Respite came the way of a Nigerian writer, Odafe Atogun, on Thursday, as a Lagos High Court ordered Skye Bank Plc to pay him N10 million as general damages.
Justice Mobolanle Okikiolu-Ighile, in her judgement, held that the bank was negligent when it paid the €6,000 Western Union Money Transfer to an impostor.
The claimant had in his statement of claim dated July 31, 2009 filed by his lawyer, Pascal Ememonu, accused the bank of negligence in its handling of €6,000 sent to him by one Hudson Killeen from Ireland for the purpose of establishing a printing press in Nigeria. But, the bank had in its counter affidavit, contended that the High Court of Lagos state lacks the jurisdiction and competence to adjudicate on the suit being a claim arising from money transfer agreement between one Kevin Fuller and Western Union in the Republic of Ireland.
But, Justice Okikiolu-Ighile, in her judgement, held that Skye bank admitted under cross-examination that the Central Bank of Nigeria (NBN) investigated the matter and found that it was negligent in the course of the transaction.
The court held that the defendant’s witness was not in the banking hall on the November 3, 2008 when the Benin City branch of the defendant wrongfully paid out the 6,000 Euros meant for the claimant to an impostor.
Besides, the court observed that the bank did not produce the Close Circuit Television (CCTV) of the banking hall of its Benin City branch on that day nor did it produce the alleged report of its own investigation.
Justice Okikiolu-Ighile stated that she found the claimant as a truthful witness after watching his demeanour. Consequently, the court awarded the sum of N10 million as general damages and additional N250, 000 in favour of the claimant.
The claimant had stated in his evidence that before sending the money, Kelvin Fuller filled a Western Union Money Transfer from which included questions on the city and country where the money is to be collected.
The claimant added that Kelvin Fuller, further disclosed to him, the money transfer control number and the test questions and answers which would enable him collect the money from any bank operating Western Union Money Transfer in Abuja, only and nowhere else.
However, since Nigerian banks do not offer Western Union Money Transfer to their customers after 4pm and the alleged €6,000 was sent at about 5.28pm Nigerian time, the claimant decided not to go to the bank on the day the money was sent.
But, at about the few minutes past eight the next day, the claimant allegedly went to Ecobank Plc on Ademola Adetokunbo Crescent, Wuse II, Abuja to collect the money only to be told that the said money transfer control number may not exist or may have been used.
The claimant stated that after about two months of continuous enquiry, the Western Union Money Transfer office in Ireland discovered that the said money was paid out at 6.22pm Nigerian time on November 3, 2008, by the defendant’s branch office at 1, Forestry Road Benin City, Nigeria to a wrong person who impersonated as the claimant.
He accused the bank of negligence by paying the money to an impostor at 6.22pm which was outside banking hours, a violation of regulatory guidelines by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He further stated that as a result of the negligence of the bank, his Irish partners have lost faith in him and with Nigerian business environment and consequently terminated his appointment as their representative in Nigeria.