Wednesday, February 04, 2009

ATM largesse divides cardholders

The integrity of Automated Teller Machines (ATM) cardholders’ in the country came to test with the recent incident in Jamaica where two women returned $1m dollars found beside an ATM stand, reports REMMY NWEKE.

IMAGINE that barely 48 hours to the New Year, every nooks and cranny were getting agog for the celebration and you have been in festive mood since the beginning of the month of December.

From Sallah public holidays which spanned through weekends to the Christmas then the New Year. These to everyone is definitely a long holiday season and just as every one was planning and warming up to usher in the New Year in a grand style, you walked to an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) stand at a nearby city, since the banks were also on holidays.

Ms. Ijeoma Udegbunem had tried the first ATM stand, but could not get what she was looking for – money, looking around, she decided to check the next stand, about 10 metres away, because long queue has begun to emerge at the first one.

As she stepped nearer to the second ATM stand, Ijeoma noticed a polythene bag beside the machine and decided to open it before trying her ATM card on the system, only to discover it was full of ‘mint’ in the Nigerian parlance in N1000 notes, later found out to be over a N1 million.

For a moment, she was excited, then fear of the unknown soon took over with all sorts of things coming into her head; whether to take the money or not; report to the police or not as well as wondering if she could go to bank that operates the ATM, which logo appeared there, just a stone throw away or go home considering the economic hardship she have been facing over the years. Still she was engrossed on whether to lodge the money into her account the next day and join the millionaire club and jump out of poverty in the New Year.

Looking further around, she spotted a policeman on sentry at the entrance of the mall, approached him to explain her foundings, after which both agreed to alert managers of the mall where the ATM was installed. Soon after, the news filtered to the mall goers, who from nowhere wanted to identify with Ijeoma, hence the environs became tensed as well-wishers began to wonder about what the next move would be, thereby forcing the two; police officer and herself to ‘escape’ to the nearest police station in order to handover the money, which in the first instance, was her decision.

Ijeoma’s news break came at a time the news stand was saturated with the news of some Jamaica women who had returned the sum of $1 million recently left at an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) stand at Portmore Mall.

Ijeoma could be likened to the a Jamaican legal secretary, Ms Dhaima Brookes, who recently on Sunday, December 28, discovered a white plastic bag containing several neat stacks of $1,000 bills and immediately alerted another woman who turned out to be a policewoman and jointly they ensured that the money was deposited with the police authority despite opposition from some standby in the vicinity, as reported by The Gleaner.

The report also stated that the bag was on the floor and had been left by a cash carrier that had failed to secure it in the ATM. After learning of her discovery, mall goers threatened and taunted her, causing Brookes and a nearby police officer to flee to safety at a local police station, where they promptly handed over the money to representatives of the Guardsman cash delivery service.

Equally it was reported that the undeterred Brookes exhibited an act of goodwill, which angered many when she handed the money over to the authorities.

Speaking after her statement to the police in Portmore, Brookes recounted how she attempted to draw cash from one of the two ATMs at the plaza. The other machine was being serviced by two Guardsman armoured security personnel.

“My card wasn’t working, so I let someone go ahead of me when I noticed a white bag was on the floor in the other ATM,” she said, noting that after deliberating on her next move, she alerted another woman.

She never knew that the other woman, Michelle Lewis, was a policewoman attached to the Elletson Road Police Station in Kingston.

“I knew whoever we gave the money to I would need to have all of their details,” Lewis had said. “So, I held the package tight to my bosom. I wouldn’t give it to anyone but the Supe (superintendent).”

Speaking on the subject and probability of returning same to the authorities or the rightful owner, some Nigerians ATM cardholders, gave divergent views on what would form their next step of action.

One of the respondents said that he would return the money as long as the owner could give sufficient identification such as a receipt or photo ID, driver’s license among others.

Yet some, insisted that as long as it is from a bank ‘bank money’ there would be no going back and no return whatsoever to be made.

“Well, you see, if it is from a bank, it is for me, because they earn enough interest from my deposits already. They also loan out my money and give me what they feel like from it,” a respondent who did not want his name in prints declared.
For a Lagos trader, Ms Yetunde Elebiju, she would return it because the money is not hers, promising to take it to the bank, tell them where it was found, stressing that she is not greedy person.

And for a Youth corper, Godzeal Onwuka, he would distance himself from the money if found, basically because since he did not play any lottery and therefore was not expecting such sum. He warned that whosoever left such amount of money may be for ritual purposes, asserting that an “ordinary Nigerian cannot forget such an amount anyway.”

A pastor, Mr. Sola Adedayo and a businessman, Mr. Augustine Obi told ITRealms Online that since it is not manna from Heaven they would hand the money over to the police or better still “leave it where I found it. The Bible forbids me using what does not belong to me. I am a genuine Christian.”

An employee of the National Union of Road Transports Workers (NURTW) Ajeoromi-Lagos, Mr. Sule Adekoya, said, he would take the money to the police station, as a good citizen.

For a transporter, Mr. Chidi Oyams, such largesse would be assumed as a compensation from the bank if found, because the amount is insignificant when compared with the billions the banks declare as profit. “I will take it to represent a compensation for all the hidden charges that the banks take from my transactions. These banks make profit in billions, so what is a million to them. In fact, it is a gift from God and I will not shy away from taking the money to help myself.”

While an undergraduate, Mrs. Ezuoko Nmachukwu, said, she would prefer to report it to the mall manager or the police than go away with the money, believing that whoever left the money needs it for business and keeping such money could wreck another person’s life.

A businesswoman, Ms. Nnema Oluoma, said that it is good to be good, because she had a similar experience and returned the money to the owner of which she is benefiting from that gesture ever since. “I know what it is like to lose a prized possession, so, why should I allow another such an agony. I have had a similar experience and I called the owner. I am still benefiting from that decision because the man whenever he is in the country still visits me and gives me lot of gifts. We have remained friends ever since.”

Equally, another businesswoman who gave her name as Anthonia, said “Why I would return the money is that I know it is not mine, and probably forgotten by a junior officer who would be made to pay and even sacked with benefits, but if it is forgotten by a bank top officer, “I would not return it because he or she have the wherewithal to pay back.”

Above all, despite the divergent views of Nigerians, it is common knowledge that most people could be described as religious yet robbery has been in the increase, even as it was opined that most respondent may not be truthful to themselves because they were responding to media enquiry, which means that ordinarily they could still made away with the largesse without looking back.

Noteworthy is that over a year ago, a welfare recipient in Toronto, Canada found $20,000 and gave it to the bank suspected to have fallen from a Brinks Security truck. Also some people had reacted the same way differently about her honesty as in the case of Jamaican.

She was given a reward of about $2,000 but being on welfare... and her name, picture shown in the media, spells some trouble.

She would have to pay tax on the reward and lose her welfare supplement equivalent to the reward. However there was a strong outcry to the Welfare and Social Services Minister before the department clarified publicly that no tax or with-holding her welfare cheques would be implemented.

As one of the respondents put it, let us just pray that it does not happen here.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

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