• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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BusinessDay

Robberies, Banko-Haram and Ijebu-Ode caliphate

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We all know about boko-haram. No thanks to the mass-media that have given them free advertisement and PR. They have even created national fear of the blood-thirsty and reckless renegades by conferring on them, the baptismal name and sobriquet of a ‘dreaded group’. Yes, the Al-Qaida local subsidiary has been on the receiving end in recent times, losing arms and limbs in the process. Several scores of their fighters have surrendered with their arms in Biu and environs; the fake Shekau was killed in Konduga and the group has suffered severe reverses in most fronts. However, we know that they still cling to some areas of the country where their tattered flags are flown and where their ‘emirs’ are operating in their fast diminishing caliphate. The fact however remains that there is general awareness about their existence and activities

There is however another group of terrorists, operating boldly across the country, seizing territories and shaping social and business activities. The only difference is their modus operandi (strategies and tactics). They do not fly their flags, anoint and install emirs, Obas or Obis, they do not crave publicity and they do not operate a standing or a standard army. The group in question is composed of armed robbers and they operate in a diffused manner all over the country. However, they have carved out a territory for themselves in the Ijebu-Ode Axis. You would recall that sometimes, about three years ago, all the banks in Ogun state went on strike and suspended operations to protest the activities of dare devil robbers. That was the period I saw them ‘live’ as they overran OOU, stayed for as long as they wanted and detonated the kind of explosives we only saw at CNN or Aljazeera. Most of the banks (and bank buildings were becoming more than lecture rooms) never returned after that awful experience.

In the first week of September, this year, when our students would not come to school or when the government asked them to stay away or both (it was a school fee-related protest, probably emanating from the LASU-effect!), the few banks in the school closed shop because of the fear that ‘they’ would strike!  Subsequently, I noticed that banks in Ijebuode had no opening time. They opened by 9am, 10am or 11am as the case may be, without apologies and without explanations. One day, I was at First Bank for a transaction and as at 9.30am, the doors were not opened and the security-man just told me that they were not open yet. I demanded to speak to an official and I was obliged. The fellow explained to me that all the banks in Ijebu-Ode had not opened their doors by that time and that they were waiting for signals to start. Waiting for signals?  I took a mental not to seek Femi Falana’s advice because they violated my fundamental human or banking or whatever right or they even played on my intelligence, which was also actionable!.

But that was nothing compared with what was to come. By the time I came back in the next two weeks, the situation had taken a bizarre and catastrophic dimension. The whole banks in Ijebu axis (Ijebu-Ode, Ago-Iwoye, Ijebu-Igbo) did not open their doors to the public for two whole weeks, (22/9/14-3/10/14) because they ‘received an alert’! Two weeks previously, they had not opened because they were waiting for signals. Now, they did not open because they received an alert! These people were surely speaking in tongues! Unlike the previous time, there was no officer to explain; the officers just disappeared (and were probably peeping from within) as frustrated customers lashed out at poor security men. Eventually, the security-man explained to me that they received an alert that the ‘bad boys’ were around and as such, they just shut their gates and doors! Another day, and at another bank, the security person, a lady, courteously explained that out of the three Amoured Personnel Carriers in the axis, two were faulty and that it was not safe for them to operate under that circumstance. She expected me to understand that banks should not open without the comforting presence of APCs

What do we make of this?  Banks no longer have opening hours because they only open when they receive signals. And even that staggered opening time is a privilege that can easily be abridged when they receive an alert that the bad boys are around or that an APC has fallen sick. So, you see, the robbers have formed the Banko-Haram (banking is forbidden) group, hoisted their flags (invisible) and carved out a caliphate (or  an Oba-rate) in Ijebu-Ode where they decide what happens: whether banks should open, when they should open, for how long they should open, etc. And last time when the bankers went on strike over insecurity, most people in this axis had to go to Ibadan, (Oyo state) for their banking needs and the robbers waylaid them on the Ijebude-Ibadan high way!

So, where are the police in all this: DPO, CP AIG and IGP? This is a country where oddities are allowed to grow taproots and become norms even though our people say an abomination does not become normal because it is massively repeated. The police authorities know or feel that robbers are likely to strike. Instead of taking the battle to them and dismantling their structures, they send ‘alerts’ to the banks. And because this is Nigeria where nobody asks questions, the banks just close shops because they did not receive signals or because they received alerts! Is this not arrant nonsense? Is it not a conspiracy against the people by those who are duty or contractually bound to provide services? The police abandon their duty to provide protection and the banks abandon their duty to provide banking services and the people leak their wounds. Even then, why should the three APCs fall sick at the same time and when did banking become dependent on APCs? And why did the police not collaborate with the soldiers in the nearby facility who will gladly offer assistance? And if they are so overwhelmed with the bad boys, how come they still have time to mount two N50 toll-gates (and even give ‘change’ when need be) along Ijebu-Ode-Ago Road. On 2/10/14, a police officer boldly collected N100 and gave N50 change to driver of Opel Kadett, LEE723KJA

Well, armed robbers have regrouped as banko-haram (banking is evil), carved out the Ijebu-Ode Caliphate and determine if and when banks should open  in that axis. But I will still consult Femi Falana for Class Action against all the banks that closed shop for two weeks because they received the alert from the police. I do not know the type of customer-service-week messages those banks sent to their customers last week! The police should also be sued for criminal and contributory negligence. Meanwhile, before the next bank closure takes place, Yemi Kale, the Statistician General of the Federation, should please calculate the impact of the two-week closure of Ijebu banks on our rebased GDP…

Ik Muo