Commercial banks in Nigeria are no doubt living up to their responsibility of maintaining safe custody of the hard-earned money of their customers, but experts claim the same cannot be said of these institutions in the area of protecting the lives of both customers and their personnel as accentuated by the spate of killings in banks in Nigeria in the recent months. Experts insist that commercial banks must be ready to invest more in securing banking environment in the face of the inadequacies and challenges confronting the nation’s security machinery.
No fewer than 40 precious lives have been lost in banking arenas in the country in the last one. Yet analysts are predicting a more precarious future for bank staff and their customers except the concerned authorities are ready to take up the gauntlet and tackle the menace headlong.
No fewer than 30 people, including operatives of the Nigeria Police, lost their lives on April 5, 2018, when a gang of daredevil robbers invaded some banks in Offa, Kwara State. Five months later, two people were reportedly killed in another bank robbery on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 at Igede Ekiti, headquarters of Irepodun/Ifelodun Local Government Area of Ekiti State, while several others sustained varying degrees of injury. Those who died in the incident were identified as a bank official and a private security guard.
Again, another three persons reportedly lost their lives on Monday, November 19, 2018, when another group of bandits attacked a new generation bank in Ijero Ekiti in Ijero Local Government Area of Ekiti State.
And most recently, no fewer than six persons lost their lives in Ido Ani in Ose Local Government Area of Ondo State on Monday April 8, when a gang of armed robbers attacked a branch of a bank in the town. The deceased, according to the police, included a police inspector, a Vice Principal of a government-owned secondary school in the state and employees of the bank.
Giving an insight on the spate of audacious attacks on commercial banks in the country, a retired Commissioner of Police and former spokesperson of the force, Frank Odita, said armed robbery, just like any other crime, is a product of the poor management of the nation’s economy resulting in many idle youths parading the streets. He lamented that despite the fact that the crime attracts death penalty, the punishment has failed to serve as deterrent as shown by the spate of robbery attacks in the country of late.
“Crime is a product of the society as a result of poor management of the economy resulting in many idle youths parading the streets. Armed robbery is a crime that attracts death penalty yet it is not a deterrent as a result of joblessness. Joblessness leads to frustration, despondency and desperation.
“They are also encouraged by the fact that they watch persons in high places looting government treasury without being punished. Punishment is a deterrence, but if not applied, it destroys our value system and encourages crime and criminality,” he noted.
Speaking on the solution to the problem, Odita said: “The answer is to overhaul our crime fighting machinery through capacity building and motivating security operatives through insurance and also giving them living wage that will put them above corruption and make them more patriotic.”
Commercial banks also have to come up with their own solutions on how to fill in view of the inadequacies of the nation’s security machinery. Another security expert, Yinka Jayeola said that banks need to do more in securing the lives of both their staff and customers by investing more in securing their environments. According to him, the current arrangement where banks concentrate their security personnel at the entry points makes their premises vulnerable to attacks from robbers.
“Everybody knows the power house of every bank. The moment you enter any bank the first set of people you see are the security personnel almost at the entrance and these people are always the first target of armed robbers whenever they strike. The robbery in one of the commercial banks in Imo State two years ago should have served as eye-opener to our banks. The moment the bandits entered the bank they went straight to the security post where they engaged the policemen on duty. Since that incident, I expected that banks would device means to spread their security personnel in and around their premises.
“They can have a few of them in mufti outside their banks. This set of people will be able to provide the needed reinforcement for those inside the bank before the arrival of major reinforcement from nearby security outfits. Imagine, going by the CCTV footage we saw on the Owerri bank robbery, if there had been two to three other security men outside the bank’s premises to engage those robbers, they would have probably succeeded in bringing down one or more members of the gang and possibly saved the policeman that eventually lost his life to the incident,” Jaiyeola said.
While calling on the government to reposition the nation’s security agencies and make them combat ready to fight crime in the country, Jaiyeola advised banks operating in the same area to come together and fund special security teams to police their banks in order to further safeguard lives of both their customers and staff.
“It is very clear that banks cannot always rely on conventional security agencies to give them cover during crisis periods. So, banks operating in the same area can come up with their own special security arrangements. Three or four branches of banks operating in the same area may come together to fund a security team that will patrol the vicinity area of operation and provide reinforcement for security men stationed at the branches in case of attacks,” he said.
In addition to beefing up security in and around banking premises, experts said that bank customers must also take certain precautions to avoid falling casualties during bank robbery.
A former banker, Stephen Idegwu, who claimed to have witnessed two robbery incidents during his days in the banking hall, said banks staff are aware of what are expected of them in case of robbery incident but maintained that ignorance on the appropriate way for customers to comport themselves often results in avoidable fatalities during robbery attacks on banks.
“Bank staffers know that the cash in the bank is insured as such any loss incurred in case of robbery incident would be recovered by the bank. Therefore, it would be foolhardy of any bank staff to attempt to put up any act capable of undermining the security of those in the banking hall in an attempt to prevent robbers from making away with the cash.
“So in case of robbery incidents, customers should also cooperate and obey whatever they are told to do. Apart from that, bank customers should also avoid loitering around banking premises. The moment you are through with your transactions, leave the premises. But because of the availability of Internet Wi-Fi in some banks some may want to stay back. This should be avoided.
“In fact, bank customers should take advantage of modern internet based banking facilities now. You don’t need to go to bank every time you want to make transactions. You can do it with your mobile app or make use of POS with your ATM card.
“In case of robbery incident, do not try to reach for your phone if you are in a banking hall. The robbers might think you are trying to get in touch with the police or trying to get a gun or to capture their faces. Reaching for your phone at such moments may be dangerous.
“Similarly, some people are in the habit of taking their children to banks. This should be avoided totally because you will be exposing those children to danger during emergency situations,” he noted.