AKINWALE ABOLUWADE reports that the presence of destitute persons, as well as okada riders at some of the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) points, raises concerns about customers’ safety.
Day is Tuesday, May 14, 2019 and time is 5:24pm. First Bank Automated Teller Machine (ATM) station at Challenge Roundabout, Ibadan is crowded up like a mini market. Customers take turns either to transfer or draw money from the machines. As some walk away after ending their transactions, others join the queue to use the ATM.
Few metres away from the ATM station, three beggars; a young boy, a girl and an aged woman, perched like hungry vultures lying in wait for prey. At random, they walked up to those leaving the teller machine to beg for money. Some people would give them money while others would simply ignore them.
Just like the destitute persons, some Okada riders also congregated near the bank’s ATM point. A few of them had brought passengers who came for transaction at the teller machine while many others were merely loitering in the area without having any clear purpose or mission. When interviewed, some of them said they were waiting to pick passengers while others argued that they had the right to stay wherever they liked.
After ending his transaction at the ATM station, a man who introduced himself as Tunde Olajide, clutched his laptop bag carefully and walked away briskly from the area. He told Saturday Tribune: “You never can tell who is who. Some of those who are loitering close to the ATM are criminal elements who specialise in snatching of wallets, mobile phones and other personal effects. So one has to be extremely careful. That is why you see me holding my bag tight in my hand”.
Olajide explained that he had witnessed a scene where two men on a motorbike snatched a bag from a lady at the ATM point barely a year ago, saying: “All of us who were at the place were shocked and dumbfounded. Before we knew what was going on, the hoodlums had disappeared with the woman’s bag while she was crying and rolling helplessly on the floor. So, I cannot trust any of these people, be it a beggar or an okada rider”.
One of the beggars at the ATM station, who gave her name as Zainab Abass, told Saturday Tribune that she usually comes there to beg for money in the evening, “Because beggars are usually not allowed to loiter around the ATM point and near the bank in the morning and afternoon.
“I don’t come to this place in the morning because the security men usually pursue us from here. They also send us away in the afternoon because they say that we are disturbing their customers. They warned that whoever they catch would be handed over to the police, so I don’t come at that time because I am afraid of police and I think others also keep away from here because nobody wants to get arrested. But, the security men don’t usually disturb us in the evening when people are going home. Some of them give us money but others don’t.”
Another teenage beggar, who gave his name simply as Abdul, said he chose to come to the ATM point to beg because the elderly ones begging at the Lagos/Ijebu Ode Park, Challenge sent him away from there because they didn’t want others to join them.
A female beggar at the Wema Bank ATM point, Gate, Ibadan, Suliya Mudashiru, frequently stands a distance away from where the people queue up for transaction. She usually begs the people for money by praying for them. Adjacent where she stands is an old woman (name not given) who also begs those coming from the ATM and other passersby for alms. Although Okada riders are not in the area, young boys believed to be apprentices at the popular spare parts market at Gate sometimes loiter in the area.
Some of those using the bank’s teller machine said they usually feel insecure but “we have no other choice than to keep using it since there is no other ATM station nearby.”
Meanwhile, some of the ATM users in Ibadan have said that a situation where Okada riders, beggars and others mill around the ATM points is indecent and dangerous. They explained that movements near ATM points should be closely monitored regardless of the time of the day and place, saying criminal elements usually take advantage of unsuspecting members of the public who come to draw money at the teller machine.
A customer, who gave his name as Ola Taiwo, said he once fell victim to criminal elements at an ATM station at Apata, along Ibadan-Abeokuta Road. Taiwo said he had set out to travel to Abeokuta around 7:30 pm on a Saturday and decided to drop by to draw some money at the ATM when two men, who were on a motorbike, attacked him. He said that the men dispossessed him of the sum of N15,000 which he drew from the machine.
He said: “We are happy that the ATM has brought us convenience in banking. As a result of the ATM, it has become easy for bank account holders to draw money anytime they want, but you must take into account the security of your lives and your hard-earned money. It is sad that criminally-minded people now take advantage of the wonderful technological initiative to steal or cheat innocent citizens. Since the time when I had that experience, I always ensure that I don’t visit the ATM too early in the morning or at night”.
A retired policeman, Mr Ade Olatundun, who noted that the level of crime in Nigeria is generally alarming, expressed concern that criminal elements were busy devising means to either hack into technological innovations or rob innocent citizens. He said the fact that the economy is harsh is not an excuse for anybody to engage in crime.
“The news that is trending now is that two Nigerians were arrested in India for allegedly stealing money from Automated Teller Machines in India. We heard that the two young Nigerians used a skimmer machine and micro camera to steal data from the ATM cards of innocent people. According to what we heard, the hoodlums transferred collected data to cloned cards, which they used to make withdrawals and shop.
“Many people had lost their life savings to scammers and are now suffering in silence. You can recall the story of a couple who lost about N450,000 to criminals who stole their ATM cards. It was too late by the time they alerted their bank. Government should do more to keep the society secured, but unfortunately, there is shortage of police personnel in the country.”
A retired banker, Mrs Kuburat Babayomi, said that activities of beggars and okada riders should be questioned at ATM points. According to her, most of the people who loiter around the galleries are criminally-minded.
Babayomi said: “We had witnessed cases where some okada riders and others loitering at the ATM galleries engage in sharp practices under the guise of trying to help those who are unfamiliar with the use of ATM. Some innocent customers had lost their cash deposits to criminal elements in the process; they would simply transfer money from accounts of unsuspecting ATM users.”
A security man at one of the ATM points in Dugbe, Ibadan, who gave his name as Azees, said the management of his bank had given a standing order that on no account should destitute persons be loitering near the bank’s ATM point. “Of course, a situation where the poor begs for money at ATM points may be discouraging to customers just as it can compromise the security arrangement of the bank. The bank cannot tolerate this”.