From Okey Sampson, Umuahia
A sort of fire is currently raging in the palace of the late traditional ruler of Umudi in Nkwere Local Government Area of Imo State, Eze Godwin Chukwunenye Duru where two brothers are warring over a financial transaction that went awry. Emeka Duru is a businessman who goes by the business name, Oil Options Enterprises with offices located in Aba and Port Harcourt. He maintains two accounts, a domiciliary and current accounts with Okigwe Road, Aba, Abia State Branch of First Bank, where his half-brother, Chukwuka Duru, works as a staff. By virtue of being his brother, Emeka said he made Chukwuka his account officer and as a result gave all documents concerning the two accounts to him for safekeeping.
Genesis of trouble
Chukwuka, according to his brother, Emeka, continued to be in charge of the two accounts without problem until some years ago when a company, Glass Force Ltd. paid his company, Oil Options the sum of N6, 373,144 which he claimed he paid into the firm’s current account. Emeka said within this period, his younger brother who was a medical doctor fell seriously sick and needed to be attended to by a specialist at University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu. He said it was when he went to withdraw money from the account to finance the treatment of his sick brother that he surprisingly found out that the money had been withdrawn and paid into another account, in two transactions without his consent. Emeka said when he confronted his brother over the said transactions, he allegedly admitted to having carried out the transactions. If Emeka was pained over the withdrawal of the money in his account without his consent, he said he was awfully hurt that his younger brother later died because he could not raise the needed money to treat him.
The businessman said that when he insisted that the money be paid back to his account without hesitation, his brother (Chukwuka) complained to one of their kinsmen, one James Uzoma who mediated between the two warring siblings. According to Emeka, “following Uzoma’s intervention, my brother appealed that I give him sometime to repay the money. Later, Uzoma informed me that Chukwuka had paid the sum of N1. 85m into his (Uzoma’s) account for onward payment to me as part of the said refund.” Emeka said that after the initial payment, all other efforts he made to see his half brother pay the balance of the money have remained unsuccessful.
Seeking EFCC intervention
Emeka said since his brother refused to pay the balance of the money as he promised, he decided to approach the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to seek their intervention. In a petition written by his lawyer, Charles Eduzor to the Port Harcourt zonal office of the anti-graft agency, the petitioner narrated how his half-brother took undue advantage of being his account officer to cause the sum of N6, 373, 144 to be withdrawn from his current account without his consent. Eduzor wrote in the petition: “Additionally, very highly questionable transactions have also been carried out in his (Emeka’s) current account in the same bank. Some of the cases in point are the fraudulent withdrawal of the sum of N6, 350, 000 from the said account, in two transactions showing payments of N6, 000,000 and N350, 000 to one Al Christ Oil and Gas and Dip Gold Nig. Ltd. Ironically, these transactions were not effected by our client.”
Eduzor went on to state in the petition that, “it is important to point out that a withdrawal of N6, 350, 000 was made from our client’s account without any reference to him as it’s required by Central Bank guidelines and banking norms for confirmation of the purported withdrawal.” He added: “Our client instructs us that whatever signature they used to effect the withdrawal was not signed by him as same is obviously forged.”
Domiciliary account allegedly hacked
Emeka, through his lawyer, equally told the EFCC in the petition that his domiciliary account was used to launder foreign currency that ran into several thousands of dollars. In fact, in less than one year, Emeka alleged that the account was used to launder over 400, 000 dollars by persons he never gave authorization. “Our client later discovered that these fraudulent transactions were carried out 28 times on various dates on the account.” These he said were perpetrated using 14 names that were not known to the owner of the account.
The petitioner went further to say: “Meanwhile, no cheque book or withdrawal instruments were ever issued to/collected by our client in respect of his said domiciliary account, hence our client did not at any time sign any withdrawal instrument in respect of the said account.” Explaining more he said: “In addition, he (Emeka) neither gave any oral or written instruction to anybody for the use of the said account whether for lodgment or withdrawal.” Emeka then, through his lawyer, urged the EFCC to investigate the transactions with a view to not only apprehending the culprits, but also exonerating him from the dealings should the anti-graft agency decides to investigate the transactions on its own.
“I noticed from my statement of account that N935, 000 was deposited in my current account by Wise Wing Global Enterprises but I did not receive credit alert,” Emeka said. He added that he equally noticed that someone paid in that amount into his account using the name, Chika Nwobi and that Chukwuka allegedly withdrew the money using Wise Wing Global Enterprise. “All these”, according to him, “were done without my consent or approval and I was alarmed that he (Chukwuka) could barge into my account at will.”
The petitioner’s lawyer went further: “Meanwhile, no cheque book or withdrawal instruments were ever issued to/collected by our client in respect of his said domiciliary account, hence our client did not at any time sign any withdrawal instrument in respect of the said account.In addition, he (Emeka) neither gave any oral or written instruction to anybody for the use of the said account whether for lodgment or withdrawal”. Emeka urged the EFCC to investigate the transactions with a view not only to apprehend the culprits, but to also exonerate him from the dealings should the anti graft agency decide to investigate the transactions on its own.
Similar petitions were sent to Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and First Bank. While the response of EFCC and CBN are being awaited, First Bank in her response signed by the Area Legal Manager, Port Harcourt, Musa Hassan-Tom, said that, from their investigation, the transactions carried out on Emeka’s domiciliary account, particularly as it concerns the one involving Wise Wing Global Enterprises was based on the customer’s instruction. He did not say anything about 13 other names that Emeka claimed were not known to him but whose transactions were routed through his domicilary account.
While the bank is insisting that the signatures on the instructions based on which the transactions were processed were regular and in accordance with the customer’s mandate which the bank relied upon to treat the transactions properly, and cannot therefore be held liable for any refund, it however, advised Emeka to state the specific transactions he is contesting for in the domiciliary account as to make room for further review of the matter by the bank.
In his reaction, Chukwuka, the man at the centre of the storm, denied any wrongdoing. He said all the allegations by his brother were false, adding that whatever transactions that were carried out on the two accounts were done with Emeka’s instructions. But he could not confirm whether he, at any time, refunded N1m-plus to Emeka, through the intervention of one James Uzoma and why he had to do so if Emeka truly authorized the transanctions.
“He is my brother,” he admitted. “But all those things he said about me are false. The issue remains that he gave instructions to the bank and the bank executed them accordingly.” On the issue of the domiciliary account, Chukwuka denied any involvement, adding that his name never appeared anywhere in the said transactions. He insisted, therefore, that he could not be held liable.