On January 20, 2021, when the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) published its first set of stories, the ambitions were clear.
Among many other things, we had said we would be independent; we would not operate for pecuniary benefits; we would combat injustice; we would hold power to account; we would speak for the voiceless.
We were sure of what we wanted to do, but we certainly could not say we were sure of the impact to expect. And to our most pleasant surprise, one of the numerous impacts of our work is the recovery of funds for members of the public who lost them in unjust circumstances, such as police extortion, illegal bank deductions, double debits or services paid for without receipt of value.
In our first year, funds recovered by FIJ while covering money-related injustice totalled N16,668,674. However, in our second year — January 20, 2022 to January 20, 2023 — the figure rose to nearly double the first year’s: N30,292,361. What more? All recoveries were done without receiving a kobo from the beneficiaries.
Here’s a rundown of 10 of FIJ’s biggest fund recoveries of the last year:
N2m —AND AN APOLOGY — FROM THE POLICE
This was just seven days ago. Kwara policemen attached to the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID) had accosted James Karunwi, a forex trader, and his friends in Ilorin, forcing him to transfer N2 million to a Point of Sale (PoS) merchant from whom they collected cash.
READ MORE: How Kwara Police Extorted N2m From Forex Trader Who Committed No Crime
The policemen did that after forcefully going through their phones and finding mentions of money in Karunwi’s chat conversations with friends.
After FIJ wrote about it, the police invited Kaunwi over, returned his money and appealed to him to forgive the erring policemen.
THE COCONUT BUSINESS THAT COULD HAVE CRUMBLED
In truth, Muibat Olayemi, a Lagos coconut trader, did not deny that she may have compromised her account when she let a third party have access to her phone, resulting in the withdrawal of N190,000 from her First Bank account.
However, her son Jamiu subsequently told the bank he wanted no one else to have access to his mother’s bank account; he asked the bank to deactivate the USSD and internet banking services on the account.
READ MORE: First Bank Asked Customer to Unblock Her Account, Then N900,000 Vanished
“I told them that the account should be locked and only my mother should be able to make withdrawals at the bank,” he told FIJ. “So, I was surprised when my mom called me to tell me that her remaining funds had been deducted from the same account.”
The second deduction totalled N905,000. Jamiu and his mother knew they were liable for the first loss, but not the second. The bank was not going to refund the money, though, until an avid FIJ reader who witnessed the coconut seller’s cries inside the banking hall directed Jamiu to newspaper.
FORGOTTEN 2M DEBIT RESURFACES
In October, Adewale Mustapha, an FCT-based visual designer, recalled how he received debit alerts of over N2 million from his United Bank for Africa (UBA) account for a Sportybet transaction he never initiated.
“To my surprise, when I spoke with the bank’s customer care representative on Sunday, the lady who attended to me told me to forget about the stolen funds,” she told FIJ when reporting the matter.
He visited a UBA branch at Area 8, around Chicken Republic, in Abuja the following day and was asked to fill and sign a complaint form. There, the branch manager informed him that the transaction was carried out on a mobile application and nothing could be done until she got feedback from the fraud department.
Two weeks after FIJ reported it, Mustapha got a refund.
N2.8M BUT NO CAR FROM AFIALINK
It was meant to be a smooth transaction. Mohammed Inuwa, a Lagos-based consultant, paid N1.280m to Afialink International, an auto company, for a 2009 Pontiac Vibe in April 2021.
He subsequently paid another N1.570 million for the upgrade of the Pontiac Vibe to a 2015 Honda Accord.
But car or money, he got nothing in the end — until FIJ wrote about it.
Was that what you just screamed? That’s what we did when, for the second time in a week in May 2022, a customer complained about paying Afialink for a car without getting one.
Obinna Victor, a Canada-based Nigerian, told FIJ he paid Afialink N2.9 million for the purchase and shipment of a Blue Hyundai Sonata back in July 2021. He had made an initial payment of N950,000, before adding N1.75 million and then another N1.15 million for the clearance of the car from the port.
By May 2022 when the story was published, he had paid a total of N2.9 million witout getting a car. He got a refund a day after FIJ’s story.
A FRAUDULENT CAR DEALER PROTECTED BY THE POLICE
In February 2022, Sokunbi Damilola, an Abeokuta-based aluminium fabricator, told FIJ how Mohammed Seedu, a car dealer, influenced the Ogun State Police Command to detain him and his friends after defrauding him of N3 million.
Damilola had told FIJ Seedu was well-known to the police in Ogun because he was the one who helped most of the officers, including Abimbola Oyeyemi, the state’s police spokesperson, get their vehicles.
He met Seedu in September 2021, after one of his church members, who is also a police officer, introduced him as a reliable car dealer. He opted for a vehicle worth N3 million.
READ ALSO: Ogun Police ‘Protect’ Serial Fraudster Who Scammed N260,000 From Lecturer
On September 8, 2021, Damilola journeyed to Coutonu, Benin Republic, with the dealer to get his car. He was told to send N3 million to a certain bank account, and return to Nigeria. Once Seedu got the money, he stopped answering Damilola’s calls or replying his chats. This went on for four months, until FIJ wrote the story. Damilola would later get his money, but it was in installments.
19 MONTHS OF ACCESS BANK ‘SITTING’ ON CUSTOMER’S N2.2M
This was the longest-running of all profiled cases until FIJ’s intervention.
July 28, 2020 was the date Jerome Madunezim, an Access Bank customer, made a $7,451 transaction using his Access Bank Visa card and was debited the naira equivalent of ₦900,000 and another ₦200,000, totaling ₦1.1 million. Surprisingly, he was, in addition, left with a -₦2.2million balance.
Jerome visited the Access Bank Branch on Okpara Avenue in Enugu on August 10, 2020, to lodge a complaint. The bank promised to resolve it in 45 working days, but this did not happen.
He returned to the branch on November 3, only to be told to wait another 30 days. When he returned on December 3, he was finally told he was debited for a successful transaction. He insisted he never made such a transaction.
READ MORE: 19 Months After, Access Bank Fails to Resolve Wrongful ₦2.2m Deduction From Customer’s Account
In December 2020, Jerome got a lawyer who wrote a series of letters to Access Bank to demand a reconciliation of the account, but the bank did not respond. He went ahead to sue them, but they didn’t show up at the court. This went on for two years. However, 12 days after FIJ published the story, Access Bank chalked the N2.2m off.
The last day of 2021 could have also been Bankole Clement’s last! The Ibadan resident woke up happy to see New Year’s eve, but he soon started receiving debit alerts for transactions he never carried out. By afternoon, N2.95 million had been deducted from his Guaranteed Trust Bank (GTB) account.
READ ALSO: Murdered OAU MBA Student Timothy Adegoke to Be Buried on Saturday
“I’d been hearing stories of people getting debit alerts for transactions they did not carry out, but I never thought it could happen to me, being a very careful person,” he subsequently told FIJ.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes when those debit alerts started coming in the afternoon, at past one. At that moment, I could neither think straight nor immediately fashion what my next line of action should be.
“Suddenly, I found myself on the bathroom floor, and in a pool of water. I also heard people shouting my name from a distance not too far from where I was lying. When I eventually looked around, I saw that people were praising God on my behalf. I had indeed fainted as a result of the development.”
READ ALSO: N2.95m Vanished From GTB Customer’s Account. He Fainted
Bankole would later visit the closest GTB branch to his residence, where he was told he only had a little over N9,000 as balance. He was given a dispute form to fill, but by the end of January, there had been no got any favourable feedback from the bank.
Four days after FIJ’s story, Bankole was invited by some senior officials of the bank to its Dugbe office; and 18 days later, he got a refund.
WHEN TRAVELSTART ‘REFUSED TO START’
London-based Nigerian Olayemi Durotimi booked three flights via Travelstart, an online travel agency, in October 2021 but asked the agency to cancel them in December 2021 after the United Kingdom imposed a Covid-19 travel restriction on incoming and outgoing Nigerian flights.
She asked Travelstart to deduct their administrative charges from the N746,836 payment, if they wanted, and refund the rest. That never happened for the next five months, prompting Durotimi to lodge a complaint with FIJ.
Fourteen days after FIJ’s story, Travelstart refunded her.
FOUR YEARS OF DENIAL BY NIGER INSURANCE
Lagos-based pharmacist Muonyililo Gregory was helpless for all of the four years during which Niger Insurance PLC defaulted in the payment of his N386,498 after the maturity of his plan.
Gregory had subscribed to a three-year insurance plan with the company in October 2015, the plan reaching maturity in September 2018 as he put N10,000 monthly into the life insurance and savings policy plan for three years.
Form 2018 until 2022, all he got from Niger was promise after promise. Two months after FIJ intevened with a story, he got his money.
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