Banks shut branches over customer attacks
As the naira scarcity persists, some banks are shutting their branches over rising customer attacks, according to findings by The PUNCH.
This came a day after the Lagos State Police Command issued a warning that some groups were planning to unleash violence in the state due to the naira scarcity.
The PUNCH observed that some of the banks had started to allow non-essential employees to work from home.
Findings show Zenith Bank has shut down some branches in Lagos State over the fear of attacks by angry Nigerians due to the ongoing naira scarcity.
Our correspondents observed that some Zenith Bank branches in Ikeja, Ikorodu and Agege were shut on Tuesday while some closed earlier.
Since the naira redesign policy started, banks have been at the receiving end of the frustration of Nigerians.
Videos of individuals climbing counters, stripping, and expressing their anger in banking halls have circulated on social media.
Nigerians have been going through hardships in getting their hands on the new naira notes as the February 10 deadline approaches.
This has led to attacks on some banks in the state, as states like Edo and Oyo have witnessed protests that degenerated into riots.
Recently, banks have been subjected to violent attacks. In Ibadan, a Wema Bank branch was vandalised when riots broke out over the weekend. This has led to increased security and caution around many banks.
With the heightened tension accompanying the protracted naira scarcity in the country, some commercial banks on Tuesday directed some of their branches to shut down operations until further notice.
Findings by our correspondent revealed that some bank branches in certain parts of Lagos with no cash to pay customers were asked to shut down operations.
The directive, it was gathered, was to forestall possible violent reactions by frustrated customers who had already begun to take laws into their hands in some parts of the country.
A senior official at Sterling Bank, who declined to be named, confirmed to our correspondent that some of the bank’s branches in the Lekki area of Lagos had been closed on Tuesday.
The source said, “They opened but were asked to shut down. All branches without cash were asked to shut down. Non-essential staff have been ordered to resume remote work mode.”
The source further stated that the closure of some of the banks had become necessary due to the untenable attitude of frustrated customers who believe that commercial banks are to blame for the hardship associated with the current naira scarcity.
“Imagine a situation where some customers come to the bank with cane. They say they want to flog the bank staff. Because of certain reports in the media that EFCC have arrested some bank managers for hoarding cash, customers now think banks are the cause of the naira scarcity. This is not true,” the source further stated.
However, an emailed response from Sterling Bank read in part, “Kindly be informed that there is no memo ordering Sterling staff to work from home. All of our branches and offices are open and functioning optimally. While non-essential staff have been given the option to tap into the existing hybrid work policy (for staff members not required on-premises) due to concerns about an imminent strike by petroleum operators, essential staff are present and working on-premises during working hours to ensure the bank’s operations run smoothly.
“There have also been challenges experienced by staff in commuting to and from work due to petrol scarcity and the resultant difficulties in getting fuel. This is coupled with the growing general level of unrest in some parts of the country.
“We are pleased to inform you that all Sterling locations across the nation have the compliments of her essential staff on premises during working hours and are fully operational at this time. The bank is closely monitoring the situation and will take any necessary measures in the interest of the safety of staff, customers and the general public.”
In a similar development, our correspondent gathered that First Bank Nigeria had directed some of its branches not to open until further direction is communicated.
A source, who confirmed the development to our correspondent, said some of the bank’s branches deemed vulnerable to violent demonstrations by customers had been directed to shut down operations, while other branches that did not have the cash to pay customers were also asked to shut down.
A memo titled ‘Temporary Closure of our LASPOTECH branch, Lagos State,’ sent to the bank’s LASPOTECH branch in Lagos read, “Dear Colleagues, Following security advisory, please be informed that LASPOTECH branch in Lagos State is temporarily closed for business today Tuesday, 7 February 2023.”
Banks in Ojodu Berger and Isheri road shut down operations on Tuesday following a cash crunch that continues in the country’s financial sector.
According to the findings by The PUNCH, the Zenith Bank, opposite Ojodu Mall, had the premises closed for operation as bank customers were prevented from entering by the securities of the lending bank.
Similarly at the Guaranty Trust Bank, located at Bashiru Street, Ojodu Berger, our correspondent reported that the bank was shut down and the ATMs did not work.
However, at the Access Bank just opposite Oremeta street, Ojodu Berger, customers were allowed entrance but one of the stranded customers who spoke with The PUNCH said there was no over-the-counter-payment at the banking hall. Also, the branch of the bank at Isheri road had no cash and ATMs did not dispense as of the time of filing this report.
When our correspondent visited Union Bank on the same street, customers were allowed entrance but only a maximum of N3000 was allowed to be withdrawn through the over-the-counter-payment system.
The First Bank opposite the Union Bank was out of operation when The PUNCH visited but customers were seen using the ATMs for transactions.
The United Bank for Africa at Isheri road opposite Olaipupo Oduwole was opened but was not paying the customers. All the ATMs of the lending bank were out of operation.
Stanbic IBTC Bank, Isheri road, Ojodu Berger, was out of operation when The PUNCH visited at 3:30 pm. Meanwhile, the security operatives told our correspondent that the bank was opened for operation earlier.
The PUNCH also observed that days after the CBN directed commercial banks to start paying a maximum of N20,000 new notes to customers over-the-counter, some commercial banks seemed not to have enough cash for this maximum amount.
When The PUNCH visited some banks along, Ikotun, Akowonjo and Egbeda axis of Lagos on Tuesday, it was observed that some of the banks that were still paying the new currency only paid a maximum of N2000.
It was also observed that a Fidelity Bank located on Egbeda road, was paying only N2000 over-the-counter as of the time of filling this report.
Our correspondent also observed that the Automated Teller Machine belonging to the bank was not dispensing any cash.
When our correspondent queried the bank on why they were paying only N2000 OTC, one of the bank staff who doesn’t want her name on prints said, “There is no money to pay, we paid N5000 yesterday (Monday) because we had money. Now the money has finished that is why we are paying this N2000 OTC. If we have more money, we will pay more.” she said.
Meanwhile, it was observed that Standard Chartered bank on Akowonjo road was paying only N2000 OTC.
At Polaris Bank on that same axis, one of the staff said, “We have stopped paying, there is no money anywhere, we paid earlier today but because we don’t have money again we can’t pay. Even OTC payments we have stopped paying.”
However, most banks along the Ikotun axis were not paying at the time of filling this report.