A former staff of Fidelity Bank PLC, Friday Yahaya, was on Monday arraigned before Justice Hakeem Oshodi of the Lagos State High Court for stealing N40 million in total from several customers of the bank.
Mr. Yahaya was arraigned on a 16- count charge bordering on stealing, impersonation and forgery.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The prosecution counsel, Zainab Ettu, had notified the judge of her willingness to commence trial of the case as she had a witness in court.
Paul Okoli, the prosecution witness, informed the court that “on 3rd June 2014, a petition dated 30th May 2014, signed by one Onovai Oghenevo of Fidelity bank against the defendant (Mr. Yahaya) was assigned to my team for investigation.”
“In that petition, it was alleged that the defendant transferred N20 million from a customer’s account without the authorisation of the customer who is Ifeanyi Okoro. When this was discovered by the bank, the defendant disappeared and was nowhere to be found,” said Mr. Okoli, an operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Mr. Okoli informed the court that “before Mr. Friday was arrested, we interviewed Mr. Onovai from the Compliance Unit, who explained to us in detail what transpired. We then brought the defendant to the office, showed him the petition, he went through same and volunteered to respond in writing. His statement was dated 3rd June 2014.”
According to Mr. Okoli, “we dispatched letters of investigation to several banks including Fidelity bank, Access bank and First bank and we also received correspondences from them.”
“At the conclusion of our investigation, we discovered that the defendant transferred over N20 million from the account of one Ifeanyi Okoye,” said Mr. Okoli.
Mr. Okoli further revealed that “at the time, the customer was not in the country and at the time, the defendant was with Fidelity bank, Aspanda branch.”
“When Ifeanyi Okoye returned to the country and visited the bank with the purported investment certificate issued to him, the defendant had already been transferred to another branch.”
“Mr. Okoye then presented the certificate to the bank, they looked at their system and discovered that there was no such investment with the bank. A call was made by the bank to the defendant to come and explain the transaction and the defendant switched off his phone and disappeared into thin air,” said Mr. Okoli.
The defendant had issued Mr. Okoye a fixed deposit certificate.
“Mr. Yahaya, it was discovered, had also made so many several unauthorised transfers from other customers account to cover up the money he moved from Mr. Okoye’s account.”
“The money moved from Ifeanyi Okoye’s account was transferred to one Peter Arikhan. We extended our investigation and discovered that the Peter Arikhan is a 17- year-old boy who stays in the same area with the defendant and plays football with him,” said Mr. Okoli.
“The defendant had opened the account for the boy and was running the account by himself including the ATM card and all the transactions in the account was made by the defendant.
“In some of the transactions there were account to account transfer, in some other he was making a partial withdrawal from the fixed deposit account. The defendant got a transfer form which he filled and forged the signature of Mr. Okoye,” Mr. Okoli said.
The counsel to the defendant, C. J Jiakeollo, told Mr. Oshodi that “the defendant had gone far in trying to settle the matter as the defendant had paid N8 million with intentions to pay all the money.”
Mr. Jiakeollo prayed the court to adjourn the matter as “any cross examination may destabilise the system as they were seeking for a soft landing.”
Mrs. Ettu confirmed the effort made by the defendant in trying to pay back the said sum, but also acknowledged that “we went on to trial because we have given them enough time to come up with something and they weren’t forthcoming.”
Mr. Oshodi adjourned the case to 4th July 2017 for continuation of trial and cross examination of the prosecution witness, while also stating that the defendant will continue on his bail terms.