By Innocent Anaba
Some Nigerians who claimed to be victims of authorised ATM withdrawals and fraud have dragged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), all the 24 banks in Nigeria, including Interswitch Nigeria Limited before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, claiming the sum of N50 million.
In addition, the plaintiffs are also demanding the sum of N2.5 million being the joint value of the sum lost by them to four of the banks,Â N100 million as the cost of litigation and N10 million as cost of providing appropriate notice to the defendants and administering the class action for their benefit.
The case was instituted by Miss Daba West, a civil servant with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Miss Nwajiagah Omeruo, a consultant, Mr. Tochukwu Onyuike, a lawyer and Mr. Sydney Aguwamba, a fashion designer on behalf of victims of unauthorised ATM withdrawals.
They want the court to give an order directing the banks, CBN and Interswitch to pay the sum of N50 billion as general damages for the unauthorised withdrawals.
Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, United Bank of Africa Plc, Bank PHB and Intercontinental Bank Plc were chosen as representative of the all 24 banks and any decision taken against the four banks would affect all theÂ 24 banks as well as the CBN and Interswitch.
The plaintiffs in the class action are seeking a declaration that the defendants are liable to Nigerians for the losses and damages occasioned by the negligence of the defendants in relation to the provision of debit card services.
They also want the court to declare that the defendants are strictly liable for any damages or losses caused to them by reason of the use of the debit cards offered to them by the defendants.
The court is also being asked to declare that the four banks are representative defendants of the class of defendants being those designing, manufacturing, supplying and offering of debit card services.
They further urged the court to declare that CBN failed in its regulatory duty to promote monetary stability and sound financial system in relation to the electronic money withdrawals
They averred that at various times, they had gone to make withdrawals from ATM in the usual practice but were declined by the ATM for non-availability of funds despite the fact that their accounts was funded in excess of N300,000.00 at the time of the withdrawals.
According to them, in each of the occasions, after their experience, they had requested from the banks for their statements of accounts and discovered to their dismay that their accounts had been tampered with unauthorised and illegal withdrawals in rapid succession made from different ATM cash machines thereby reducing the account to zero balance.
The plaintiffs contended further that the banks had been negligent in their duties as commercial banks and service provider in safeguarding the plaintiffâ€™s funds through installation of security software in total protection of the plaintiffâ€™s fund and this is the duty ought to be observed at all times.
They had argued that the defendants owed them a duty of care as regard the protection of their fund by providing security mechanisms towards the safe use of the debit cards.
Trial judge in the matter, Justice Ibrahim Auta adjourned the case till February 10, 2010 to allow other defendants file their defence.