Peculiar Mess: How Security Personnel at Nigerian Banks Made Money, Held Customers To Ransom At The ATM Points During The Lockdown

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Peculiar Mess: How Security Personnel at Nigerian Banks Made Money, Held Customers To Ransom At The ATM Points During The Lockdown

Peculiar Mess: How Security Personnel at Nigerian Banks Made Money, Held Customers To Ransom At The ATM Points During The Lockdown
May 21
10:21 2020

It is often said that there is no animal in the world, other than the gentle human, who is so dominated that when asked to labour while hungry for even the smallest amount of food that is poor in nutrition, they do it gladly. 

And that, perhaps, sums up the situation of the security guards at many bank branches. Hungry and broke, they seek food unabashedly and with a predatory instinct. At the Ikeja GRA branch of Zenith Bank, the situation is even worse as the security guards became lords unto themselves during the lockdown order of the federal government to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The economy had ground to a stop. There was no work. And millions of Nigerians depended on their savings for survival. With very few people out on the streets, bank customers became easy prey for these security guards. Those who used the Zenith Bank ATM in Ikeja have bitter tales to tell.

According to a customer who gave her name simply as Omolola, she had strolled into the branch to withdraw from the ATM when one of the guards walked up to her, offering to help her operate the machine. Embarrassed, Omolola said she politely turned down the offer. When she was about to leave, she claimed that she was accosted by another security guard who pointedly told her to “drop something for the boys” from the money she had just withdrawn. Even more embarrassed at this point, Omolola  said that she told him with a disarming smile that she had come to empty the peanut in her account but that did not work.

“The guards had padlocked the gate and insisted that I had to part with ‘something’ although in a friendly tone. The one that had earlier offered to assist with the withdrawal said I should not call N15, 000 a peanut. I was enraged,” she recalled. According to her, she attempted to educate the security guard that he had breached her rights to a private transaction by revealing how much she withdrew. Omolola said she probably was allowed to leave the premises after they noticed that her voice had risen and she was speaking in legalese; “E be like say she be lawyer sefCarry your wahala dey go,” the second security guard said in vernacular, according to Omolola. After TheCapital investigation, we discovered that a lot of customers were victims of this unholy act. 

That scenario, other respondents have told this medium, is what plays out in many banks in Ikeja; the likes of UBA, Fidelity Bank and Ecobank. No less, first-generation Wema bank branches where customers have complained about their security guards being overly beggarly and unprofessional. An insurance executive who preferred not to be named explained how she had gone to the Town Planning Way, Ilupeju branch of Wema Bank to make a withdrawal and was scared shitless by her experience. 

As she made to drive out of the parking lot, she said that a security guard came to her side, tapped on the window and reminded her that they were the ones watching over her car. “He didn’t stop there,” she recalled, adding, “hethen said that it would be wicked of me to leave without tipping them. I was shocked, of course, but I gave him N500. I don’t know what gave him the boldness to talk that way. But I quickly reflected that these people could arrange with outsiders to rob me on my way. I plan to register my displeasure with the bank.” 

Another user, with the handle @Jamessucre on Twitter, recounted his plight at the Agbani, Enugu branch of First City Monument Bank ATM, alleging that to be granted access to use the ATM, security guards there charge customers a flat rate of one thousand Naira (N1,000) once it is 7:00 pm. He lamented that the bank had not responded to him despite lodging his complaint formally.

“I brought a report here about how @MyFCMB security men in Agbani task people 1k once it’s 7 pm in order for them to gain access to the ATM machine (sic) inside the bank premises and up till now, I have not heard from them.”

The unethical behaviour of these personnel has been on for some time but the lockdown, which shuttered the economy, seemed to have, perhaps, aggravated the situation. No Nigerian bank, customers allege, is immune from this untoward trend which they concur is borne out of the pocket-money wages they receive. “These are grown men and women with families and they earn what I’d give my kid for tidying their bedroom,” she said. She implored bank CEOs to look into the situation before it turned ugly saying, “At the rate these guys are going, they might be the ones with guns robbing people openly at the ATMs.”

Another respondent posited that the banks should not be blamed for this unwholesome practice as many of them sub-let their security operations to private security outfits and as such, might be oblivious to how bad the situation had degenerated at their gates.

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