By Stanley Ihedigbo
Mr. Chiuba Obinani is among several parents, who have lost millions of naira to thieves parading a particular Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) gallery point at the Ejigbo area of Lagos State.
Like other parents, he had never felt that sending youngsters to ATM gallery to get money was a big deal, until some of the kids started losing the ATM cards to thieves.
Obinani, like other affected parents, described the situation as weird, even alleging the use of spell on their children.
On April 11, when a stranger attempted to collect an ATM card from a 13-year-old boy called Peter, the boy raised the alarm. The stranger was caught and almost lynched.
The stranger, who introduced himself as Mr Echefu Aku, 28, a journalist, formerly working with Silverbird Television, denied being a thief.
Sadly, Aku’s situation worsens after an 11-year-old boy, who had earlier lost his father’s ATM card through similar drama, identified him.
Obinani told our correspondent that he lost a whooping sum of N1.5 million in March through thieves like Aku, who hangs around ATM gallery points, looking for young kids to prey on.
Obinani said: “I’m still in shock over what happened to me last month. I sent my 11-year-old son to withdraw money for me from the ATM.
That wouldn’t be the first time. But last month, someone collected my ATM card from him. The person also collected the N10,000 he had already withdrawn.
My son also disclosed my Personal Identification Number (PIN) to the thief. I’m sure my son was hypnotised. He’s a brilliant boy.”
Obinani said that he was still waiting for his son to return with the N10, 000 when he started receiving several withdrawal alerts. He quickly made a beeline for his bank.
He recollected: “Before I was through with my complaint at the bank, N1.5 million had left my account.
The bankers blamed me for giving my son the ATM card. They said that several people had been coming to complain that someone collected ATM cards from their children and used it to empty their accounts.”
He said that on that fateful day that Aku was caught, he was preparing to leave for his office, when he heard that the man, who specialised in stealing cards from children at ATM points, had been caught.
He said: “I immediately went there with my son; he identified Aku as the person that collected my ATM card from him in March.”
Aku was alleged to have been caught red-handed, attempting to steal an ATM card from Peter.
The incident occurred at the Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), by Forte Oil Filling Station, Egbe-Ikotun road, Iyana Ejigbo, Lagos State. Aku was alleged to have tried to convince Peter to allow him to change his ATM card with an old one.
When Aku was searched, four ATM cards were found in his pocket. He couldn’t give account on how he got the cards. An angry mob pounced, beating him black and blue. If not for the intervention of GTB security guards, Aku would have been lynched.
Peter explained that while using the ATM dispenser, he was distracted by the suspect, who spoke to him and later collected his father’s ATM card from him. As the suspect ran, Peter screamed, calling for help. The screams of Peter alerted people, who immediately chased Aku.
Peter explained that Aku lighted from a tricycle and approached him at the ATM gallery.
He narrated: “He collected my father’s ATM card from me and gave me an old one, which I rejected. He jumped into the parked tricycle and I shouted for help. People close by were fast enough to catch him.”
The boy said that his father gave him the ATM card to go and withdrew N5000.
The money was meant for his brother, who was about leaving home to write an examination.
Peter’s father, Pastor Austin Obinezie, who rushed to the scene, said that he was holding Morning Prayer Session when he sent Peter to the ATM gallery.
Obinezie said: “I shocked when I received a call that a thief collected my ATM card from my son. I left my church programme and quickly rushed down to see what was going on. I saw people beating the thief.”
Aku told our correspondent that he was innocent of the accusation levelled against him.
Aku further explained: “I lodged at a hotel close to the filling station. This morning, I came to make a withdrawal. I don’t know what the boy was saying.”
Then Aku asked our correspondent: “Are you a journalist? I’m a journalist too; I worked with Silverbird Television in Port Harcourt before coming to Lagos. My friend please assists me.
I’m not a thief! They should go to the hotel and find out if I lodged there or not.”
Mr. Chinedun Nwagbo, one of the people, who invited the police to the scene, said that on September 22, 2017, he lost over N100, 000 in his bank account.
Nwagbo said: “I sent my boy to this particular ATM to get money for me. Some body stopped him and sent him to buy biscuit.
I still don’t understand what really happened, because my boy gave the thief my ATM card. He left to buy the biscuit. When he came back, he couldn’t find the man.
The boy said he didn’t give the stranger my PIN. I don’t know how they got my PIN and withdrew money.”
He said that when the boy got home and narrated his encounter with the stranger, he had immediately dashed to his bank to block his account. Unfortunately, N100, 000 had disappeared.