Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Ogun Residents in Financial Mess as Banks Shut Doors Indefinitely

The Remo and Ijebu Ode divisions of Ogun State are arguably the most economically active in the state. They run neck-to-neck with Lagos in this aspect.

With the legion of macro-religious settlements, higher education (public and private) institutions and high calibre festivals associated with the divisions, not to mention the parties the people are used to, the indefinite closure of banks in the axis which started yesterday is already taking a toll on the peoples' lifestyle.

If you have a ward in say Babcock University at Ilisan Remo, you must cultivate the habit of rushing financial assistance there at short notice as you can no longer pay money into any bank account for your ward to assess.

To make matters worse, instead of ensuring the needful is done and quickly too, the government seems to have taken offence at the bankers action, claiming they are blackmailers. The bankers on the other hand fired back saying among other things that the government was not responsive to the security alert sent over time

BANKERS in both Ijebu land and Sagamu axis have made good their threat to close their shops, leaving all banks in the areas under lock and key. When Vanguard inspected the level of compliance of the strike, it was observed that depositors were stranded in many of the banks following the closure.

Most of the depositors who spoke with Vanguard lamented what they described as 'unbearable hardship', calling on the state government to urgently do something before things get out of hand.

The Ogun State Government, however, yesterday, described the strike action embarked upon by the bankers' forum in Ijebuland and Sagamu as a calculated attempt to portray it as insensitive and unresponsive.

Bankers are blackmailers - Govt

Reacting to the statement issued by chairmen of the bankers' forum in Ijebuland and Sagamu, Segun Olusoga and Tunde Onadeko respectively on Wednesday, where they announced the closure of all banks in the nine local government areas of the state, the government, through a statement by the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Taiwo Adeoluwa, described the striking bankers as blackmailers.

According to the statement, "the government noted with dismay the statement credited to Mr. Segun Olusoga, Chairman, Ijebuland Bankers' Forum to the effect that banks in Ijebu area of the state will not open to customers in protest against robbery attacks on some of them.

"In his said statement, Mr. Olusoga was quoted to have used reckless and intemperate language to describe the state government. We view the statement as a calculated attempt to portray our government as insensitive and unresponsive, particularly since we have always provided periodic information to the Bankers Forum on the sustained efforts to provide necessary equipment for security agencies in the state.

"The threat by the Bankers' Forum to deny customers access to banking services on account of security complaint is gradually turning to blackmail. While not making excuses, it should be noted that bank robbery and other security challenges are not peculiar to Ogun State.

"The state government, therefore, considers it mischievous and reckless for Mr. Olusoga or any member of the Bankers' Forum to claim or create the impression that we are not doing anything to put necessary security measures in place."

While recalling what the state government has done since its inception of office, the statement said "for the avoidance of doubt, we need to put it on record that in the nine months that this administration has spent in office, we have invested almost N3.7 billion to provide security for our people.Last December, we ordered 10 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) to complement the two we met on ground. Even at that, only one of the two was working.

"We quickly repaired the other. These were measures aimed at tackling the immediate security challenge. We equally purchased 125 patrol vans equipped with communication gadgets for the use of the anti-crime joint military-police task force that we established, 'Operation Mesa', the Quick Response Squad (QRS) and the other security agencies. Some of the patrol vans had been deployed. The others will soon be allocated.

"We also got the Police High Command to approve the special deployment of 262 additional mobile policemen from MOPOL 20 based in Lagos to complement the activities of the 'Operation Mesa' and other security agencies.".

The government, however, chided the bankers for insisting on the procurement of Armoured Personnel Carrier, APCs, before they could open their shops, saying, "while the bankers believe that only the presence of APCs can give them necessary assurances to operate unimpeded, it should be noted that APCs are not like cars that can be purchased off the shelve.

"Apart from the period it takes to get them from the manufacturing plant after placing an order, one requires security clearances from both the country of manufacture and the end user's country. To ensure the timely arrival of the APCs, we had to bring them into the country by air, thereby incurring additional expenses in the process," he said.

Security clearances

While reiterating on the assistance received so far from the Presidency, the government said "the Presidency has been very helpful in facilitating the issuance of the security clearances and we are happy to state that with the personal intervention of President Goodluck Jonathan, we even got a duty waiver.

"The APCs are right in the country and will be deployed as soon as we complete all documentation and formalities. Apart from the APCs, we indeed purchased other security equipment that cannot be detailed here. It is important to note that in all of these, we have not touched the money in the coffers of the Security Trust Fund which we set up last year."

He, however, called for calm from the people in the state, urging them not to entertain any fear "as a result of the statement made by the Bankers' Forum."

The government further said that, the Forum has failed to appreciate "the elaborate arrangements the government has put in place, or rather, the body is acting under other influences in a move to discredit the government. We promise all stakeholders in Ogun State that we will continue to do our best".

Bankers say govt should substantiate allegation

IN a swift reaction, the Chairman of bankers forum in Ijebuland, Segun Olusoga, denied being sponsored, and challenged the state government to substantiate the allegation that some people were sponsoring him.

Speaking with Vanguard on phone, Olusoga said: "I am not a politician. I am not a card carrying member of any political party. I am a banker. If anyone says I am being sponsored they should substantiate it.

"Nobody is using me. If the government can substantiate it that, okay, this person is using me. Then it means the person is using the whole of us. We are saying that, there is insecurity in the state. It is obvious.

"We are talking of insecurity. Some people have been killed in Sagamu and other places. Customers and staff were killed by armed robbers. At Olabisi Onabanjo University, OOU, the same thing happened, some students lost their lives and everybody saw it.

"A lot of people died. We went to the House of Assembly, we went to the government, we have been to everywhere but nothing has been done. I want to address the press if the government want to give armed robbers licence of operation, let them give them so that we will know how to secure ourselves.

The government that has taken oath to secure the lives and property but could not defend the people that are going out with their legitimate businesses in their state."

He, however, added that the strike will be shelved if the government provides an enabling environment.

According to him: "You said you are going to import APCs we did not see them. We will shelve the strike if the government provides conducive environment. We are not at loggerheads with the state government. We are losing a lot."

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