An Ikeja Magistrate Court has ordered the Chief Executive Officer of Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe, to appear before it over alleged ‘fraudulent withdrawals’ from the bank account of the Provost of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Gbemiga Ogunleye.
Documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES revealed that the bank chief was summoned following a motion filed by the lawyer to Mr. Wigwe requesting that his client’s name be struck out of the suit filed by Mr. Ogunleye.
Mr. Ogunleye’s lawyer, Ayodele Olaniyi, had demanded that the bank CEO appeared before the court over an alleged N292,931 ‘fraudulent withdrawal’ made on his account by an unknown third party between 2014 and 2015.
The ‘Fraudulent Withdrawals’
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that between November 30 and December 1, 2014, the sums of N73,234, N73,234 and N146,461 were withdrawn from the account of Mr. Ogunleye by an unknown person without his knowledge, consent and approval either by issuance of cheques or otherwise.
When he lodged complaints at the bank, documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES revealed that he was asked to fill a form and subsequently told to await the bank’s investigation into the matter.
Three weeks after his complaint in January 2015, three other withdrawals were made from Mr. Ogunleye’s account in the sum of N146,818, N73,592, and N73,592.
When contacted, documents show that the new withdrawals were reversed but the ones effected earlier in November were not reversed.
When Mr. Ogunleye reported at the headquarters of the bank, he was told that the outcome of the investigations revealed that he either made the withdrawals with his ATM in the United States or gave his pin number to a third party who made the withdrawals in the U.S.
He subsequently wrote the bank and Mr. Wigwe, explaining that he did not travel to U.S around that period and provided his passport as evidence.
According to Mr. Ogunleye, neither Mr. Wigwe nor the bank provided any response to his letter. He later dragged the bank and its CEO before the Lagos State Magistrate Court.
Details of an ordinary summons dated June 2016, which was seen by PREMIUM TIMES, revealed that Mr. Ogunleye sued the bank as first defendant and the CEO, Mr. Wigwe, as the second defendant.
He also demanded a refund of his money and the prevailing interest rate that ought to have accrued to the account, among other claims.
The claims, according to the documents seen, include N293, 931 as the amount to be refunded; N2.5 million as special damages; N2.5 million as general damages; N500,000 as professional fees; and N75,000 as filling fees.
But reacting to the suit, Olubukola Fiola, solicitor to the second defendant objected to the suit filed by Mr. Ogunleye’s lawyer. He claimed that the bank chief only acted as an agent of the bank and should not be included as a party to the suit.
In an affidavit deposed to at the Lagos State magistrate’s court in Ikeja, he contended that Mr. Wigwe had nothing to do with the case and his presence at the court was unnecessary.
In his ruling of September 1, 2016, the magistrate, T. O. Shomade, held that Mr. Wigwe, identified as the second defendant in the suit, was an “…employee of the 1st defendant (the bank) and not an agent.”
He ruled further: “The particulars of claim of the claimant (Mr. Ogunleye) confirmed that the claimant has locus standi to sue the 2nd defendant (Mr. Wigwe) as the particulars of claim disclosed on cause of action.”
He however referred the parties to the Lagos State Multi-door Court House, Igbosere.
Stalemate at Multi-door Court House
In the ruling, the magistrate held that the case be mentioned on January 13, 2017. But more than a year after the case was transferred to the multi-door court, PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the case has not been resolved.
Speaking to our correspondent on telephone, Mr. Olaniyi said his client, Mr. Ogunleye, has resolved to refer the case back to the court as no consensus was reached between the parties.
“At the multi-door court, they (the bank) offered to refund the money and pay N50,000,” he said.
The gesture, he said, was considered insulting by him and his client given the number of years and resources the issue has consumed.
“The issue has lasted for about four years and at every sitting in court, you (referring to Mr. Ogunleye) have to pay the lawyer his professional fees. It is not even about the money but the dignity with which corporate bodies should treat their customers.
“From your (referring to PREMIUM TIMES’ reporter) interaction with them (the bank), you must have seen the lackadaisical way they treat people; it shouldn’t be so and we set out to make this serve as deterrent to others,” he noted.
The complainant’s lawyer, however, explained that though the court has not fixed a date for Mr. Wigwe to appear before it, a date would be fixed once the matter fully returns to the court.
Access Bank keeps mum
The management of Access Bank has however kept mum over the issue. In January when PREMIUM TIMES contacted Abdul Imoyo, the spokesperson of the bank, he promised that he would investigate the matter.
The next day, he explained in an interview with our correspondent that the withdrawals had been reversed immediately it was discovered. But when PREMIUM TIMES informed him that the initial withdrawals were not reversed and it had culminated in a long-drawn legal battle between the bank and Mr. Ogunleye, he promised to get back to this newspaper.
More than two weeks after the promise, Mr. Imoyo has failed to provide any response to this newspaper despite repeated reminders.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: A different person was named as solicitor to Mr. Wigwe. That error has been corrected).