Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) in the country likely lost over a billion naira, last week, to the destruction of their facilities across the country by hoodlums hiding under the umbrella of the #End- SARS protests.
The protests, which began on October 7 with calls to disband the Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS), an infamous Police unit that had long been accused of extortion, torture and extra-judicial killings, had been largely peaceful.
However, the situation changed dramatically, after armed soldiers, in a bid to dislodge a core group of the #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in Nigeria’s financial hub, Lagos, opened fire, last Tuesday night at unarmed youths, killing and wounding a yet to be determined number and sparking a violent reaction from hoodlums, who seemed to have been waiting for the soldiers’ action as a signal to immediately unleash massive destruction on financial institutions and other businesses across the state, but especially around the Lekki Phase 1 axis.
Being an affluent area of Lagos, Lekki Phase I has well-appointed branches of almost all the major banks in Nigeria.
However, Newsmen who visited the locality last Wednesday, reported that virtually none of the lenders’ facilities was spared the destruction wrought by the hoodlums.
Apart from completely destroying all the machines in the lenders’ ATM galleries in their bid to steal cash, the thugs also attempted to set ablaze the branch of a Tier 1 lender in the vicinity. An authoritative industry source told Newsmen that another Tier 1 lender lost 18 ATMs in the Lekki Phase I area alone to the vandals and about 50 nationwide.
The source said: “Even though the criminals may not have succeeded in stealing cash from all the ATMs they attacked, just by assessing only the destruction to the ATMs at Lekki alone, you can tell that the banks suffered significant losses as a result of this crisis.
“There are at least five or six ATMs in a gallery and the current price of an ATM cannot be less than N5 million. If one of the Tier I lenders is estimating it lost about 50 ATMs nationwide to the crisis, you can guess that the entire banking industry must have lost over 120 ATMs across the country in the last one week.
If you add the cost of damage to bank branches and other facilities, the losses will definitely exceed N1 billion.”
According to the source, another distressing aspect of the hoodlums’ rampage is that it would take the industry nothing less than six months to replace the damaged ATMs and get them working. The source explained: “It would take at least six months to replace the damaged ATMs.
This is because approvals have to be obtained first, before the orders to import the machines are placed. Then you have to wait for them to be shipped into the country, get them cleared at the ports, before you take delivery and then you start configuration of the ATMs and other processes.”
The source also warned that unless the situation in the country returns to normal in the next few days, ATMs may run dry in many cities and towns as banks are still wary of loading cash in their machines as the hoodlums still seem to be on the prowl. Indeed, in an email to its customers at the weekend, Zenith Bank said that it had closed its branches in Lagos and other states of the Federation where the State Governments had imposed 24-hour curfew, adding that its’ ATM and voice call services would also be temporarily unavailable during this period. New Telegraph’s correspondent reported long queues at the few ATMs that were still working in Lagos at the weekend.
Although, the Lagos State Government, last Friday, eased the 24-hour curfew which it had imposed on October 20, 2020, stating that movement of persons is now allowed from 6a.m. to 8p.m., analysts believe that with reports of lootthe ing spree still continuing across the nation as at yesterday, banks may not be in a hurry to resume normal services.
However, commenting on the impact of the crisis on banks in a chat with Newsmen, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, BIC Consultancy Services, Dr. Boniface Chizea, said he expected lenders to quickly fix the damage to their facilities.
He said: “I expect banks to get some compensation from insurance companies; so the damage to their ATMs and other facilities is something they should quickly sort out. Also, many people have embraced electronic banking and no longer need to physically visit the banking hall for transactions.
But it was an unfortunate development when you consider that the hoodlums appear to have had a free rein vandalizing ATMs with little or no resistance from the security personnel.”