The incidence of bank robberies across cities and towns in Nigeria has become a recurring phenomenon with huge costs on human, material and financial terms. Year-in -year-out, our news media are buzzing with unfortunate incidents of bank robberies. Generally, the situation has assumed almost a fatalistic dimension such that there is an unspoken understanding of the inevitability of such robberies with each incident-free day appearing more as a postponement of the doomsday.
This assessment is not in disregard of efforts by bank authorities and security agencies at combating this menace. But the reality is that the spate, sophistication and daredevilry of bank robberies across regions in Nigeria have reached alarming proportions such that past and current efforts appear to be the classic definition of foolishness – where different results are expected by repeating a particular course of action. Currently, it appears to be a helpless situation as few days after bank robberies, with loss of lives and money, it is business as usual with no significant departures or improvements in the security architecture.
The challenges facing banks at providing adequate protection for their locations, staff and customers within can be viewed as systemic both from the banking industry and the larger Nigerian establishment. Specifically, and for the banking industry, there appears to be a consensus of inertia, or at best mid-way efforts at collectively appreciating the situation as a national emergency requiring holistic and drastic reappraisal of their business operations against security realities. Banks, barring other indicators, are inherently high-risk locations, and all relevant considerations should reflect such.
The need for a holistic and drastic review will essentially require banks to re-examine the siting of their branches with serious attention to the nature of locality (metropolis or remote town, type or nature of activities around, etc), proximity to nearest police division, and possible shortest police response time. In some environments, individual bank’s competitive business goals should be mediated by considerations for collective security need. In operating environments with peculiarities impinging on security, by design, banks will be sited within clusters that offer a concentration of security investment and presence. Though this arrangement does not totally remove the risk of robbery attacks, but it offers greater deterrence against such.
Apart from siting considerations for banks, there is a heightened need for banks to embed serious security considerations in the design of their buildings and use of building materials. Today’s bank robbers have gone ’ballistic and bombastic’ in the calibre of weapons deployed in their trade. Beyond automatic rifles such as AK47, dynamites have become handy tools for these robbers. Accordingly, design and construction of bank buildings should have such considerations as serious guides where selection of building design and specifications for materials (for walls, windows and doors) are concerned.
In the light of the use of dynamite by bank robbers at forcibly accessing banking halls, mantrap doors therefore offer little resistance in this regard. There is therefore a need to redesign access control processes and systems at banks. Serious consideration should be given to further fortify the access points. Current thinking will require some realignment of priorities and the demand for new investments by banks – again, the situation demands as much.
While it is not feasible to contemplate all manner of ballistics and explosives available to criminals to enable deployment of relevant countermeasures, and while there are no equipment or materials strong enough to withstand a determined adversary with the advantages of tools and a near-absence of armed reaction, the major thinking behind the ideas expressed here notwithstanding are essentially for greater resistance and delay in anticipation of needed armed response.
The thoughts captured in this piece are just a part of the equation needed in addressing the menace of bank robberies. It is however important that banks deliver on their part while concerted efforts are geared toward the other end of the matter.