BY ADEBAYO OBAJEMU
Most banks are yet to fully operate at maximum capacity due to the debilitating effects of COVID-19.
But this is a child’s play when compared with the disruption of banking activities across Lagos last week following the Lekki killings of #EndSars protesters, and the violence and lootings that followed.
A visit to banks’ branches across Lagos revealed that no bank opened for business.
This forced customers to opt for POS for their transactions.
Most of these banks were attacked in Lagos and Akwa Ibom. In Akwa Ibom, a branch of FCMB, Zenith and Gtb were attacked in Uyo, while Polaris, Zenith and Gtb were torched in Lekki , an upscale area of Lagos.
The nation’s lenders are not divorced from the society they provide banking services for, and cannot be separated from other sectors like marketplace, shops, pharmacies and other essential service providers where adequate protection is immensely necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Thus for banks in Lagos last week was a tough one for them, as most hurriedly shut their doors after the Lekki massacre by unnamed soldiers.
Before the shootings, were just recovering gradually from the effects of the pandemic, as nearly all banks in Lagos were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of customers, leading to daily crowds at the entrance.
For an average customer, since the pandemic began, hours are lost trying to deposit or withdraw money.
Afe Onige, a business man told this newspaper that the day after the shooting, he went to all the banks around Ikeja axis but not one of them was open for business.
“I had no choice but to go to POS.”
Adeniyi Adejare, a POS operator informed Business Hallmark that “ever since the pandemic began up till now I always make an average of N5000 commission a day, compared to an average of N2500 before the pandemic, on a particular day I made N12000.”
When Business Hallmark visited some banks in Iyana Ipaja, Ikeja, Abule Egba, Sango and Command, none was open for business.
A security guard at Wema Bank at Abule Egba said the reason they didn’t not open was the insecurity arising from the #EndSars protests.
Last week was a book for POS operators. ” Let me say this since the pandemic began, banks’ ATM points have witnessed a 60 percent decline in patronage, most people go for POS for their financial transaction”, Duro Amusa of Cash flow, a research center that studies financial transaction.
Throughout this year, it has been a big stress for banks.
Recall that at the height of the pandemic, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the Presidential Task Force and the Central Bank of Nigeria had amply stressed the guidelines for banks to adhere to in line with the advisory of the World Health Organization (WHO) before reopening, some of these guidelines include:
Observance of social distancing, disinfectant of all banks’ branches throughout the country, opening within the stipulated time, limiting the number of customers to be granted access into the banking halls per time, all customers and staffs must undergo temperature screening and must use hand sanitizers that are provided before they can gain entrance into the banking hall.
At this time banks were alternating the number of days they work but at some point when the cases started hitting fast, there was no doubting the fact that the banking sector must remain shut with skeletal services provided.
Few Months after the ease of lockdowns, banks are still flooded like the OYINGBO market. A visit to some branches of these banks as early as 5.o-clock in the morning, would greet you with a mammoth crowd lined up like soldier ants looking for food.
Up till now, most banks have not fully open their doors.
When this reporter visited some Gtb branches two weeks ago, some hadn’t open.
This has made customers go through hell to transact business.
“If one has anything to do with Gtb bank in mostly Lagos suburbs, you must be ready to spend between four to six hours standing”, Anthony Edem, a trader said, while discussing his experience with Gtb.