Suspected thieves have emptied the Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) account of Mrs. Akusinanwa Ugomma after stealing her phone.
Ugomma, a trader at the Isolo area of Lagos State, has appealed to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to come to her aid and help her recover her N354,755.51, deposited at GTB, Isolo branch, Lagos State.

The woman has blamed GTB for her present ordeal, insisting that if the bank had blocked her account when she alerted them about the theft of her phone, she wouldn’t have lost her money.

Ugomma said she had been painstakingly saving all her earnings from her petty business, until it was over N300,000. The woman said the money was siphoned from her bank account 0017028090 on July 11.

She claimed that all efforts to recover the money failed, while GTB management had blamed her for the entire situation. When Ugomma realised that to get the money was becoming tougher than she expected, she ran to the International Centre for Human Rights Non-Violence and Safety Awareness, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), soliciting help.

Remembering how she lost her money, Ugomma said: “It was on July 11, about 2.30p.m., I was in my shop and slept off. Someone came in and stole my ‘Samsung J3’ mobile phone. When I woke up and noticed that my phone was missing, I reported to GTB, Isolo branch. At the bank, one of the customer service personnel, named Stella, attended to me. I narrated how my phone was stolen and demanded that my account be blocked immediately.”

Ugomma alleged that despite repeated pleas that her account should be blocked, the customer service lady, Stella, refused to heed her pleas.

She said: “Stella insisted that I must formally write a letter of authorisation to the bank, instructing them to block my account. She also said that I should report the case to the nearest MTN office.”

While this drama was going on, Ugomma begged Stella to check if her money was still intact. Stella checked and confirmed that the money was still there.

Ugomma said that she would have written the letter, but didn’t go to the bank with her eyeglasses. She added: “I cannot write without my medicated glasses. I rushed out of my shop after discovering my phone had been stolen. I pleaded with Stella to block the account temporarily; I didn’t want my money to be withdrawn. Stella reassured me that my money was still intact that nothing would happen to my money before I bring the letter.”

Ugomma left for MTN office on Ire-Akari Road, Isolo, hoping to block her phone. Unfortunately MTN officials were on strike.
She said: “I tried to use my ATM card to withdraw but to my shock, I found out my money, N358,000, had been withdrawn. I returned to the bank to tell them I couldn’t withdraw. I was told that my money had been transferred to five different banks – Skye Bank, Sterling Bank, FCMB, Diamond Bank and Fidelity Bank. I was advised to report at the nearest police station. I went to the Aswani Police Station. I was given bankers order to take to the headquarters of the five banks.”

Ugomma said that it had been four months now since the incident and GTB had allegedly maintained a nonchalant attitude towards her plight.

The Chief Executive Officer of International Centre for Human Rights Non-Violence and Safety Awareness, Sarah Ene Unobe (a lawyer), petitioned GTB, accusing it of negligence, conspiracy and stealing, criminal breach of trust and fraud. She insisted that the bank must refund the stolen money and pay N5 million damages.

However, through its legal department, in a letter dated October 4, signed by Florence Okoronkwo and Onagite Efere (both barristers) the bank absolved itself of any blame.

When contacted, the media consultant of GTB, Mr. Cornelius Onuoha, exonerated the bank.
He said: “The bank cannot close or block any account without the written authorisation of the owner of the account. So what did GTB do wrong?”

The bank’s legal representatives alleged that Ugomma was being economical with the truth.

“Contrary to your allegation, your client, Mrs. Ugomma, was advised to provide the bank with written instruction to enable the bank restrict her account, but she declined. Also, your client’s account was neither checked by the customer service representative nor was she given any assurance of the funds in her account being intact, considering the fact that your client refused to speak with the bank representative,” they said.

Countering GTB, Unobe said: “GTB said Mrs. Ugomma did not speak with a customer service representative, and the same bank is saying that she refused to write and place a call to the bank’s contact centre. We find it very interesting; who then told her to write an instruction and place a call which they claimed she declined to do? Is there a ghost in their bank? It’s obvious that GTB is covering this act and turning a blind eye to conspiracy and negligence of its staff. We found out that Stella has been transferred from the Isolo branch.”

Unobe demanded that an unedited CCTV footage of July 11 and 12, 2018 be submitted to the police for further investigation.
It was further learnt that the police had arrested and charged two men to court over the case. The accused are Femi Isedowo (21) and Ikechukwu Okon (22). The men, according to the police, masterminded the theft of Ugomma’s phone and part of the money transferred into their accounts.

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