By Abdulwahab Abdulah
Lawyers in the country yesterday bemoaned the unavailability of any law that regulate the operations and transactions of business on Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs), by banks.
The lawyers and other stakeholders who at an interactive discussion, Section on Legal Practice (SLP), at the on-going Nigerian Bar Associationâ€™s Annual General Conference in Lagos, insisted that it was unacceptable for the management of the banks to introduce ATMs without any corresponding law to safeguard the interests of customers when disputes arose.
At another session, Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL), lawyers were put under searchlight over alleged unethical practise, especially the one that border on their alleged antics in aiding some criminals in committing frauds.
At the presentations made at the SPIDEL section, it was argued that the time had come for the stakeholders to take urgent steps to address the growing ATM fraud in banking transactions across the country, so as to enable victims to seek redress in court.
The SLP session with a theme, â€œATM fraud- the bank, the customer and the service provider â€“who is liable for the loss? ” was chaired by Mrs. Toyin Adegoke, a lawyer.
It was agreed that the ATMâ€™s introduction has been lauded by Nigerians, but customers have been crying fouls on how their cash is looted through the ATM, without their knowledge. On many occasions, banks have been blamed for such fraud, while customers also accused of exposing their secret codes numbers by the banks.
A Kano-based Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, who was the lead speaker for the event, narrated his experience, the risk involved and told the audience that there was the need for the enabling law to regulate the affairs of ATM.
He said, â€œI wish to inform this audience that my experience in the use of the ATM is noteworthy. Sometime ago, I received a mail asking me to update my ATM by sending details of my account. But I ignored it.
â€œAnd when I later inserted the ATM to withdraw some money, my card refused to come out. I was afraid, thinking that my inability to forward my account details was responsible. I later called an official of the bank, who allayed my fears and said that the development was not due to the message.
â€œThere is the need for the stakeholders to make law for the victims of the ATM to seek redress I court. One of the ways forward is for the Nigerian banks to fully deploy the latest electronics e-payment gadget that will make it difficult for the ATM fraudsters to have access to customersâ€™ accounts.â€
The Chief Marketing & Client Engagement Officer, Interswitch, the provider of ATM services in the country, Mrs. Tito Adeniji-Aderoju, told the gathering that Interswitch was doing everything to reduce the ATM-related frauds to the barest minimum.
She added that the problem was a global issue that was not limited to the country, saying that her firm was poised to make ATM less vulnerable to fraudsters.
Equally blames were apportioned to lawyers on legal system failure in the country. The legal practitioners were said to be aiding their clients to approach the court with frivolous applications to elongate and frustrate their criminal proceedings.
A question was posed to Professor Bolaji Owasanoye of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) by a participant at the SPIDEL session. Professor Owasanoye who is a Council member of SPIDEL delivered the sessionâ€™s keynote paper entitled â€œLaw, Economic Development and the Global Meltdown: Findings from the Work of the National Working Group on Review of Investment Laws in Nigeriaâ€.
The professor of legal research in his response admitted that lawyers are part of the general problem, in that by their antics, some lawyers could actually frustrate the due process of law. But he rationalized that if the provisions of any given law are unambiguous â€œthe opportunity for mischief on the part of lawyers would be removedâ€.
In his response to another question that bordered on the notorious fact of obvious slow pace of the criminal procedure in dealing with alleged corrupt past office holders, Owasanoye castigated the form such prosecution has assumed with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as the prosecutor.
He cast aspersions on a system that, according to him, thrives on â€œgrand arrest, grand arraignment, remand, seizure of passport, application for bail on health grounds or to enable the applicant to attend the lesser hajj, release of passport, and end of story.â€
To demonstrate his anger at such a system, he suggested the criminalisation of such application for bail on â€œhealth groundsâ€ where a lawyer knowingly misleads the court to grant bail, obviously to enable the applicant to frustrate the due process of law.