the adewale/wema bank saga – why you can’t spend every money in your account

Cnetral Bank of Nigeria Governor Godwin Emefiele


 

Most people dream of having lots of money and some would stop at nothing to make that dream a reality.

Having and retaining money requires perseverance, hard work and discipline.

One way you can come into lots of money literally without lifting a finger is if someone makes an unintended transfer into your bank account. You would be surprised that even in this day and age, this can happen. It happened to Pastor Olukayode Abel Adewale in March 2012 on his savings account with one of Nigeria’s biggest banks, Wema Bank Plc.

It requires a micro-second for a bank teller to key the wrong digit when entering an account number during a deposit transaction. Just the same can happen at withdrawals.

In Adewale’s case, the transfer did not emanate from human error – a virus in Wema Bank’s computer system erroneously transferred the sum of N987000 (about US$6300 at the time). Although he had a history of receiving money from unknowns as a result of media appeals over his children living with sickle cell, he assumed the deposit was a divine answer to his prayers. He went ahead making transfers, making purchases, settling debts, and planning for the future!

It all turned out to be a huge mistake!

ARE YOU ENTITLED TO WHATEVER YOU FIND IN YOUR ACCOUNT?

No, you are not legally entitled to go prodigal with just any deposit into your account. You can only spend money if it was intended to be made into your account. If the deposit was inadvertent – a mistake – you can’t keep the money for personal use.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU SPEND MONEY SENT TO YOU IN ERROR?

A simple search online would suffice to convince the recipient of an unintended windfall of the futility of spending. People who have received such windfalls have spent part or all of the money on various projects, only to find themselves in deep waters later on. Erroneous deposits have been spent on noble, and charitable causes, yet it has not gone down well with the law. A cleric who receives unintended financial manna would probably want to build a church or mosque; likewise, a doctor who believes he is entitled to his windfall would want to expand his medical services, etc.

CRIMINAL OFFENCE

Sooner or later a bank would trace where an unintended deposit went reverse the transaction. If a mere cent is missing, the bank would act as if it was thousands and press criminal charges. Depending on the discretion of management, charges could be dropped with (court) orders to repay.

Should the matter go to court, the offender is left at the mercy of the judge. A judge might decide to fine the offender and/or issue a prison sentence.