Some customers of the Suisse Microfinance Bank have written a letter to the President of the Believers Loveworld Incorporated, also known as Christ Embassy, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, to help them recover their funds from the defunct bank.
The bank is believed to be linked to the church, while documents obtained from the Corporate Affairs Commission revealed that Pastor Alabi Lanre, one of the clerics at the church, is listed as one of the bank owners.
Representatives of the bank were reported to have visited the Christ Embassy between 2013 and 2016, promising parishioners huge interests for deposits.
However, problem started on December 16, 2016, when Suisse Bank failed to pay some depositors their savings.
Soon, a crowd of customers besieged the bank’s premises on Gacoun Plaza, FESTAC Town, Lagos, demanding their money.
The bank was reported to have initially blamed the situation on ongoing audit of its accounts, before its complete shutdown.
About 3,000 depositors were said to have been affected.
A lawyer for six affected customers, Mr Muyiwa Olusa, in a letter to Oyakhilome, titled, ‘Special appeal for urgent intervention in payment of our clients’ deposit and accrued interests in Suisse Microfinance Bank Limited,’ appealed to the cleric to prevail on the bank to pay the customers.
“It is important to state that our clients are retirees who depend on their investments to cater to themselves and members of their families. As it is now, our clients are facing a lot of hardship as a result of their inability to access their deposits.
“Be that as it may, we request your quick intervention on this issue so that our clients can be paid their deposits and accrued interests. Our clients are law-abiding citizens and we do not want them to resolve to a situation where they will embarrass your ministry because all the directors who are alter ego of the bank are members of your ministry,” the letter said.
Meanwhile, a magistrate’s court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos State, has ordered the bank to refund the N12m deposited by three of the customers.
The Magistrate, Mrs O.A. Akokia, in separate judgments, ordered the bank to pay the customers, Adeduro Adefusi, N4m; Jerome Ojolo, N5m; and Mega Corp Consult Limited, N3m.
She further ruled that aside from the cost of the court action, 10 per cent interest should also be paid to the judgment creditors.
The court observed that the case, which started in 2017, had been frustrated as attempts to serve the bank failed, until one of the directors was reached.
Despite this, the bank was said to have refused to show up or make any legal representation when the matter was heard in December 2018.
In the Adefusi case, the court stated that all the evidence presented by the claimant went unchallenged.
“The case of the claimant is that sometime in 2016, he invested in the defendant’s bank’s Trade and Investment Account with a deposit of N4m (by the conditions attached to the investment, an investor may liquidate his account at maturity date provided that a notice to liquidate his investment must be given at least 30 days before maturity date of the investment).
“After the maturity date of the investment, the claimant demanded the liquidation of his account, but the demands were refused by the defendant. Consequently, the claimant instructed his solicitors to write letters of the demand in that regard. But the defendant still failed to accede to these demands….” the magistrate said.
The court said based on the evidence before it, the customers were entitled to their money and ordered that the sums of N4m, N5m and N3m be paid to Adefusi, Jerome and Mega Corp Consult Limited, respectively.
Their counsel, Olusa, lamented that since the ruling was delivered on January 22, 2019, the bank had refused to comply.
He noted that letters written to its managing director had also not been replied to.
Olusa said aside from the three customers who had obtained court judgments, there were three others whose cases were still pending in court.
He identified the others as Mr Ashafa Hammed, N5m; Precious Omoruyi, N5.5m; and one Gift Tubolnengi, N500,000.
When our correspondent called the Managing Director of the bank, Mr Olusola Ayodile, he declined comment.
While our correspondent was still introducing himself and the purpose of the call, he cut off the line and did not take subsequent calls.
Our correspondent went to the Christ Embassy, Oregun Way, Ikeja, to get a reaction from the church on the letter sent to Oyakhilome.
He was asked to wait at the reception, as a man later emerged to ask for our correspondent’s mission.
PUNCH Metro showed him a copy of the letter already sent to Oyakhilome.
The official asked our correspondent to write another letter to the church’s general overseer, stating his questions.
“When we see it, then we can reply to it,” he added.
As our correspondent made to write the questions, the official said they must be typed.
Our correspondent asked for an email address to send the questions to, but the official said the church did not have an email address for such enquiries.