The Patriot Institute of Journalism and Arts (PIJA), Lance Magazine is a public-centric independent media organisation dedicated to fighting injustice, fostering social justice and community development through the telling and retelling of the marginalised-oriented stories.
SPECIAL REPORT: Decade Without Banks In Nigeria’s Community, Residents Await Banking Messiah
This is a special report on the unheard pain of some Nigerians, unnoticed for decades. Conducted by Enoch Oyedibu for PIJAlance Magazine, the report will be into three series and will be published in three days. This is the first part and it focused on Ikirun, a town under Ifelodun Local Government, Osun State.
INTRODUCTION: Nigeria’s Southwest Community Without Banks For A decade
With a growing population of over 300,000 residents; some towns under Ifelodun and Boripe Local Governments, Osun State, have come under the lash of commercial bank scarcity. Ikirun is among the towns mentioned “without banks for a decade” and this report will concentrate on the town.
Located in the northeastern part of the 114 km council, in the last 10 years, Ikirun town under the Ifelodun Local Government has been robbed twice, leaving the town’s branches of the banks folded up.
The robbery which started in Ikirun in 2013, at the twilight of the former Governor, Rauf Aregbesola’s first term continued in 2016, during his second term, residents confirmed.
Ikirun’s standstill celebrates a decade without any commercial banks, Enoch Oyedibu learnt for PIJAlance.
Different administrations have come and gone but the issue of want of banks, in Ikirun remains like the plague in the community.
Many have zeroed the issue of banks’ ineffectiveness to insecurity. And Hands are crossed as mouth agape, awaiting actions of Ademola Adeleke, the new Governor to curb insecurity and bring back banks, residents have said.
IKIRUN Banks ‘absconded for an unplanned sabbatical’
Carved out of the Oyo State in 1991, Osun State became one of the fastest growing states in Nigeria with its population crossing three million, yet, one of the towns that led to its success, Ikirun, has been left without banks for a decade.
This has been described as one of the impediments to community growth. Without banks in the coming years, the community, as well as, others, may deteriorate to further uncivilized territory.
Years before 2013, Ikirun had three banks; First Bank, Polaris Bank (formerly Skye Bank) and Union Bank. All nearby communities rely on these banks for transactions.
But in the year 2013, there was a turn of an event, birthing an armed robbery attack that left many people dead and properties destroyed. This grotesque misfortune was premeditatedly perpetrated against the Skye Bank and First Bank, at first, leaving them absconded for an unplanned sabbatical.
Then, arose the Union Bank which after the comatose of the two banks, came into operation in 2016.
The Union Bank only functioned for barely one year before it was heavily robbed again. A chunk of million was carted away, properties destroyed and people were still killed.
This was the final straw that broke the camel’s back and led to the permanent funeral of banks in one of the Osun State’s largest towns.
According to one of the Princes in Ikirun, the former Oba Olayiwola Olawale Adedeji before he bites the dust had struggled for banks to reopen in the community but almost all of the commercial banks have decided they will not reopen their branches in Ikirun unless their safety is guaranteed. Guaranteeing safety requires sacrifice and that is what many cannot give. This has been an obstacle for banks reopening in Ikirun.
The majority of the residents said ineffective commercial banks in Ikirun have drastically slowed down the economy of the state, increased the inflation rate and hardened the livelihood of the people. This has been said could be one of the negative effects militating the growth of Osun State’s economy and contributing to its poor ranking every year, experts have speculated.
Point of Sale operators have been the source of money dispensation for the community but this comes at a cost. All POS Operators in Ikirun have to travel 24.8 km to Osogbo every day for the consumption of cash.
The charges of the Point of Sale Operators have however been a normal charge nationally. From 1k downward, a sum of N50 naira is charged, while from 1k to 5k, N100 is charged. At every doubling or tripling of more than 5ks, N100 naira will be multiplied by the amount of the withdrawal.
Meanwhile, the surge of naira, leading to Naira scarcity and the restriction placed on the withdrawal limit is as if, Ikirun residents were transited from a frying pan to a burning inferno. The charges of the POS Operators have increased enormously as though, some of them cannot still have a grip of the needed money to transact.
Enoch Oyedibu met with a POS Operator in Ikirun at the Ikirun-Inisha-Ogbomoso park, 1k charges were demanded over a sum of 3k withdrawal, while 1.5k for 5k. “Anybody that cannot pay should be gone,” he told one of the customers.
Another operator who though publicly displayed the call for POS service, had no cash told Oyedibu that people are ingrate. In his word, “you know the issue of Ikirun before naira scarcity, we know how we manage ourselves. But after the naira scarcity, we are more than suffering, spending hours, just to get 20k in Osogbo banks. Transport fares and the stress are there, so when we say people should pay this amount, they will decline. Many times, we buy money with money. This is why I don’t have cash, ooo, I prefer ‘no cash with peace.’”
No government, since 2016 the last robbery has tried to amend the situation in Ikirun. Oyetola, throughout his tenure, didn’t mention it in his agenda. And with Adeleke, nothing contrary has yet to be coming out. This makes all hope becomes blurry for the people of Ikirun.
Until now, no one was able to ascertain why the robbery attacks remain incessant in most parts of Osun State. Aside from the ones of 2013 and 2016 which, were just a three years interval; five years after, armed robbers raided Iree and Iragbiji banks while, carting away millions, they killed innocent citizens and police officers.
Insecurity is the cause of everything, Prince Olawale Opeyemi, told Oyedibu in a WhatsApp interview. “they (armed robbers) attacked Banks in Ikirun twice which led to the death of many innocent citizens. Residents of Ikirun need to go to Osogbo before they can have access to cash. If not for POS Agents that reduce the stress of our people, the Economy of Ikirun would have become worsen than this.”
Opeyemi told Oyedibu that there were several efforts to bring the banks back to the town but all efforts were proven abortive. “The late Kebieyesi (king), Oba Olayiwola Olawale Adedeji II tried a lot in bringing banks back to Ikirun by working with banks MDs and State Governor but we’re (we’ve) yet to see the results. Naira scarcity now worsens the situation of the community.”
For Mr Owoseni, one of the POS Operators and business owners who charge at the normal rate in Ikirun, “not having commercial banks in ikirun, at least one operating is very pathetic. We are pained deeply without having banks in Ikirun.”
Owoseni also confirmed that banks staff are still looking for anyone to guarantee the safety of them before coming to reopen their branches but no one, not even the state government is ready to sign the treaty and so, residents continued to writhe in a stupendous pain and agony of new naira notes and ineffective banks.
Both Owoseni and Opeyemi pleaded that the Osun Government and banks should come to their aid on the issue of banks.
Ikirun is currently without a king, so all hopes rest on the chiefs and the government solely. Attempt to speak with any of the chiefs were also proved abortive.
$64,000 QUESTION: Why Heroes Who Defend Us Are Too Quickly Forgotten?
Alimi Sabitu, popularly known as Baba Asunmo, was a true patriot of the whole story of the bank robbery in Ikirun.
Since his death, barely three years ago, Sabitu remained a hero of the first robbery attack who boldly stood against the robbers and killed two out of them before the Nigerian Police Force officers, could even arrive, eyewitnesses, say.
Sabitu was then, a Skye Bank vigilante who only tend to their gate and ensure the safety of the whole bank and its staff.
Baba Asunmo as he was fondly called was on duty the day of the armed robbery attack in 2013.
While many leapt for their safety, Baba Asunmo, took the bull by the horn and faced the daredevil robbers head-on. With his locally made gun, he was able to kill one of the robbers.
During this time, the armed robbers’ strength was already weakened before the men of the Nigerian Police Force arrived from Iragbiji.
After their arrival, the DPO then was said to have shot with both hands and as well killed one other, living two dead out of the robbers.
However, despite the bravery of Baba Asunmo, Rauf Aregbesola’s Government then in Osun State didn’t consider this a brave act that is worthy to be rewarded. Rather, he considered it as a menial service to his fatherland.
After the bank where He worked folded up, Alimi Sabitu, who was said to have been an indigene of Iree died of a fatal motor accident barely three years ago.
Alimi Sabitu was said to have a son schooling at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology.
Residents said despite his brave act, Sabitu was never rewarded by the State Government before his death. And this is when it pains and touches the heart. A Journalist, is, after all, firstly a man.
This story brings to mind the story of the forgotten soldiers fighting Boko Haram reported by Fisayo Soyombo in 2016. Though it is still unclear it remains a $64,000 QUESTION: Why Heroes Who Defend Us Are Too Quickly Forgotten and Unrewarded?