Frauds, undoubtedly, cannot be totally taken away in financial institutions as big as Fidelity Bank, but when such becomes rampant, it gives customers several reasons to worry and probably, have their hearts in the mouths.
This can probably best describe the situation of things with customers of the financial institution that ironically prides itself as ‘we are Fidelity, we keep our word.’ Or do we say the bank is no more keeping the faith as the multi-billion Naira fraud that currently rocked the bank has stained their image and people have continued to doubt the sincerity and honesty in that slogan.
The several banking frauds that have engulfed the financial institution, Fidelity Bank, suggested that the bank has turned out be the opposite of what it claimed to be.
The bank, led by Nnamdi Okonkwo, has struggled to wriggle itself out of several fraud crises. Penultimate weeks, the bank was at the Abuja High Court with African Independent Television (AIT) over a N7 billion debt. Before the AIT issue, the bank has been in crisis with its middle management staff over imbalance in profit sharing where some management and junior staffers were said to have been short changed.
Those middle management staff, who protested their grievance to the management, were consequently fired as a result of their protests. It would be recalled that about a fortnight ago, three staff of Fidelity Bank Plc were arrested by the Police in Lagos for alleged theft of N400,000 from a customer’s cash deposit.
Reliable source at State Criminal Investigative Department, Panti, Yaba, Lagos, said that the bankers collected about N3.5m from the said customer but ended up keeping part of the money for themselves.
Also, in a related development, a manager of Fidelity Bank Plc, Gwagwalada, Abuja alongside two other bank managers were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the 12th of May, 2012 before an Abuja High Court on a 3-count charge of fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, forgery of public sector accounts and obtaining by false pretence to the tune of N25.4 million.
The accused persons said to have allegedly defrauded one Mrs. Juliet Uzor are Napoleon Obaje Adofu, Branch Manager Oceanic Bank (now Ecobank) Karu Augustine Odinawo, Branch Manager Fidelity Bank Gwagwalada, Patrick Onyekachi, staff of Equitorial Trust Bank (now Sterling Bank) Abuja, Reuben Omotayo, staff of FCDA and Abdulmalik Isa Teina, staff of Abuja Geographic Information Systems (AGIS).
They were arraigned alongside two companies, Yombor Ventures Limited and Aicoor Tao Nigeria Limited.
A source revealed that trouble actually began for the bankers when a N25,460.000.00 (Twenty five million four hundred and sixty thousand naira) bank draft payable to AGIS was handed to them, instead of paying the draft into the proper account, they conspired with their friends who are bankers to open a fake AGIS Corporate Account and paid the draft into it. After the draft cleared, the accused transferred the money electronically to the two company accounts from which they made a massive withdrawal and shared the funds.
The latest case the bank is battling with at the moment is between an Abuja based business concern, Exclusive Stores and Fidelity Bank and it is before an Abuja High Court over major fraud involving a manager of the bank. Source reliably gathered that Exclusive Stores has an account with Fidelity Bank in their Wuse, Abuja branch, North Central, Nigeria. The manager (name withheld) has been assigned to Exclusive Stores to collect sales revenue on behalf of the bank for deposit but instead of depositing the money in the client’s account, he was alleged to have pocketed over N100 million for his personal use.
The fraud was uncovered when management of Exclusive Stores wanted to reconcile their account, only to discover that over N100 million was missing. Exclusive Stores had almost closed their account with the bank for lack of trust and has taken the staff involved to an Abuja High Court. The bank it was gathered, has agreed to settle the issue amicably by balancing Exclusive Stores account and returning the Stolen N100 million.
However, Fidelity Bank got into another mess through the President Jonathan conceived Sure-P programme (a programme formulated to appease Nigerians who were at a time agitating for a better government) which had the funds allocating to the programme developing wings in the vault of the bank that is reputed for efficient banking services.
The huge amount of money was said to have been laundered by sons of a very powerful governor with the aid of some of the bank’s top staff. Already, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is expressing worry over constant involvement of commercial banks in aiding cases of money laundering.
It is on record that the government of the affected state appointed Fidelity Bank to handle the SURE-P account which was believed by the people of the state will be well managed.
However, it was discovered that several wire transfers were made from an Abuja branch of Fidelity Bank that ran into billions; and when the transfer was traced, it was discovered that the sons of the governor and their friends have helped themselves with the money with the help of the bank’s top staff. The fund is meant for infrastructural and human capital development of the state under the SURE-P arrangement but the money it was learnt found its way into private accounts belonging to sons and cronies of the embattled governor.
In the process of investigation, the operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) stormed the bank in Abuja and apprehended eight senior staff of the bank who were later detained at the SSS headquarters for days; and the obvious crime is that they aided the fraudulent transfer of billions of naira into the accounts of the governor’s associates.
The source, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, said, “when the SSS refused to release them after days of pressure from top politicians and businessmen in the country, the erstwhile Managing Director of the Fidelity Bank, Mr. Reginald Ihejiahi was instrumental in the staff vomiting confessional statements.
This was achieved when the former MD met with the Director-General of the SSS, Mr. Ita Epeyong in Abuja. It was discovered that the bank actually supervised the distribution of the money.