How My Box of Trinkets Worth Over N1Bn Disappeared From First Bank Vault – Amb. Justina Eze


Ambassador Justina Eze, has cautioned customers of First Bank of Nigeria Plc who desire to keep their jewelleries in the vault of Bank for safe keeping, should have a rethink.

Amb. Eze said this was because of her experience following the disappearance of her box of trinkets worth one billion naira which she kept for safe keeping with the Bank. Ambassador Justina Eze, a businesswoman was a fashionista in her prime just as she traded in salt and essential commodities and invested the proceeds in expensive coral beads in the mid-1960s and also invested in gold and diamonds.

In the 1970s, she expanded her business into distributorship and became one of the major merchants distributing Golden Guinea, Nigercem and other products. She also travelled to Kaduna and brought Peugeot vehicles to the East for sale.

She later relocated to Lagos where she met some prominent women from the North who convinced her that investing in precious stones and metals was one of the best investments available. She then intensified her interest. By 1979 when she was elected into the House of Representatives, her distinguishing feature was the heavy jewellery that decked her neck and hands.

Ambassador Eze was appointed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo as Nigeria Ambassador to Cape Verde in 1999. On the eve of her departure, and in order to ensure that her valuable collection of gold, diamond, coral beads and other materials were safe, she carefully packaged everything, purchased a formidable safe deposit box and gave it to one of her daughters, Dr. Chinwe Eze-Boulhassane to take to a branch of the First Bank in Enugu.

Eze-Boulhassane was a customer of the bank. At the bank, officials asked the daughter to open the safe and when they got satisfied that what was claimed were inside the safe deposit box, they asked her to lock it back and they collected it from her and moved it into their vault for safe keeping. That done, every month, the bank deducted an agreed sum from her bank account as charges for the service.

About seven years later, precisely in 2006 when the husband of Amb. Justina Eze died, her daughters pestered and eventually convinced her to retrieve the trinkets box from First Bank so they could pick some of the beautiful jewelleries for their use during their father’s burial. Accordingly, they moved and approached the bank and demanded for the safe deposit box of valuable trinkets but to their greatest consternation, First Bank officials kept bidding for time to make available the box of trinkets.

Attempts to get their box of trinkets met a brickwall as First Bank couldn’t account for it.

The option left was for the Bank officials to plead for time and the family obliged and returned three weeks later. In spite of the time given, the First Bank officials pleaded for more time which led to a back and forth game until the funeral rites were over.

Noticing that something untoward was amiss, a formal letter of demand was written to First bank but, unfortunately, the bank failed to reply which prompted a reminder letter to be written and again delivered to the First Bank yet the Bank did not have the courtesy of acknowledging the letter or do a reply as expected of a corporate organisation.

Noticing the game First Bank adopted, Amb. Justina Eze was left with no option than to secure the services of Chief Olusola Oke, SAN to help retrieve her box of jewellery, which conservative current value was put at about N1 billion.

According to court filings, the bank shocked her one day by failing to produce her box which she had wanted to wear on a special occasion only to find the box missing in the bank.

She said that at first, the defaulting Bank had assured her that the box was intact but failed to produce it after many fruitless visits which made her to sue the bank.

These were part of filings at a High Court of Enugu State where Amb. Justina Eze is praying the Court to order First Bank to produce her safe trinkets box deposited with the Bank for safe keeping.

Led in evidence by Chief Olusola Oke SAN, the daughter of Amb. Eze, Dr. Chinwe Eze-Boulhassane, had tendered some documents as part of her testimony before the Court in support of the deposited box.

After listening to her evidence, First Bank asked for an adjournment.

Accordingly, Justice Chinyere Ajogwu adjourned the case to May 10, 2023 for cross-examination of the main witness.

Amb. Justina Eze, a diplomat cum politician, represented Uzo Uwani in Nigeria’s House of Representatives during the Second Republic.

She later served as Nigeria’s Ambassador to Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde and also served as the Liaison Officer to the House of Representatives during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Chief Oke said after the hearing that the case is that the box of trinkets had been in the custody of First Bank for safe keeping, He further said that the details of the box of jewelleries were well documented.

In his words; “But, by the time the box was needed by the depositor, the bank could not produce the box.

“The ornament represented her life savings. She has been an Ambassador and done many other great things for the country.

“She made several demands to get the box of trinkets back to no avail. The bank is not disputing that it received the box and subsequently promised to compensate but failed to do so after many promises.

First Bank had yet to respond to the allegations as at press time.

Inquiries sent to Chinwe Bode Akinwale of First Bank Corporate Communications department was yet to be responded to as at the time of filing this report.


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