By Chidiebere Onyemaizu
Twenty years lapse and unfavorable Supreme Court judgment have failed to thaw Prince Amaobi Alfred Ugochukwu’s insistence that one of Nigeria’s leading commercial Banks, Diamond Bank defrauded him 20 years ago and ruined his once thriving business.
Ugochukwu, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Al-Clement Nigeria Limited is also not happy with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC over what he perceives as the anti-graft agency’s lack of interest in treating his petition dated March,29,2017, against Diamond Bank .
Ugochukwu’s dates back to March 10th 1997 during the tenure of Colonel Tanko Zubairu as Military Administrator, when he reached a contract deal with the Imo state Secondary Education Management Board (SEMB) and Primary Education Board to produce Students’ Identification Cards at the value of over #400 million. #16million was paid to his company, Al Clement Enterprises for this purpose.
For the purpose of executing the contract, Ugochukwu deployed his two Diamond Bank accounts -one in his name which he had opened long before the contract and the other in his company’s name- to enable him receive money. In his petition to the EFCC, Ugochukwu alleged that in the course of executing the contract and operating his company’s account, the then Special Assistant to then Military Administrator, Reverend Ugochukwu Unachukwu requested that he be made a co-signatory to the account.
Ugochukwu said accepted Unachukwu’s request but later discovered he had been sold a dummy. “To my greatest surprise, I discovered that he and the then Bank Manager (Owerri Branch of Diamond Bank situated at 6 Item street,Ikenegbu, Owerri) connived and used a fictitious name, “Uzoma Onuoha” and even passport photograph not his own as co- signatory to my company’s account where the money for the execution of the project was lodged and collected a cheque of #4million from me in the name of Ugochukwu Unachukwu and converted it to ‘Uzoma Onuoha’ in the same Diamond bank”, Ugochukwu alleged.
When Ugochukwu discovered the anomaly, he protested to the Bank and was told it was for security reasons. However, his insistence led to the withdrawal of the said “Uzoma Onuoha” as co-signatory to Al Clement account.
Ugochukwu operated his company’s account without hitches on the 8th of May 1997 but subsequent transactions with the account (account number 0712555017) ran into stormy waters as the Bank had embargoed it (the account).The embattled Al Clement boss alleges further: “Upon enquiry, I was informed of the exclusion of the “second signatory” in my several issued cheques. To my chagrin, Diamond Bank claimed that they acted on a purported court order which placed embargo on my accounts with them. Till date, the Bank has failed to produce the so called court order restraining me from having access to my accounts, which funds was later transferred to a Task Force account on recovery of public property and of course, there was no court order or evidence of transfer”.
Ugochukwu’s recourse to the judiciary for redress recorded success at the High Court and Appeal Court but was floored at the Supreme Court by Diamond Bank. The apex court delivered final judgment in the case last year. Buoyed by its Supreme Court triumph over Ugochukwu, Diamond Bank seems not perturbed by his fresh moves to reopen the matter. Responding to the Magazine’s questions about the saga, the Bank, through its Media Relations Officer, Ezechinyere Anyanwu stated: “The full facts of the matter are as follows: .The Respondent trading under the name of Al Clement. The account mandate was that his cheques be counter-signed by a second party. Thereafter, customer issued a cheque signed by him alone, contending that he can sign alone being an Enterprise. The Bank dishonored the cheque in view of the customer’s mandate but more importantly due to a directive from the Military Government of Imo State at that time through its task Force on Recovery of Properties that certain suspicious accounts be placed on NDS.
Customer instituted an action at the High Court Owerri for breach of contract and damages for the breach. The High Court entered judgment against the Bank awarding the sum of =N=64,754,973.30 as damages. The Bank, dissatisfied with this judgment proceeded to Court of Appeal which also upheld the High Court decision, hence this appeal at the Supreme Court. The learned Justices of the Supreme Court allowed the Bank’s appeal, holding that the Lower court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter in the first instance.
Having lost the case at the Supreme Court he has started hyping this story around. I also heard of the EFCC invite, but have been unable to confirm the details.
He is obviously making false claims, as the interview which he gave back in 1997 confirms that he was the one who introduced the co-signatory”.
However, Ugochukwu’s petition against the Bank currently pending at the EFCC is over “unprofessional conduct”. In his petition, Ugochukwu had told Ibrahim Magu, the EFCC boss thus: “Fortunately, since there is another window of opportunity for me to get justice in EFCC, I am therefore most passionately and humbly appealing to the anti-graft agency of which you are Chairman to look into my petition and ensure that justice is done”.
Further elaborating on his tango with Diamond Bank, Ugochukwu said: “I made a proposal sometimes in 1997 to the Imo state government to produce and supply students ID cards for Primary and Secondary Schools in Imo state. Governor T.K Zubaru gave his consent on the project which was the only thing we needed from his government. On his own, he gave me #6million to help me on the project. The students were paying for their cards. The Imo state government did not contribute one penny, it was not in the state’s budget at all. The ID card project which I had to pay him back his money was my initiative”.
Continuing, Ugochukwu, Said: “Secondary and Primary School Education Board opened different accounts with the defunct Hallmark Bank for the ID card project where Principals, Headmasters and Headmistresses paid in money which were payments made by students, and as the project was going on, the two Boards would issue cheques to me from those accounts which I will pay into my account in Diamond Bank. Before the trouble started, I had only been paid #16 million from the two Boards”
According to Ugochukwu, the project when completed would cost #480 million but at the time his accounts were embargoed, there was over #350million in them.
“What Unachukwu did was to use his position as SA to the Governor and connived with Diamond Bank Manager, Festus Azara and manipulated my account with purported passport picture and name Uzoma Onuoha but signed Ugochukwu Unachukwu”.I also discovered conversion of #4million from my account…Out of #480million I was only paid #16million for all the work I did and yet they used Diamond Bank to take all the money in my fix deposit in my name and Company account without my consent…As soon as Ugochukwu Unachukwu and Co got the money, they were no longer interested in the ID card project”, he lamented.
Though the Al Clement CEO is not happy with the Supreme Court verdict on his case with Diamond Bank, he believes he still has a widow of justice through his petition against the bank for unethical and criminal conduct as well as fraud. However, he is accusing the EFCC of “playing hide and seek game with the petition”.
In a July 17, 2017 letter entitled SITUATION REPORT addressed to the EFCC chairman, Ugochukwu lamented that “till today, EFCC has not done anything meaningful on the matter, not even acknowledgement of my petition. What they do is to call me on phone asking me to send relevant documents on the Al Clement account with Diamond Bank which I did send to the EFCC office at Enugu for their perusal”.
Ugochukwu also told Magu that “your office (EFCC) in Enugu told me on phone that Diamond Bank said that the matter lasted 20 years in court, for that reason they cannot produce any document on Al Clement account. This is an embarrassing and funny game”
In an angry letter to the Enugu office of the EFCC entitled: Re:Your Invitation and Request” and dated 11th August 2017, Ugochukwu expressed displeasure over the agency’s lack of seriousness in treating his petition: “In retrospect of your demands and responses to my case with Diamond Bank PLC, I have come to the believe/awareness that your office is not really prepared to help me get justice but rather there to be obtaining/collecting information from me for them (Diamond Bank).Is your office for the people or aginst the people?”
Ugochukwu further bombs the EFCC: “Why should you be communicating me by phone calls only and not by written documentations like you normally demand from me? Why are you always on the defense of Diamond Bank? It is becoming obvious that you are not the hope of the common man you claim to be. What use is your office if only the rich /mighty and organization in the society oppress the poor? Simply put, this act is betrayal and miscarriage of justice”
His, displeasure with the EFCC notwithstanding, Ugochukwu said he has forwarded to the Commission all the documents it demanded from him in relation to his case with the Diamond bank and hope his petition will be treated with the urgency and seriousness it deserves.
Whether Ugochukwu’s successful re-opening of the 20 year old case via his petition in the EFCC against Diamond Bank will eventually bring give him justice and restore smiles to his face remains to be seen, especially as the Bank insists his claims are false.