories of other women were not particularly different. Mrs Obatolu started receiving fictitious alerts on December 18, 2020. N150,000.00 was siphoned out of her account with the same branch of FCMB. Her phone was stolen in her stationery shop at Alakuko. She immediately called her network provider to block her line. This happened on Friday. By the time she got to the bank on Monday, all her monies were gone.
For Mrs Janet Adebayo, she received a call from a person supposedly working with the bank. Perceiving that the person is a fraudster, she started raining curses on the caller. She had heard how other customers of the bank were defrauded. That was her saving grace.
All efforts by these women to approach the bank was rebuffed. Security men prevented them from entering the premises of the bank, hence the protest outside the premises of the bank.
Our reporter, Ibrahim Jibril Ikowe also made efforts to see the officials of the branch but his efforts proved futile. He narrated his experience: “I went to the branch on October 27. When I got to the bank, the branch manager said he was not aware of money disappearing from his customers account. He asked me to invite the woman that spoke to me to come so that he can assist her. He refused to give his full name, he simply called himself Samuel. He further directed me to their headquarters”. I met with the branch manager again sometimes in November 2020. He told me that none of the women came to him. I told him how the security men had prevented the women from entering the bank. He now called one of the staff from down stairs and ordered him to give me his number so that when they come and the man will lead them directly to him. The man gave me number but refused to give me his name.
After all these complaints, Gavel International on January 7, 2021 got in touch with one Mr Rafiu Mohammed of the Corporate Affairs Department of the bank to get the position of the bank on the complaints. He pleaded for time for the bank to investigate the complaints. Investigations revealed that officials of the bank went out looking for some of the customers that were interviewed. They were asked to write out their complaint and it would be investigated.
However, on January 26, 2021, another woman, Mrs Oduma Helen woke up to receive debit alerts on her phone.”The alert one was for one thousand naira. The second alert was for N45,000.00, and the third alert, N14,670.00. The total amount was N60,670.00.
Many other customers, particularly women keep in coming out daily to narrate their experience with the bank.