Poisoning the cashless policy chalice

In May 2022, the Central Bank of Nigeria charged the banking public to key into its e-Naira platform to avoid fake mobile money transfers.

CBN Controller, Lagos branch, Godfrey Boyor, who made the plea during the e-Naira sensitisation for traders, Bureaux de Change operators, socio-cultural groups and other stakeholders, organised in collaboration with Bizi Mobile Cashless Consultant Limited, on October 20, at Kairo Market, Oshodi, Lagos, added, “The e-Naira is designed with the best security and monitoring procedure that mitigates fraud. So, there will be no fraudulent transfer or alert. Nobody can deceive you with e-Naira transaction. It is fool-proof.”

The foregoing statement is an indication that scamming of the banking public through fake alerts has become rampant, and poses a threat to Nigeria’s cashless policy. 


Cashless policy

CBN’s new policy on cash-based transactions stipulates daily cash withdrawals not exceeding N500,000 for individuals and N3 million for corporate bodies. It aims at reducing (not eliminating) the amount of physical cash (coins and notes) in circulation and encouraging more electronic-based transactions.

The key reasons the cashless policy was introduced include modernisation of Nigeria’s payment system in line with the country’s Vision 2020 goal of being among the top 20 economies by the year 2020. This is because the government believes that an efficient and modern payment system is positively correlated with economic development, and is a key enabler for economic growth.

Also, the policy aims to reduce the cost of banking services (including the cost of credit) and drive financial inclusion by providing more efficient transaction options and greater reach. It is expected to improve the effectiveness of monetary policy in managing inflation and driving economic growth.


Fake alerts

In 2018, the Lagos State Police Command arrested a 28-year-old medical doctor, Michael Thompson Williams, who bought a Porsche car worth N28m allegedly with a fake bank alert. The suspect, who engages in online technological tools to perpetrate fake transactions, had worked with EKO Hospital and Tolu Medical Centre – two notable hospitals in Lagos.

He was accused of usually hacking into customers’ accounts with financial institutions, as well as monitoring people’s private emails. He reportedly had access to customers’ bank accounts and spent their money on frivolities.

Williams cofessed that he acquired hacking skills in Canada and went into fraudulent activities thereafter. He said he could buy goods worth N40m with credit cards and make false payments in tranches to unsuspecting victims.

He, however, met his waterloo on March 23, 2018, when a complaint was lodged at the police station by a car dealer, Abidogun Adewale, that a syndicate bought exotic cars worth N28m and paid into his bank account, but that on visiting his banker, he discovered he received a fake bank alert as payment for a car sold at N28m.

While parading Williams at the Lagos State Police Command, then Commissioner of Police, Mr. Imohimi Edgal, told journalists that the suspect, during interrogation, admitted committing the crime.

Edgal said, “The suspect is a member of a syndicate that goes to car shops, buys a car, configures a computer program that would send a fake payment alert to the seller and obtain a car.”

According to the police boss, Williams’ syndicate sent Adewale N28m fake alert using HTTP tunnel.com. The car dealer only discovered that he had been scammed after the suspect had gone with the car.

The police command launched a manhunt for the fleeing suspect, dispatching detectives of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad and all necessary intelligence assets after the suspect. The suspect was eventually arrested in Lekki, Lagos.

Upon his arrest, the suspect led detectives to Asaba, Delta State, where the stolen Porsche car was recovered, and to Owerri, Imo State, where two Toyota Camry cars he acquired in a similar fashion were recovered.

In the same vein, Charles Edenweze, who has a shop at Alaba International Market, Ojo, Lagos, fell victim to a fake alert scammer on March 29, 2022. At a media parley, he narrated how someone purchased musical instruments worth N145,000 and he received a credit transfer alert oblivous that it was fake. Also, officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, last April, arrested a 24-year-old man, Olawale Mayowa, in Ondo State over alleged fake bank alert. 

The Public Relations Officer of NSCDC in Ondo, Daniel Aidamenbor, made this known in a statement recently in Akure. He said the suspect was tracked and arrested in Osogbo, Osun State, on April 14, by the Counter-Terrorism Unit of the command.

“The Ondo command, in its dogged commitment to rid the state of all forms of criminality, has arrested 24-year-old Olawale Mayowa for generating a fake alert N310,000. He made the fake alert in two tranches of N300,000 and N10,000 for a laptop he ordered from an Akure-based computer trader,” he said.

Aidamenbor said, after investigation, the suspect would be arraigned for obtaining goods under false pretence.


Call for caution

According to the President, Bank Customer Association of Nigeria, Dr. Uju Ogubunka, cyber fraud does not affect banks alone, but also the confidence of the people in doing e-payment transactions.

He explained, “It puts a question mark on how one can trust that somebody actually has made a payment to you, except you contact your bank before you release whatever value you want to. Before, when somebody made a payment, if there was an alert, you would assume that it was genuine. But with what is going on now, it is not going to be comforting for anybody to just make the assumption. In all this, the banking public must be cautious.”


CBN’s elixir

CBN Director, Consumer Protection Unit, Mr. Kofo Salam-Alada, told journalists in Benin City that the volume and value of e-transactions are projected to continue to increase nationally and globally due to broader ecosystem scope, evolution of channels, modes payment and evolving technologies.

Salam-Alada said the apex bank, through its consumer protection department, had resolved thousands of cases, which resulted in the refund of stolen monies to customers by commercial banks. 


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