By Saheed Ibrahim, Kayode Olabanji Kayode Afolabi
Samuel Edu, Adedotun Aderoboye & Jimoh Ahme
Bank customers were grounded yesterday as commercial banks and other business centers in Ondo State hurriedly closed their offices to avoid being attacked following rumours of planned attacks on them.
Earlier in the day, aggrieved members of the public in Ore, Odigbo Local Government area of the State had staged a peaceful protest against the continued scarcity of petrol and the new Naira notes.
The peaceful protest led to gridlock as travellers were stranded along Benin-Ore express way.
Some commercial banks and other business centers in the area were reported to have hurriedly closed their offices to avoid being attacked.
As the news of the protest filtered to other towns in the state, all banks closed down their offices and discharged all the customers on queues in the banking halls and ATMs stands.
One of the protesters in Ore, Prince Adebayo Adeyemi told our correspondent, that the hardship being experienced in the country is quite alarming.
His words: “We are protesting to send a message to the government that we, the masses are suffering.
The Hope gathered that in Alagbaka, Akure, the financial center of banking activities in the state capital, people had as at 8:45am yesterday, besieged many of the banks with long queues, agitating to withdraw money.
However, banks in Okitipupa, the headquarters of Okitipupa local government, did not open for business as a result of news of the looming protests in the area.
In some of the banks visited by our reporters, customers were seen loitering around the banks and at the ATMs groaning about the development.
One of the customers who spoke anonymously with our correspondent said the banks were afraid to operate due to possible outbreak of protests.
“We are only standing here maybe the ATM will dispense money,” he said.
Another customer, Ojuri Idowu said there were moves by some youths to stage protest but was later shelved, maybe that was the reason the banks refused to open.
He appealed to the authority concerned to do something to avert problems in the land.
Efforts to speak with some bank officials proved abortive as none of them was willing to talk to the press, saying they were not authorized to do so.
However, at First Bank, Sabo, in Ondo town, some banks working at the early hours of the morning were later shut by 11am and no reason was given but it might not be connected with the rumoured protest in the town and the scarcity of new naira notes.
According to a bank staff who spoke with our reporter, the sudden closure was a directive from the headquarters.
His words: “We were working this morning until we were directed not to allow anyone in. I don’t know the reason behind it. We are just following instructions.”
He also hinted The Hope that some banks decided not to operate because they no longer have cash for transaction.
He added that the rumour of an impeding protest in the state and possible attacks on banks could also be factors for sudden shut down of operations.
According to him, the Central Bank of Nigeria only released N50 million to over 10 branches of his bankto transact with.
“The CBN can lie to you that they gave money out. Imagine sending N50 million to about 13 branches to share, before 10am, that money will finish.
“So, it is better to just stay at home than going to work without any transaction. That can infuriate the people the more,” he said.
Speaking on the rumoured protest, he said, “We are also humans. People are attacking banks as if we are the devil. We need to protect our heads too,” the source explained.
Meanwhile, Teni n Teni, a political organization working for the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as Nigeria’s next president has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently end the lingering fuel crisis in the country and install orderliness in the financial sector of the economy by making the new naira notes available to Nigerians.
Otunba Rasak Isijola, the coordinator of the group in Ondo State, rising from a stakeholders of the group’s meeting made this request to the federal government as an assignment to be handled with a national urgency. The leadership of the group is very concerned about the situation in the state of the nation and the likely bandwagon effect this situation might have on their candidate as a member of the ruling party.
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