Omeli Darlington, a former staff member of First Bank of Nigeria, has spoken about how he was implicated in a fraud of N355million, allegedly carried out by staff of First Bank and Olam Nigeria Limited.
Speaking during an interview with SaharaTV, Darlington broke down in tears, revealing how as a dispatch rider for First Bank Nigeria, Iganmu branch, he was framed as the sole culprit in the fraud.
He said while he was an employee of the bank in 2013, two staff of the bank and another staff member of Olam Nigeria Limited conspired to defraud Olam Nigeria Limited of N355million. He said when problem arose during the transaction, the bank's head connived with the culprits and held him responsible for the fraud.
Darlington, who was a student of the Lagos State Polytechnic when the incident happened, stated that he was summoned by one Mr. Abimbola Jaiyesinmi to dispatch some documents, which he did.
Narrating the incident, he said: “I was a student of Lagos State Polytechnic when I was employed at First Bank as a dispatch rider through a consultant, Sandy Management Consultant Limited, at Festac. I was deployed to Iganmu branch of First Bank in 2010 and was put in charge of everything that had to do with their documents.
“On 25th of September, 2013, Mr. Abimbola Jaiyesinmi, Relationship Manager to Olam Nigeria Limited, one of the customers of First Bank, called me and said he had a document he wanted me to dispatch early that day.
“That morning, Mr. Mike from Olam was talking with Mr. Abimbola and they both left the building. I picked the documents and the first one was a transfer document from Olam Nigeria Limited. I assumed it was brought by Mr. Mike.
“I took it straight to the bank's secretary, whom he directed it to. The branch secretary stamped, signed and entered it into her own register and I had to retain this copy in my own file until when I would drop it for the man that sent me to dispatch it to. I also had to return this copy to him to show that I had already dispatched the document.”
He said he got a hint of the fraud from one Mrs. Kelechi Ogbuehi, who told him that the document he dispatched "has a problem”.
“The whole thing started when I had dispatched the document. I went to three other places. I was at Nigeria Bottling Company, Iddo, when my phone rang. Mr. Abimbola and Mrs. Kelechi Ogbuehi called me and said I should quickly return to the branch that they have other documents for me to dispatch. When I got there, I only met Mrs. Kelechi Ogbuehi at the branch. I dropped all the documents I dispatched, including hers. When I gave her Abimbola’s own including the document that caused the problem, she asked who gave me the document. I told her it was Mr. Abimbola and she immediately said the document had a problem.
“While we were discussing, the manager in the department, Mrs. Mojisola Majasan called me on phone and asked where I was. She asked me to immediately come to First Bank head office in Marina. On getting there, her secretary told me they were in a meeting. I waited from 3:30pm when I got there till 6pm in the evening. Mr. Abimbola came out of the meeting first and asked if I submitted all the transfers in the morning. I said 'Yes', and he told me that if anybody asked me about the transfer, I should say I submitted in error.
“Mr. Abimobola and Mrs. Mojisola Majasan came to meet me and we had a short discussion with the security head. The security head then asked her what he should do. She said I should only say I submitted the document in error. I was handed over to Mr. Abidemi, one of the security personnel, who told me to write a statement on what happened. He was the one that told me that the document I submitted was a fraudulent document. The document contained stamps and signs from Olam Nigeria Limited. The first one was N100million, followed by N80million, the third one N88million and the last one was N87million and everything was N355million originating from Olam Nigeria Limited.”
He explained how he was taken from one police station to another and how he narrowly escaped being kidnapped.
“I was taken to Lion Building Police Station in Ikoyi and he said my boss would come the following day to explain what happened and I was detained in the cell.
"The officer said the documents contained all the information he needed and by the time he finished investigation, if anything concerned me, he would call me. Mr. Abimbola said 'no' and insisted that I should be tortured to speak the truth.
"That was how I was returned to the cell. I was taken there on Wednesday, September 25, 2013. On Friday, 27th of September, 2013, the Investigative Police Oficer, Mr. Elegbede, brought me out of the cell and told me to call my people to come and bail me because First Bank and my bosses refused to assist the Police in the investigation. He called Mr. Abidemi to come, and forced him to sign my bail bond. I was discharged, and Mr. Abidemi said the IPO should retain one of my phones so I can could back on Monday.
“When I stepped out of the station, Mr. Abidemi ran after me and said I should wait for him to call our superiors at the office to inform them. While we were standing, the same van that took me to the station came and Mr Abidemi said we should enter so they can drop me on my way home.
“Suddenly, as we were going, the van just drove off our path, I asked where we were going. They did not answer, so as I brought out my phone to make call. However, they forcefully collected my phone and we began struggling in the van. I was able to stretch my hand to the ignition key and turned off the engine of the van. I eventually removed the key and refused to release it despite the beating I was given by the Mobile Police and the other man. The incident caused major traffic and attracted other people who intervened.
“The people said they should take me to the nearest police station because I was shouting that they were kidnappers. I was taken to the nearest police station that was at the back of Ikoyi Club. I thought within myself that I was safe, but when we got to the station, they told the officers that I was a criminal that wanted to defraud the bank of N355million. I was tortured; iron rod was inserted into my private parts. At the end of the day, I fainted and the officers dumped me in the cell. I was revived by other people who were remanded in the cell. My case was taken up by Inspector Bashiru. I also explained what happened and wrote my statement. Mr. Abimbola also came to write his statement. Later, the IPO apologized to me for the torture I was given. Mr. Abimbola also insisted that I should be detained saying I was the only culprit.
“The police took me to my house in cuffs and could not find anything. I was detained for another week, taken to court and charged for attempted stealing and conspiracy. I could not perfect my bail bond and was taken to Ikoyi Prison where I stayed for two months before my bail bond could be perfected. Then I had to sell all of my properties.”
He lamented that every effort he took to ensure that the matter was properly prosecuted and those who truly committed the fraud were arrested and prosecuted was futile.
“I spoke with some lawyers and one of them who decided to take up the matter said we should start from pursuing fundamental human rights abuse. He wrote a letter to First Bank requesting for help for me to go to hospital, but they declined.
“After that, we went to court. On February 1, 2016, Justice Animahun of Igbosere High Court, Lagos ruled and Mr. Abimbola, Mrs. Mojisola were held responsible by the court for illegal detention and N17.7million was awarded against them, while N500,000 was awarded against the Police station at Ikoyi. At the end of the day, they refused to pay that money and Abimbola and Mojisola went to the Appeal Court.
"On the 4th of December, 2017, the Appeal Court in Lagos dismissed the appeal with extra N100,000 as cost. When it was dismissed, they refused to pay and sent me notice of appeal to the Supreme Court.
“At this moment, I have been running up and down and I have written a petition to the Legal Aid Council of Ministry of Justice in Lagos. Presently, we are at the Supreme Court for fundamental human rights abuse. Now my lawyer sent a motion for dismissal, because they are not doing what they are supposed to do.”
Darlington called on the Inspector General of Police and the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to step in to investigate the matter.
As of press time, all those involved in the case refused to give any comment on it.
When contacted to verify if claims made by Darlington were true, Abimbola was unreachable while Mojisola did not answer her calls. They also failed to response to messages sent to them.
Kelechi, on her part, refused to make any comment on the case, denying having knowledge of the case. When also asked if she remembered Darlington, a former staff of the bank branch, she said “I don’t know anything.”
Frank Mba, Police Public Relations Officer, when asked why Darlington was unable to get his compensation from the Police after a court order, said: “This is a purely legal matter. It is, therefore, my candid opinion that the best person to provide answers to your questions is Mr. Darlington's lawyer(s). I am certainly not a fit and proper person to deal with this.”
He, however, refused to answer further questions, when told that Darlington’s lawyer was asked to get consent letter from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation. The AGF, however, said they've stopped issuing such letters which indirectly means anybody that gets such judgment against the Police can't get their compensation.