The nation boils as protesters target banks, ATMs, battle security forces
More protests broke out in Lagos, Ogun, Rivers, Ondo and Oyo states on Friday over the crises trailing the naira redesign policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria and the attendant scarcity of the currency.
The protests resulted in the blocking of major roads by youths who made bonfires and in some cases attacked motorists. The situation led to the hurried closure of business premises, schools and markets as travellers and residents ran helter-skelter.
Soldiers and policemen were, however, deployed to quell the uprising.
In Lagos, there was fighting on the Lagos-Ikorodu Expressway as suspected louts took to the road at Mile 12, Ketu and Ojota areas to attack commuters and create chaos.
Many residents took to Twitter and shared details of the ongoing fighting in the areas and claimed that gunshots were heard.
Ikota Shopping Complex, Ajah, Lagos, was another flashpoint where there are consortium of banks – Fidelity Bank, Union Bank, Access Bank, United Bank for Africa, Sterling Bank, Providus Bank Plc and Guaranty Trust Bank, this shopping complex also was torched by angry protesters.
A staffer in one of the banks, whose name was given as Oladimeji Utibe Marvelous was not so lucky as she was attacked by an angry mob as she walked out of her bank said to be Providus Bank Plc at Ikota Shopping Complex.
The Insight was informed by an eyewitness that the unlucky woman was going out of the complex when she ran into the mob who rough handled her.
She was rescued by some good Samaritans who protected her after which it was learnt she landed in a hospital for treatment.
There were also reports of riots in Agege, Iyana-Ipaja and Igando areas, while hoodlums in the Epe area of the state capitalised on the opportunity to attack banks in the area.
A source in the Epe alleged that the banks attacked were Zenith, Access and Keystone.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Benjamin Hundeyin, confirmed the unrest in the Mile 12 area of the state.
Responding to a tweet asking for a confirmation of the rumour of the unrest, Hundeyin tweeted, “It is true. Our men are there. Reinforcement units have been deployed. Stay safe out there as we closely monitor and manage the situation.”
He also confirmed the attacks on some banks in the Epe area.
“Three banks were attacked in Epe but our men are already on the ground,” the PPRO stated.
The Chairman, Mile-12 Branch of the Lagos State Park Management Agency, Mr Adekunle Matiminu, who confirmed the protest to the News Agency of Nigeria, said some hoodlums carried out the protest before they were dispersed.
Matiminu noted that no member of the agency was involved in the protest, adding that they rather assisted the police to disperse the protesters.
A NAN correspondent, who monitored the situation at Ojota, Ketu and Mile-12, reports that the Area H Commander, ACP Mohammed Sanusi, led a team of policemen from different divisions under his command.
Similarly at Mile-12, more than 15 patrol vehicles from the police and OP MESA were seen stationed at both sides of the Mile-12 Bridge for quick intervention as vehicular and human activities were later restored.
Hundeyin said, “Although we don’t know those involved in the protest, normalcy has returned to the area with the deployment of more operatives.
“Free movement of vehicles and people fully restored. Our officers and men are still on the ground to prevent any breakdown of law and order. If you see something, say something.
“It is true that our men are there. Reinforcement units have been deployed. I enjoin members of the public to stay safe as we closely monitor and manage the situation.”
Soldiers were seen at the Ojota and Berger areas, while some were stationed on the Long Bridge on the way out of Lagos.
At the Magboro and Ibafo areas of Ogun State, protesters barricaded the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, made bonfires and grounded movement of vehicles for over one hour.
Four rifle-wielding policemen, who approached the protesters at Magboro to plead with them to allow their vehicle pass, were sent back.
Some soldiers, who came later, however, forced their way through by shooting in the air. The gunshots created panic as stranded motorists abandoned their vehicles and ran for cover, while traders at the Magboro Market abandoned their wares and fled in different directions. Schools in the area and business premises hurriedly closed and parents and guardians were advised to come and pick their children and wards as they schools said it was dangerous to allow branded school buses to drop off the pupils.
At Warewa end of the expressway, some heavily armed masked men came out of the forest and laid ambush by the earth road by the side of the Long Bridge to attack unsuspecting motorists and commuters.
One of our correspondents, who witnessed the scene, observed that the masked men wore black T-shirts and khaki trousers.
Some soldiers and policemen later arrived at the scene but the masked gunmen fled into the bush.
Gunshots were heard in Ibadan, Oyo State, as protesters stormed the Iwo Road area of the capital city in continuation of the protest against the currency crisis that started in the state on Tuesday.
Protests in Rivers
In Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, hoodlums destroyed three commercial banks. The affected institutions included First Bank in Churchill and Keystone Bank on Aggrey Road both in the old Port Harcourt Township area.
The First City Monument Bank at Rumuokoro in the Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the state was destroyed by angry customers on Thursday.
It was leant that customers had besieged both First Bank and Keystone Bank, but as the protest spilled over, different groups of hoodlums from the waterfront stormed the banks. The First Bank’s Automated Teller Machines and other facilities were pelted with stones.
Not satisfied with the damage, the hoodlums pulled down the gate of the bank, forced their way into the banking hall as workers ran for their lives.
The hoodlums then looted computer monitors, laptops, water dispensers and other items in the hall, but their hopes of finding cash was dashed.
At the Keystone Bank branch on Aggrey Road, the two ATMs were destroyed.
Following the rampage, markets, shops, boutiques and business premises hurriedly closed for the day, while residents ran into their houses and were observing the unfolding scene from their windows.
Policemen later took over the entire Old Port Harcourt Township, especially Lagos bus stop and Churchill.
Three police patrol vans were stationed in front of First Bank to prevent further attacks as it was rumoured that the hoodlums had finalised arrangements to set the bank on fire.
The policemen shot in the air and chased the hoodlums into the Abuja, Bishop Johnson and Ibadan waterfronts.
Protests also spread to Emenike and Okika streets in the Mile One area of Port Harcourt. However, armed policemen in patrol vehicles and an Armoured Personnel Carrier later arrived to disperse the mob and were stationed at the popular Ikoku junction, Mile Three area of the Ikwerre Road.
When contacted, the spokesperson for the state police command, Grace Iringe-Koko, confirmed the disturbances, saying five persons had been arrested.
Iringe-Koko said, “You know that we anticipated this problem because of what has been happening in other parts of the country.
“So, immediately we received a distressed call this morning, the Commissioner of Police deployed all tactical units and anti-riot policemen.
“At the Ikoku, Emenike and Mile Three areas now, there are several patrol vans stationed there. We have arrested about five persons. Normalcy has returned to these areas as we speak.”
It was learnt that an undergraduate was allegedly shot dead at the Emenike area, but the PPRO said she had yet get such a report as of the time of filing this report.
Benin-Ore road blocked
Some residents of Ore in the Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State, on Friday, blocked the busy Ore-Benin Expressway to register their displeasure over the scarcity of naira notes.
NAN reports that the protesters made bonfires on both sides of the road, making it impossible for vehicular movement and resulting in gridlock in the area.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, ASP Funmilayo Odunlami, said police personnel from the Ore Police Area Command were “on top of the situation to arrest any breakdown of law and order.”
Police warn attackers
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Police Force has warned against attacks on banks, while noting that those carrying out the attacks will be treated as armed robbers.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, in a video posted on the NPF’s Facebook page, cautioned against further attacks, noting that such would be resisted by the police.
Adejobi said, “We complain that banks don’t attend to us, yet we go to their facilities and set them ablaze and destroy the ATMs. How do you want them to serve you better if you have destroyed their facilities?
“I think we need to educate ourselves on what the law says about this. You don’t go to any bank, ATM (gallery), or financial institution to attack. It is criminal and tantamount to armed robbery. If you are caught in the act, you will be treated as an armed robber.
“Even the ATM, as small as that machine is, has certain protections from the security agencies, particularly the police. It is an infrastructure that you don’t attack. If you do that, it is presumed that you are actually going there to rob.”
He also warned against attacks on police officers, appealing to Nigerians to desist from such as the Force would use the “minimum force” on people.
Adejobi further called on Nigerians to be civil in their protests while citing the recent events in Edo, Delta, Ogun and some parts of Lagos State.
He added, “A protest must be coordinated. We can be civil and do it better.
“And these guys that come out are not interested in demanding their monies or requesting anything from the government. It is just to loot shops. You can see the clips showing that these guys are there to foment trouble. They have their targets.”
Similarly, the Assistant Inspector-General of Police for Zone 11 Command in Osogbo, Osun State, Sikiru Kayode, warned residents to desist from engaging in violent protests.
In a statement signed by the zone’s spokesman, Benjamin Ayeni, the AIG reiterated the police’s commitment to ensuring that no further breakdown of law and order was tolerated as clampdown would commence on criminals who use the current situation to break into both public and private properties.
It read, “The AIG in charge of Zone XI Command, Osogbo, acting AIG Akande Sikiru Kayode, has advised all parents and guardians to warn their children and wards against involvement in any form of violent protest, that violence has never helped any nation and it is never a solution to the problem confronting our nation. In view of the current situation in the country, people should remain calm and go about their legitimate businesses as the zone will not allow further breakdown of law and order within its jurisdiction.
“Meanwhile, the police ICT department is working and analysing all the video records that we have; therefore, we will soon start a clampdown on all criminals and miscreants who took advantage of the situation to break into government and private properties. This zone will not allow miscreants to take over our public space. The Commissioners of Police in Oyo and Osun states are directed to activate their criminal intelligence bureaus to start picking all the thugs and miscreants involved in the past violent protest.”
DHQ on riots
The Defence Headquarters said it was the responsibility of the police to prevent the protests spreading across the country.
The Director, Defence Information, Brig. Gen. Tukur Gusau, stated this after one of our correspondents sought to know the action the military was taking to prevent further breakdown of law and order across the country.
He simply said, “Preventing riots is the police’s responsibility.”
When told that military personnel were sighted in Lagos and Ogun states helping to restore calm, he said, “I am not aware of any deployment outside our normal routine duties. Military men don’t come out on their own.
Kano faults CBN
Meanwhile, the Kano State Government has described as most unfortunate the discriminatory attitude of the Central Bank of Nigeria by refusing to release new naira notes to commercial banks operating in the state in the last four days.
The state Commissioner for Information and Internal Affairs, Muhammad Garba, who made the assertion in a statement issued on Friday, alleged that since Monday, commercial banks in the state had not received any new naira allocation from the apex bank.
He said the approach of the CBN governor, Gowin Emefiele, in the implementation of the cashless policy seemed to be targeted at Kano and its economy, given the daily volume of trade in the North’s commercial nerve centre, by starving commercial banks of the money that was supposed to be allocated to them.
Garba pointed out that the CBN as an organ of the Federal Government had been reduced to a tool to settle political scores by choosing a wrong time to force a policy on the people that could have been implemented at the appropriate time in the past.
Chaos in Anambra
Officials of commercial banks at Onitsha, Nnewi and Ekwulobia in Anambra State ordered customers out of the banking halls and the Automated Teller Machines points on Friday.
The development caused chaos in the communities as bank customers threatened a showdown with the banks.
The bank officials told the angry customers, who refused to leave the premises, that the action was due to a security alert of impending protests and attacks, which were being planned by some people.
Our correspondent observed a heavy presence of policemen in patrol teams and Armoured Personnel Carriers stationed in the communities to prevent the breakdown of law and order.
As of 11am, banks around Main Market, Onitsha and in Nnewi had been shut to customers.
When contacted, the state police spokesman, DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, said he would not comment on the development as it was a confidential matter, adding that security had been beefed up around banks in the state.
‘Stay at home’
The Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions, on Friday, directed its members in areas prone to crisis to remain at home.
The President of ASSBIFI, Olusoji Oluwole, said in a statement, “We issued warnings and appeals to the government to provide security measures for the safety of lives and properties of our members within and around bank premises.
“However, regrettably the attacks have continued without any form of security for the safety of our members, the recent being the attack on February 17 on one bank branch in Epe, Lagos State.
“We cannot leave the lives and properties of our members exposed to obvious danger. Consequently, all members should today (Friday) immediately stay away from work in any state where bank branches are attacked. This is to continue every day until normalcy is restored.”
Similarly, the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institution Employees called on the Federal Government to deploy soldiers to banks across the country to guarantee their safety.
The President of NUBIFIE, Anthony Abakpa, said, “If they (CBN) stick to that directive, I don’t think there’s a problem. That is what they should have done from the onset rather than allow people’s lives to be threatened and damages to be done.
“If the Federal Government can deploy soldiers to protect individuals, we’ll appreciate it because I don’t want to imagine that our lives are not guaranteed. It’s a worrisome situation.
“So, if the army or a joint task force can be brought to protect bank workers and facilities, I think it’s a welcome idea because we can’t afford to lose a single person during these protests.”
Similarly, the President, Association of Corporate and Marketing Communications Professionals in Nigeria Banks, Rasheed Bolarinwa, said, “We are worried as an association and will continue to plead for calm. Banks and bankers should not be targeted under any circumstance. We plead for the understanding of Nigerians not to resort to violence.
“Most banks are quoted on the Nigerian XChange and therefore owned by Nigerians, who have shares in them and earn dividends annually. Banks are not hoarding money. Those who work there are your brothers and sisters. We call on agencies tasked with securing the country to provide adequate security for banks and bankers, who are doing their legitimate jobs.”
On how much the banks had lost to attacks on their facilities and shutdowns in the last two weeks, Bolarinwa added, “That has yet to be ascertained, but stocks are still being taken by affected banks; but so far before today (Friday), over 17 Bank branches had been damaged destroyed in the South of Nigeria.”