A businessman, Mr. Umegelo Emmanuel has asked a Lagos High Court in Igbosere to compel Zenith Bank Nigeria Plc to pay him the sum of N177, 500, 000 (One Hundred and Seventy Seven Million Five Hundred Thousand Naira) he lost through the bank’s alleged negligence, fraudulent misrepresentation and collusion with Chinese fraudsters.
But the bank asked the court to dismiss the suit on the ground that the defendant’s loss was the result of his own negligence.
In the suit marked LD/ADR/1632/2018, the claimant through his statement of claim dated 23rd February, 2018, stated that he entered an agreement with one Ms. Muna, a Chinese with Nigerian business interests to purchase goods from China.
The claimant opined that owing to his longstanding banking relationship with Zenith Bank, he rejected other Bank’s accounts provided by Ms. Muna for payment and insisted that she must present a bank account maintained in Zenith Bank, which resulted in Ms. Muna presenting the Zenith Bank Account No: 1005689704 with the Account Name: Xian Fang Li. The claimant maintained that he confirmed that the account existed before transferring the sum of N177, 500, 000 into it. But shortly after the money was paid into the account, Ms. Muna refused to deliver the goods and subsequently stopped picking his calls and blocked all his access to her contact.
The claimant stated that he had visited China twice in search of Ms. Muna and had even reported the matter to the Chinese Police and Chinese Embassy but all his efforts to locate the said Ms. Muna has proved abortive
According to him, investigation conducted by the Police in Nigeria showed that the Xiang Fang Li account was fraudulently opened by Zenith Bank without regard to the usual Know Your Customer (KYC) procedure for account opening. The claimant alleged that police investigation reveals that “the utility bills presented in opening the Xiang Fang Li account were fictitious; and the signature of one of the purported referees to the Xiang Fang Li account, Mr. Kazeem Lawal, was conclusively found to be forged by the account officer, Mr. Muyiwa Onigbelusi who opened the Xiang Fang Li account.”
He averred, among others, that the defendant did not cross-check nor verify the true identity of the account holder, the true identity of the referees supplied during the account opening as well as the validity of the account opening documents.”
He further averred that “he was defrauded by virtue of the forgery, collusion and fraudulent practice of Zenith Bank and their staff. He asked the court to grant him the following reliefs among others:
“A declaration that the defendant is negligent and reckless in her duties to the claimant and the public in general.
“An order mandating the defendant to refund the sum of N177,000,090 to the claimant being the sum lost by the claimant due to the negligence of the defendant.
“An order for the payment of the sum of N10, 000, 000 as general damages against the defendant for breach of contract.
“An order of interest at the rate of 15 percent before judgment and 21 percent post-judgment.”
But in its statement of defence, Zenith Bank absolved itself of blame. It said the claimant failed to contact the Bank for possible advice on the alleged business transaction he had with Ms. Muna before paying the sum of N177, 500,000.00 into the said account. It added: “The claimant failed to request a bank guarantee of the alleged sum from or requested that the defendant issued a confirmation or a letter of comfort before dealing with both Ms Muna and Xian Fang Li.
It said it indeed cross-checked and also verified the true identity of the account holder and the customer supplied his International Passport and other sundry documents before the account was opened. The defendant cross~checked, verified and established the ‘identity of the referees supplied by the customer during the account opening.
“The defendant states that the referees exist and one of the referees by name Mr. Kazeem Lawal was arrested by the police. All the account opening documents filled and supplied by the customer were verified and cross-checked to be true.”
No date has been fixed for hearing.