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Trapped ATM Card: Aggrieved Customer demands N50m compensation from Access Bank

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An aggrieved Customer, Mrs Bellonwu Vivian Ebele has demanded N50million compensation from Access Bank and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for oppressive policy which she said has affected her negatively.

Mrs Ebele in a pre-action notice also demanded for immediate reversal of the CBN’s policy that dispossesses victims of trapped ATM card of their cards, which she said is in violation of human rights and the constitution of Nigeria.

Ebele recalled that she went to the Wuse market branch of Access Bank PLC on Tuesday 11th, January, 2022 at about 11:00am to withdraw cash from the Bank’s Automated Teller Machine (ATM) with her First Bank ATM Card. The card was trapped in the machine as a result of the malfunctioning of the machine. The faulty machine was noted by the bank but failed to take steps to prevent customer using the machine, neither did they put notice to that effect.

According to her, in the circumstance she needed quick cash to save some urgly situation confronting her at that time was frustrated because of the system failure. Her plea with Bank to retrieve her card to enable her salvage the embarrassing situation confronting her was rebuffed on the pretext that the extant CBN guidelines on trapped ATM card would not allow for such.

She stressed that due to the unfortunate and preventable situation she suffered great financial losses and psychological trauma.

Therefore she requested that the Access Bank PLC compensate her adequately for the loss.

Mrs Ebele demanded that the CBN policy on trapped or stuck ATM cards in ATM be reversed because it is oppressive, injurious and suppressive to Nigerian citizen.

She demanded compensation of N50million for damages as a result of oppressive policy which has affected negatively, and also the reversal of the CBN’s policy.

Also, she stressed that failure to comply with these demands by the aforementioned banks within 14 days upon service of the notice to CBN will leave her with no other option than to proceed to challenge the policy in court under public interest litigation.

She said,”I’m suing CBN, and Access bank for damages arising from regulation failure and arbitrary policy that is in violation of human rights and the constitution of Nigeria.

“On the early weeks of this January, I went to ATM machine of Access bank Wuse market, (where I had gone to purchase some food items and drugs for my household, including children), as I slotted in my card, the ATM machine made some cranky noise (as trying to power up), and shortly thereafter stopped and wrote/displayed in its Display; “YOUR CARD HAS BEEN RETAINED”.

“I and my daughter, we called the attention of the Access bank’s official at the ATM section to this, he asked that we go inside of the bank and tell the officials there. We did so, went in there and reported to the Customer service manager that their machine had just malfunctioned and retained my ATM card as I slotted it in to make a withdrawal. I requested for retrieval and return of my ATM Card to me.

“To my shock, he told me that they will not return my ATM card to me, but would rather DESTROY IT! I was aghast in disbelief, I candidly explained to the official that my child is sick, I was there to withdraw some modest cash so as to dash to the Pharmacy and procure drugs, and as well also get food items for my household, they should please give me back my Card as I haven’t committed any offence by seeking to withdraw my own money. All the pleas and explanations fell on deaf ears as they remained adamant and rather told me that it was a DIRECTIVE FROM THE CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA.

“He however asked me to wait and see the Bank’s branch Manager and explain my situation to him as he may act in the regard.

“I further waited for well over painful 4 hours, and when the said branch manager eventually got back on sit, I went to him and tabled the issue before him and again pleaded that I be given back my card. Still to my pain and disbelief, the Bank Manager repeated the stance of his Customer service official and told me that he was sorry, they can’t return my card to me, that they will destroy it, and I should go to my bank, (First bank, it was a First bank card), to apply for a new ATM Card. He said it was a Policy directive given to them by the CBN.

“I was left dumbfounded. I told him that in all ramifications, this supposed policy DOES NOT MAKE SENSE; Firstly, it was their equipment, their machine that malfunctioned, failed, (it always does). And instead of them to be apologetic about it, and instead of the CBN to take steps to hold these banks to task by compelling them to ensure their machines work well, they rather transfer and impose terrible burden on innocent User/s, the unsuspecting public.

“I for instance asked them, what happens to my children including the sick child as I begin the journey to my bank, and the process of applying for a new ATM card?

“Who pays for the cost of the trip/s to my bank for this purpose? (And queuing up and taking tally nos in banks COVID-19 lines)

“Who pays for the Issuance Fees for the new ATM card?

“All of these, of course are ARBITRARILY imposed on the innocent User, by a supposed CBN, who is supposed to protect the ordinary people (financial services Users), but who rather leads in abusing them through MINDLESS, INSENSITIVE AND ARBITRARY POLICIES, (as this one).”

Mrs Ebele decried the fact that Access Bank on its part did not display any notice to inform the public of this policy.

She lamented that this mindless and crazy policy of the CBN endangered the life of her sick child, among other implications.

“On the part of Access bank, at no where did they display any notice of this, or take any step or action to forewarn the public of this, to take off the burden of a customer deciding to proceed with a bank’s machine, with full knowledge of any arising situation).

“The difficulties I and my children suffered as a result of this mindless policy by CBN is not what I will begin to go into here, including the life of my sick child that was severely endangered by this CBN’s crazy policy.

“I have taken steps to sue the CBN, and Access Bank. I am approaching the Court to DECLARE THAT THE CBN’S POLICY OF REFUSING TO RETURN AN ATM CARD TO ITS DUE OWNER AND DESTROYING IT, IS ILLEGAL, ARBITRARY AND VIOLATES THE RIGHTS OF THE PERSON/S AS ENSHRINED IN THE CONSTITUTION,” she said.

Mrs Ebele noted that she was going to take the case seriously to fight for justice not only for herself but for countless citizens out there under the yoke of the arbitrary policy.

She said,”I will also seek damages.This case is to ensure that countless citizens out there does not unduly continue to suffer under the yoke of an ‘Arbitrary Policy’, whose reasoning stands commonsense upside down.

“The policy is not even only oppressive, it is highly irrational, and so deserves to be challenged.

“The CBN governor should know that he is not lord over Nigerians and along with his team, should think a policy through before issuing. And especially one as this that has extensive consequences on the lives of many.

“Infact someone who heard my incident, narrated his own, that his mother was on sick bed when he rushed to a bank, Polaris Bank to withdraw money to pay for her treatment when the bank’s machine abruptly siezed and withheld the card. He was put through the same thing i experienced, his mother eventually died. And so it’s been a tale of woes and people are ready to come forward to testify on this.”

Efforts made to speak with the Manager of Access Bank PLC, Wuse Branch was unsuccessful. However, another official of the branch who eventually spoke dismissed the complaints as a non-issue that the bank had acted in accordance with the banking policy made by the CBN.

He further said that it was equally for the safety of customers money, as many people have unfortunately lost their hard earned money through the use of their ATM cards by criminals.

Furthermore, he also disclosed that most cases of trapped ATM card were as a result of damaged card, as well as the use of wrong pin, adding that the destruction of trapped ATM cards is part of the safety measures adopted by not only the Access Bank, but all other banks across the country.

Moreso, he pointed out that in this particular case, where the ATM card was that of first Bank used in Access Bank, there was absolutely nothing they could do to help the situation.

“It is always a daily occurrence, the concern for us is not the cost of these cards, is the protection of the customers money.

“You know there are instances that there are some machines when you use your card, you take your card, people clone your card and go and use it. That is why so many of these cases that we are reviewing, plenty of them, these are the things that happened that if any machine trap your card and you don’t protect your card, these are the things that happened.

“For machine to keep a card there must be an issue. Is not possible that the machine will just look at your face and say you, you are not withdrawing, there must be an issue,” he said.

He cited the CBN guidelines for card issuance and usage in Nigeria, which states that,”Any trapped card in the ATM shall be rendered unusable (by perforation) by the Acquirer and returned to the issuer on the next working day”.

“For those that have even travelled out very well, they will tell you that rules are rules, rules don’t obey your feelings, they are there because a lot of things have happened.

“A lot of things have happened before the rules are set, some of these decisions are not taken by us they are rules that have been made,” he explained.

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