Untold story of ‘dead customer’: How Polaris Bank shunned CBN rules, admitted fake documents, fictitious wife

19 Min Read

On May 12, 2023, Anthony Olasele was five hours away from Nigeria, earning a living and minding his business in faraway Spain when he learnt that he had been declared legally dead in Nigeria and the financial system of Polaris Bank.

The death wasn’t the only discovery that shocked Olasele. He was hit by another shocker when he was told that his wife and daughter, people he never knew had declared him dead.
He told Ripples Nigeria: “I have never been married, nor do I have a daughter.”

Could this be a case of mistaken identity?

If that’s the thought that crossed your mind, then you are mistaken, as documents seen by Ripples Nigeria showed that this could be an orchestrated con-job initiated to steal Olasele’s money from Polaris Bank, possibly with insider connivance.

It all started three months before May, on February 2, 2023, when Olasele tried logging into his Polaris Bank account, only to be greeted by a dormant account.

Polaris Bank and Peter Oladehin’s delay tactics

Interestingly, his last activity on the account was in January 2022, a year and one month before, so it’s understandable that the account status was classified as dormant in line with the guidelines of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on the management of dormant and inactive accounts, which states;

“Inactive Account: An account shall become inactive if there has been no customer or depositor-initiated transaction for a period of six months after the last customer or depositor-initiated transaction.

“Dormant Account: A bank account shall be classified as dormant if there has been no customer or depositor-initiated transaction in it for a period of one (1) year after the last customer or depositor-initiated transaction”

But while Polaris Bank was willing to effect this directive, the firm didn’t follow the guidelines to the letter, which also states: “Deposit taking financial institutions shall continue to monitor accounts that show tendencies of inactivity and initiate actions for their reactivation or protection from wrong usage. Such actions shall include, though not limited to any of the following: SMS. e-mail, visitation, and/or phone calls. In all cases, the cost of monitoring the accounts and contacting the customers shall be borne by the bank.

“Once accounts become dormant. they shall be reported quarterly to Banking Supervision or Other Financial Institutions Supervision Department of the CBN, as the case may be, along with efforts made by the obligor bank to locate the owners or their personal representatives. Such returns shall be rendered in the format of the Dormant Accounts Reporting Template attached hereof.

“Three months to dormancy, the bank shall notify the account holder of the status of the account. For individual accounts that the bank cannot reach the account holder during the three (3) months period, it shall contact the next-of-kin to assist in locating the account holder(s). This will be done within one month after the account has been declared dormant.”

So, what could have prompted Polaris Bank to pick and choose from the CBN guidelines, ignore alerting Olasele three months before his account went dormant, and then proceeded to issue a Post No Debit (PND), blocking him from accessing his account after he had provided all details as required by the CBN guideline to reactivate his dormant account?

Following his enquiry on February 3, a call representative of Polaris Bank sent him an account reactivation form, which he filled in and sent back on February 22. He didn’t hear from the lender until he contacted the bank on February 26, and was told to resend the form.

For quick resolution, Olasele was later referred to an account officer, Peter Oladehin, Polaris Bank, Osogbo branch, Osun State, who failed to promptly attend to the customer’s complaints every time he was contacted and went radio silent until April 14 when he asked Olasele to send him a message on WhatsApp.

Fast forward to April 21, Oladehin sent him an account opening form, which shocked Olasele, considering he wasn’t trying to open an account but lift a restriction or reactivate an existing one. Bear in mind, a representative of Polaris Bank had previously sent Olasele an account reactivation form, which he has filled in.

“I didn’t bother. I filled the form; I attached the account reactivation form that I had already filled and submitted multiple times. I sent everything to Peter Oladehin, so there’s no excuse again. This is April 21 I’m telling you about. We started all of these things since February 3rd,” the customer said.

On May 3rd, Oladehin asked for yet another document, this time, the NEPA bill and passport photograph, all of which the account holder sent. Nine days later, the account officer promised him that the account would be opened on May 12.

Then came the invincible wife and daughter

Olasele started feeling suspicious when Oladehin, instead of reopening the account as promised, asked him about the identity of Olasele Tina and Olasele Esther, informing the customer that the former is his wife and the latter, his daughter.

The customer narrated that he has a half-sister called Olasele Justina, but the last time she bore Olasele was 15 years ago before she got married and changed her surname, and there’s a difference between Justina and Tina.

“I’m not married, I have never been married, and I do not know any Olasele Esther, nor Olasele Tina. I only know Olasele Justina, who is not Olasele Justina anymore, it is Adebanjo Justina,” he said, in a stressed voice.

Oladehin didn’t reveal reasons for making the enquiry about Tina and Esther, instead, Olasele heard about it from a third party, who told him that the company has a document declaring him dead.

In the document seen, Tina had requested that money belonging to Olasele be transferred to her: “That during the lifetime of the said Olasele Anthony AKA Anthony Olasele, he/she nominated as his/her next of Kin (sic).

“That in view of the mentioned facts I pray for the release of his/her money to be paid to me.”

Surprisingly, Polaris Bank already had knowledge of the purported death certificate since May 2, but never brought it to Olasele’s attention.

“Peter Oladehin did not confront me that there’s any of these documents stating that I am deceased. I heard this from a third party,” he said, adding, “So when I made that tweet yesterday (May 15), Peter Oladehin had not communicated this to me.

“And Peter Oladehin still did not communicate this to me in any official manner, even through text. It was when I made that tweet yesterday, and it was going viral, that they started contacting me from Polaris Bank.”

“That begs the question, they received this letter on May 2nd, as at May 12, Peter Oladehin still did not inform me of this,” he stated, adding, “meanwhile, while Peter was still promising me that Friday on May 12 (to reopen the account), they already have possession of the letter for 10 days.”

Oladehin didn’t have any discussion with Olasele regarding the death certificate until around 4pm after the tweet went viral on May 12.

However, in response to questions from Ripples Nigeria, Polaris Bank claimed that Oladehin has been having regular interaction with Olasele, and the customer was informed of the letter declaring his death earlier this month.

“The Complainant who currently reside outside Nigeria has been having regular interaction with his Account Officer to reactivate his Account which has been dormant until earlier this month when he was alerted to his death notification that warranted his Account being put on PND,” Polaris Bank said.

The lender had previously told our correspondent that: “The Bank did not declare the customer dead, but was in receipt of an order stating so, and the Bank has an obligation to respect Court documents and also protect the customer.”

READ ALSO:Court orders CBN to freeze Polaris Bank’s account

Fake documents, fictitious next of kin

Aside from the fact that Polaris Bank didn’t fully comply with CBN’s guidelines on dormant accounts, Ripples Nigeria’s findings showed that the court paper and death certificate Polaris Bank based its decision on are fake.

The purported next of kin, Tina and Esther, are fictitious identities created by unknown person(s), as Olasele was never married according to him, and only has a son, who has never visited Nigeria.

Also, Olasele opened the account on January 24, 2008, at the age of 18, using his mother (now deceased) as his next of kin, so the customer said he couldn’t have used his wife and daughter as next of kin at the time.

Note that in 2019, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, instructed that every document from the High Court should have the High Court FCT seal for the purpose of authenticity, and that from July 1, 2019: “The honourable Chief Judge, Hon. Justice I. U. Bello has directed that all Court processes, affidavits and any other document emanating from this Court shall from the 1st of July, 2019 have affixed the High Court of the FCT Seal for the purpose of authentication of such processes and documents mentioned above.

“Thus Judges, Magistrate, Lawyers, Staff of the Judiciary and the general public are hereby adjourned to take note and adhere strictly to it.”

However, in the High Court Probate Registrar letter addressed to Polaris Bank Manager, Abuja, dated May 2, 2023, which was used by Tina to support her claim that Olasele is deceased, there was no FCT High Court seal.

The Certification of Death, signed by Lawal Abass, which Tina provided, carries an address Olasele only used once when he was opening the Skye Bank account (now Polaris Bank) 15 years ago and has never been to the address in the last 10 years.

The National Population Commission didn’t respond to an email sent as of the time of filing this report.

Polaris Bank defends its decision

Confirming that Polaris Bank indeed received documents declaring Olasele’s death, Rasheed Bolarinwa, Polaris Bank’s Head of Corporate Communications said: “There was a document to that effect, which has been availed the customer while a process has been initiated to confirm the genuineness or otherwise from appropriate institutions.

“However, of major concern to Polaris Bank is to protect the customer’s fund. We are working closely with all stakeholders, including security agencies and the customer, to expedite the process. Once the process is completed, the Bank will lift the PND, and the customer will access his funds.”

When he was quizzed further on the failure of due diligence, the head of corporate communication argued that: “Not as you assume, and it is not a Plug & Play. Every case is treated on need basis on their respective merit. Banks use precedent as guidance for their actions.

“And everything has a Process to it. The Complainant who currently reside outside Nigeria has been having regular interaction with his Account Officer to reactivate his Account which has been dormant until earlier this month when he was alerted to his death notification that warranted his Account being put on PND.”

When he was asked if perpetrators will be brought to book after an internal investigation, Bolarinwa said if any infraction is established appropriate action will be taken, “The first rule in banking practice is to protect the customer’s Fund in his Account when issues of death is announced either through writing or otherwise.

“And as earlier stated, the action taken by the Bank was in order. If and when the due diligence outside the Bank and internal investigation is completed, and any infraction is established appropriate action will be taken. My earlier response said the Bank is working closely with stakeholders, including security Agencies.”

Editor’s note: While Ripples Nigeria was conducting its investigations into the story, Polaris Bank released a statement as produced below:

Press release

Polaris Bank clarifies issue with Anthony Olasele’s account

Polaris Bank Plc has expressed dismay at the resort to misleading social media posts by one of its customers, Anthony Olasele, in spite of efforts by the Bank so far to treat the customer’s protest.

In a bid to clarify the misunderstanding on the customer’s account, the management of the bank said in a statement that, “Further to our earlier post, we wish to reiterate the following.Polaris Bank did not declare the customer dead, but was in receipt of court documents stating so, and the Bank in such circumstance, has a duty to respect such documents so as to protect the customer deposit.

“Recall that the said court papers including; Bank Certificate (dated May 2, 2023); Statutory Affidavit of Next of Kin issued by Probate Registry of a High Court of Justice, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and together with a death Certificate issued by National Population Commission (NPC), Abuja Municipal Area Council were presented to the Bank on May 11, 2023 by one Olasele Tina AKA Tina Olasele who claims to be a Widow of the ‘deceased’ customer, Anthony Olasele.

“The Bank had, following from this information, immediately flagged the account of the Customer pending the conclusion of the issuance of the Letters of Administration. We have also confirmed the said Bank Certificate was genuinely obtained from the Court.”

According to the statement,”Processing of Letters of Administration is purely a family affair without any input whatsoever on the part of the Bank or its staff. It is therefore expected that the Customer, who currently claims to reside in Spain investigate members of his family with the name of Olasele Tina AKA Tina Olasele (the person that processed the above referred papers from Court).”

It added that, “Following from the customer protest and confirmation by the Bank that the customer is indeed alive, the Bank has availed his lawyer the documents since May 16th. 2023.

“The primary concern of Polaris Bank is to always protect the customers’ funds first. We are working closely with all stakeholders, including security agencies and the customer, to expedite the process. Once the process is completed, satisfactorily, the Bank will lift the PND, and the customer will access his funds. That is the statutory process.

“Preliminary findings from internal investigation launched into the Customer’s claim of collusion to defraud him has so far revealed otherwise.

“We kindly advise the customer Mr. Anthony Olasele, family, friends and social media agents to allow the process to be completed,” the Bank said in the statement.

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