From Ogbonnaya Ndukwe, Aba
the Central Bank of Nigeria’s cashless policy that led to the introduction of financial transaction points outside conventional banking halls operated by commercial banks is under threat in Aba, Abia State.
The POS (point of sale) points, as they are popularly known, which sprang up less than three years ago across the country, are operated in kiosks, open stores and provide services like depositing of money in bank accounts, withdrawals, payment for goods and services through cash transfers as well as settlement of bills for public utilities such as electricity, water consumption, refuse disposal and even fees to schools up to the tertiary level.
Its advantages further include providing needed cash on request with one’s automated teller machine (ATM) card and collecting cash promptly instead of spending time going to the bank to queue up for the same purpose at the risk of being robbed along the way.
However, the relief the POS has brought to Aba residents who hitherto spent hours in banks to carry out financial transactions may be thwarted as POS operators in the city now live in fear. They have become targets for criminals who attack them at random.
The situation seems to be getting out of hand following the incessant violent robbery and brutal killings of clerks or cashiers manning such outlets by bandits in recent times.
No fewer than five POS operators have lost their lives in Aba in the last two weeks. In fact, residents of the town, especially those doing business or residing in locations used as POS outlets, are becoming apprehensive of the happenings and now fear for their lives, while many of such businesses have closed shop. Some of them have chosen to do their business discreetly by removing the signposts identifying their shops, to avoid attacks.
So far, a large number of young ladies, including degree holders and smart secondary school leavers who, for want of jobs, had accepted to serve as cashiers in the outlets, are said to have been resigning in droves.
Daily Sun’s investigation showed that, at least eight of them were killed between the 2020 Christmas period and now.
The attacks and killings, which began with that of a young man along Market Road/Mosque Street close to the popular Ekeoha Shopping Centre early in January, got to a head with the death of a young girl whose name was given as Ezinne Iroh, on January 30, at Ukaegbu/Ikot Ekpene Road Junction.
The dastardly act reached a crescendo last week with strikes in various locations within the town, during which four other POS cashiers were sent to their untimely graves and their money carted away. Our reporter could not, however, quantify the amount of money lost to the daredevils in these incidents.
A community leader and businessman, Chief Longinus Ibe, said the upsurge in armed robbery by youths in the area could be attributed to unemployment and lack of jobs for school leavers who become involved in acts that are inimical to the peace and security of the people.
He noted that, with the abandonment of their statutory obligations after the #EndSARS protests, the police and other security agencies in the state allowed the hoodlums to have a field day, including luring younger school boys that are not in school at the moment into cults. This, he said, has further exposed society to more vices.
Ibe appealed to the authorities to reassess the situation and do the needful by ordering the police to return to their duty posts to man security in such areas.
A former female cashier in one of the POS outlets along Azikiwe Road, Miss Rose Kalu, said she and some of her friends left their jobs for fear of being attacked by hoodlums who, she said, normally approach their unsuspecting victims as customers but pull out guns after gaining attention.
Kalu said the business, usually done in wooden kiosks in open street locations, exposed the operators, especially the cashiers, with their bags containing cash, to danger as they have no escape route to safety when the robbers attack.
Abia State governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, had, in reaction to the recent upsurge of POS robberies, given the leadership of the commercial tricycle (keke) operators and their members marching orders to fish out the suspected criminals, as he accused those engaged in the act of operating as keke riders.
Meanwhile, the police authorities in Abia were said to have deployed more officers in Aba and other parts of the state and commenced massive surveillance and interrogation of suspects. The move by police has led to the arrest of one of those allegedly involved in the Ukaegbu/Ikot Ekpene Road robbery that claimed the life Ezinne Iroh.
The unnamed suspect is said to be in custody and helping the authorities in their investigation.