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Data breach: Wema Bank opening illegal, unsolicited ALAT accounts for consumers

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Wema Bank Plc, one of Nigeria’s struggling financial institutions is in the news again for the wrong reasons as some customers of the bank have accused the lender of conducting illegal banking practices in the country.

They said they discovered that the bank and its agents had allegedly been opening unauthorized accounts for customers with information or data in the bank’s possession.

The financial institution, led by Ademola Adebise, has allegedly been opening accounts for some Nigerians on its digital banking platform, ALAT, without their knowledge or consent in a bid to celebrate its 5th anniversary.

While the actual number of unauthorized accounts opened on behalf of unsuspecting Nigerians is unknown, Wema Bank was aiming to achieve “a million accounts in one day”.

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Wema Bank, in a mail, claimed the unauthorized accounts were opened for certain persons “to celebrate with us” despite not informing them ahead or receiving approval to create the accounts.

This illegal banking practice is similar to that of Wells Fargo, a United State bank, which was accused of opening 1.5 million accounts without authorization, with over 565,000 credit cards applied for, allegedly without customers’ consent.

About 5,300 employees at Wells Fargo were sacked for opening the illegal accounts, and the company was fined $185 million by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the United States.

The unauthorized Wells Fargo accounts were only uncovered by the affected persons when the accounts started accumulating debt from bank charges on the unsuspecting individuals.

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Just as the sacked Wells Fargo employees were said to have indulged in fraudulently opening sham accounts to beat target, Wema Bank vendors and marketers may have used the same strategy to achieve the lender’s anniversary target.

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That Wema Bank is expected to also place a financial burden on the unsuspecting persons through account maintenance costs, from which the lender generated about N2.10 million last year, surpassing N1.24 million in 2020.

Recently, Mental Health Advocate, Adebayo Tayo, took to his Twitter account to publicly accuse Wema Bank of opening an account in his name without authorization from him.

Tayo lamented that he never knew he had a new Wema Bank account until his mother contacted him because she received an alert that was intended for him – shocking, how come he owns an account he’s unaware of, and his mom receives the alert.

“I am concerned about how my info had been used by Wema Bank and I need detailed explanations about the account including every transaction it has performed before someone uses my details for an account to launder money or collect ransom, he stated.

Following a probe into Tayo’s claim, this newspaper discovered he was not the only one whose identity was used by the financial institution, to open accounts on its digital banking platform, ALAT, without the knowledge or consent of the individuals.

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Another affected Nigerian is Oyenike Ojo, whose name was used to open an account. However, when money was sent to the account, the alert details showed another name, Oluseyi Bamgboyi as account owner – which means two different names seem to have been used to open one account.

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Ojo’s husband said something was shady about the account, “What I said is, the current name on the account number in my screenshots is not my wife’s name. If you look at that screenshot, the account was opened with my wife’s name and a new account number.

“She also got a credit alert notification via SMS with the new account number. This shows that her details were used to open that account. However, I tried to do a transfer to that account this morning when I read the news only to see that the account name is Oluseyi Bamgboye and not Oyenike Ojo (which is my wife’s name). Something is definitely fishy”, he explained to Ripples Nigeria.

Ojo said his wife has an account with Wema Bank which she hasn’t used for about seven years, and the new account created in her name doesn’t seem to carry the same number as her old account.

He stressed that the unauthorized accounts opened are “definitely an inside job.”, stating, “Customer’s details are compromised and they are being used to open new accounts. Whether by marketers so as to meet targets of the number of accounts opened, or for money laundering, I can’t tell.”

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Ojo asked for an investigation into the illegal accounts opened by Wema Bank, saying the situation is questionable, “How Oyenike Ojo’s savings account opened without her permission has now become Oluseyi Bamgboye’s account is definitely questionable.” Ojo said, expressing his worry.

Another name used to open an unauthorized account, Abimbola Fakoyejo, disclosed that he was still wondering about his unused account on ALAT when he saw a message notifying him that an account has been opened in his name.

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Wema Bank also did not immediately respond to our inquiry on the matter.

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Crime

Army uncovers 40 wells where oil thieves ‘fetch’ crude oil

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The war against illegal oil bunkering and oil theft received a huge boost on Wednesday as troops of the 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt uncovered over 40 dugout crude oil wells in Rumuekpe community, Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State.

The troops uncovered the site during a sweep-and-clear operation on the Trans Niger Delta Pipeline.

The operation was led by the General Officer Commanding 6 Division, Maj. Gen. Jamal Abdussalam.

Speaking to journalists after the operation, Abdussalam said the oil wells, which were about 40 feet deep, were the latest technique employed by criminals in stealing crude oil from underground.

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The GOC described the discovery as an eye-opener for the army in the war against oil theft in the Niger Delta region.

He explained that the miscreants had invented a technique of digging deep into the ground until they reached the crude oil deposits.

Abdussalam stated, “We have been conducting in the past two days and the aim of the operation was to clear the trans-Niger Delta pipeline because we have been receiving complaints from the SPDC of breaches on the TNP and based on that we decided to conduct an operation to sweep and clear the pipeline.

“It was in the course of that operation that we came to this particular location and you (journalists) have seen what we have seen.

“If you are not here, you may not believe what we are seeing. In this area, our troops have discovered more than 40 dugouts and these dugouts are not meant to access pipelines, they are dug out directly into the ground like well and surprisingly have access to crude oil.

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“This is the first time I’m seeing this type of thing. You can see all around us are pits and very deep, you will need ladders to have access to them and at the bottom is crude oil. So, they are just fetching crude just like water from a well.”

The COG described the discovery as saddening.

“It is entirely a new dimension. This is not an issue of pipeline vandalism, this one is digging directly into the ground and having access to these resources,” he remarked.

Abdussalam said he would notify the authorities of the development, pointing out that troops would be permanently stationed at the site to halt the illegal operations at the site.

“I will bring the attention of the relevant authorities to this site so that they can come and see what can be done.

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“But in the meantime, our men would be deployed so that we can stop people from accessing the area because it is even dangerous to the people involved in this because a little fire will kill everyone conducting this dastardly act.

“It is also not good for the system. See how the whole place has been dug out. It is also very dangerous for people who are not even aware of this because they can come blindly at night and fall inside this pit and that is the end.

“We would do the needful; we would not get tired until we rid this area of these criminals.”

He further said some suspects arrested at the scene were still in the custody of the army as investigation continues.

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“Few people have been arrested, they are in our custody, we hope they will give us useful information that would lead to the arrest of others that are involved in this act.”

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Answering questions from newsmen, one of the suspects confessed to the crime, saying the wells belonged to different families in the community.

He revealed that sometimes diggers die in the process of digging the wells when they inhale the smell of the gas, saying they were usually paid about N40, 000 to excavate a well of about 15 feet.

The suspects, whose name was not revealed as of the time of filing this report, stated, “It is owned by the community and not by one person.

“To get oil, sometimes if the place is like here, we dig like 10 to 15 feet. When we dig it and notice that the gas is rising, if you do not run out on time people might suffocate and we bring them out half-dead, but the unlucky ones die.

“When we bring them out, we pour water on them and give them coke. After the gas the oil will come out and another set will come to fetch it after we have finished digging it.”

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NDLEA intercepts ‘single largest’ heroin consignment at Lagos airport

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The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency has intercepted what it described as the single largest heroin consignment at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos State.

The agency also said it had arrested members of an organised criminal organisation that specialises in trafficking heroin across Nigeria, South Africa, Mozambique, Europe, and America in an operation leading to the seizure of the consignment, which weighed 51.90 kilograms on February 12, 2024.

Meanwhile, checks by Press revealed that the seized drugs have an estimated worth of £5,190,000 (N10,365,987,000 at the N1,997.3/£ exchange rate) in street value of £100,000 per kilogram.

The Chairman of the NDLEA, Buba Marwa (retd.), while briefing journalists on Tuesday in Lagos, said the operation was the single largest seizure of heroin at the airport.

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The NDLEA boss said the consignment was concealed in 15 cartons of 2300-watt metal cutting machines and set to be delivered at a warehouse in the Ipaja area.

He noted that there was a parallel between the seizure and the September 18, 2022, seizure of 2,139.5 kg of cocaine in a warehouse in the Ikorodu area of the state, which he described as the biggest singular cocaine seizure in the history of NDLEA.

He said, “NDLEA operatives of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Command intercepted a suspicious package at the SAHCO Import Shed of the airport’s cargo terminal.

“The consignment was concealed in 15 cartons of 2300-watt metal cutting machines. Each carton was stocked with three blocks of high-grade heroin. In total, we recovered 45 blocks of the illicit substance with a total weight of 49.70kg.”

Marwa added after the discovery, the agency arrested a freight agent, Olowolagba Wasiu Babatunde, hired for clearing services by one Mr. Kola resident in South Africa.

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While chronicling the sequence of the operation, the NDLEA boss said, “Next, we conducted a follow-up operation at the company’s warehouse in the Shogunle area of Oshodi, Lagos, and arrested the warehouse manager, whose name is Ajayi Lmole Moses.

“Thereafter, we set up an ambush for the expected receiver of the consignment, who was duly arrested when he showed up for collection. This receiver, whose name is Adinnu Felix Chinedu, confessed during interrogation that he is the main distributor for a drug syndicate whose membership is spread across Nigeria.

“He admitted that he usually conveyed the consignment to a dedicated warehouse located in Ayobo. That place served as a workshop where he would dismantle the consignment and remove the drugs from the machines. Thereafter, he would wait for a list of various recipients to be forwarded to him from South Africa by the head of the criminal group.

“Our operatives did due diligence by conducting a thorough search of the warehouse, which led to the recovery of 56 similar cartons of the cutting machines that were used previously as modes of concealment to ferry heroin into Nigeria. At this point, it was clear that we were dealing with a syndicate that operates in other countries. By the time we were done exploring the various leads we had, we had unraveled an organized criminal network that operates in South Africa, Mozambique, Nigeria, and parts of Europe and America.

He said the syndicate had a wide network in Nigeria because the consignments seized were marked with several codenames, showing that they belonged to different members of the organised criminal group.

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He explained that the agency, during a follow-up operation, uncovered from the suspect a long list of receivers of illicit drugs and was able to identify the kingpin of the syndicate, Reginald Peter Chidiebere, who owned the Golden Platinum Hotel and Suite, located at 16 Reginald Peter Chidiebere Street, Hope Estate, Ago Palace.

The NDLEA boss said several days of surveillance on the hotel culminated in a raid operation on Monday, February 19, in which another drug mule, Igboanugo Thankgod, was found in possession of two parcels of 2.2 kg of heroin with codes similar to the ones found on the seized drug shipment, bringing the total seizure to 51.90 kilograms.

“He readily confessed that he was invited by Mr. Reginald Peter Chidiebere to the hotel on Sunday, February 18, 2024. He was lodged in one of the rooms and was later summoned by the receptionist to meet a guest, from whom Reginald Peter Chidiebere had informed him over the phone to receive a package. This sequence of action was confirmed by a review of the CCTV at the hotel,” he stated.

He said the pre-emptive actions taken against members of the syndicate include freezing a total of 107 bank accounts associated with 14 members of the cartel as well as N119,582,928.31 found in some of the already traced bank accounts.

He added that the hotel and a mansion linked to the head of the syndicate in Nigeria, Reginald Chidiebere, and another mansion linked to the head of the syndicate in Mozambique, Festus Ibewuike, located in the Ago Palace area, had already been marked for forfeiture to the Federal Government.

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He noted the measure yielded further fruit on Thursday, February 22, when a female member of the syndicate and wife of Festus Ibewuike, Mrs Confidence Ibewuike, who is one of those to collect part of the consignment from Adinnu Felix Chinedu, was arrested at the Ago Palace area on Thursday.

He said a search was promptly conducted in their residence located in the Ago Palace area of Festac Town, where a Toyota Venza car was recovered, as well as several documents, including bank and property documents belonging to Festus lbewuike, adding that their mansion in the Ago Palace area had also been marked for forfeiture to the Federal Government.

“NDLEA has shared comprehensive intelligence with our South African counterparts for necessary action regarding the other members of the group living in that country,” Marwa stressed.

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Crime

I’m back to chase killer herdsmen out – Sunday Igboho

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Yoruba nation activist, Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho has said that he is ready to face and chase out killer herdsmen from Yorubaland.

Adeyemo said this in a video that went viral on Tuesday where he was seen addressing some people who were cheering him following the burial of his mother in his hometown, Igboho area of Oyo State.

According to the activist who spoke in Yoruba, the Federal Government and the soldiers deployed to Yorubaland, especially to Ekiti where monarchs were killed in broad daylight cannot combat the supposed killers.

He said, “I want you all to stand with me so that we can liberate ourselves from the herders encroaching on our lands. Let us mount security in all the Yoruba lands ourselves, if not, they will take our lands.

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“We don’t have to wait for the government or anyone. Let’s just work in unison. We cannot farm on our lands because of these herders. And our people are going hungry and angry. We don’t need the soldiers the government claims to have deployed to Ekiti State. We work in accordance with our elders and mount the places ourselves.

“It was my mother that was my fear before but now she’s gone, I have nothing to be scared of again. I am now back to take back our land.”

While faulting the rumour about him working for politicians, the Ibadan-based activist queried if he could be working for politicians and if they would still want him dead.

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“I am not working for any politician. In fact, if I incidentally slapped someone, the government would be ready to arrest me and put me behind bars. I know they are watching me closely now to know my next action but I’m ready to take a step to stop these marauders’ activities in our lands,” he maintained.

Theheute reported in 2021 that Adeyemo escaped from a deadly night raid on his Ibadan residence by the operatives of the Department of State Service.

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He was subsequently arrested in Benin Republic on his way to Germany on July 19 together with his wife, Ropo. Although, he was released in October 2023.

Recently, the freedom fighter returned to Nigeria, ahead of his mother’s burial.

Igboho said the raid on his Ibadan residence was an attempt to assassinate him.

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