New Naira: Tight security at banks against customers’ attack
Four days to the expiration of the deadline set by the Central Bank of Nigeria for the old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes to cease from circulation, Deposit Money Banks have taken extra security measures to prevent angry customers from attacking their branches and destroying facilities.
Customers besieged bank branches in different parts of the country on Friday in attempts to withdraw new notes for use during the weekend and deposit old notes so that they would not be caught napping as Tuesday’s deadline approaches.
However, most of the customers were disappointed as they could not make withdrawals through the Automated Teller Machines as most of the machines had been shut due to non-availability of new notes, while the few ATMs that were dispensing cash had long queues of desperate customers.
Similarly, security guards at bank branches had a hectic time controlling the surging crowds making attempts to enter the banking halls to see if they could withdraw new notes over the counter. The situation almost degenerated into a free-for-all in some of the branches visited as customers complained of waiting in queue for hours without being allowed inside the banking halls.
The branch manager of a Tier-1 bank in the Lekki area of Lagos State told Saturday PUNCH that the lender had taken extra security measures to forestall attacks on its facilities by angry customers who were unable to get the new notes.
The manager explained that despite assurances by the apex bank that it was supplying enough new notes to the banks for circulation to their customers, the truth was that the lenders were not getting enough.
She said, “The truth of the matter is that the cash available is not enough. Last Saturday, my branch received N9m in new notes to be loaded into four ATM terminals. Each terminal normally takes N8m in N1,000 notes, but we had to load only three terminals with N3m each, and by Monday morning, the money had been exhausted.
“We didn’t get another supply until Wednesday when we got only N4m, which was loaded in two ATM terminals. Of course, it didn’t take long for customers to withdraw everything.
“Even this night (Thursday), there is a long queue of desperate customers, but only one terminal is working as the other one has a problem and we can’t fix it this night because if anything negative happens, we are not covered by insurance at this time of the day.
“We anticipate that some angry customers may want to vandalise our facilities and forwarded our observation to the head office, which has proactively deployed more security personnel to this branch and others with similar scenarios.”
It was learnt that the state police command had also deployed additional personnel and equipment, including armoured personnel carriers, in strategic locations where banks were concentrated in order to quickly quell any uprising by angry customers.
Another bank manager in the Abule-Egba area of Lagos State told one of our correspondents that officials had to take extra measures in anticipation of security breaches as the area is volatile as hoodlums could capitalise on the slightest protest by angry customers to vandalise and loot banks in the area.
The bank manager said more armed policemen were now manning the branch and were visible unlike in the past when customers would not know that they were on the premises, while the company supplying non-armed guards had increased the number of its personnel.
Saturday PUNCH noticed an armoured personnel carrier strategically placed at the Abule-Egba and Oko-Oba Road junction with armed riot policemen visible.
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