By Harry Awurumibe, Editor, ABUJA BUREAU
Contrary to the blames heaped on the door steps of commercial banks for the unprecedented crowds recorded across the political and economic capital cities of Abuja and Lagos yesterday by the Director General of Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, the banks may be innocent of the accusation after all.
Prompt News investigations have revealed that the leadership of NCDC and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) took a joint decision with the commercial banks to scale down their operations by closing some of their branches immediately after the easing of Coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown.
NCDC boss had on Monday at the daily press briefing of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 in Abuja tongue-lashed the commercial banks for shutting down some of their branch operations which resulted to the few that were open to witness chaotic scenes as customers breached health protocols including physical distancing in their desperate bid to transact their business.
Dr. Ihekweazu had while answering questions on the health implications of the crowded banks, argued that the banks should have known that closing some branches would put undue pressure on the few that are opened.
But Prompt News can confirm that NCDC and CBN advised the banks to scale down their operations by closing some branches.
For example, a notice placed at the entrance of one of the old generation banks at Shippers House, Wuse in the Central Business District of Abuja read in part:
“Notice To Customers
Please be informed that in compliance with the CBN and NCDC stipulations the branch is not opened for general transactions. However, you can use our ….branch to carry out your transactions”.
With the above instructions to customers it is clear that the authorities gave the commercial banks the green light to close of their branches which has turned out to be a bad advice.
Meanwhile, the crowd at some commercial banks in the Abuja metropolis were smaller than witnessed in the first day of the the reopening of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Fewer numbers of customers were seen at United Bank for Africa (UBA) Koforidua Street branch in Wuse Zone 5, although they were issued tallies to wait for their turns after the security personnel have checked each customer’s body temperature and applying hand sanitizer.
The story was the same at the Access Bank branch just opposite the UBA, Wuse as few customers were seen waiting to be attended to.
However, First Bank Plc branch at Shippers House near Sky Memorial was under lock and keys as the security men directed customers to other branches.
They did not volunteer any reason the bank was still shut two days after lockdown was lifted.