Barely five months after suspected armed robbers numbering about eight attacked the Skye Bank branch in Ogbagi, Akoko North-West Local Government Area of Ondo State, and made away with millions of naira, the premises of the bank is now a shadow of itself.
Our correspondent gathered that the Skyebank branch has been abandoned by both the staff of the bank and its customers.
What now remains of the branch are a desolated building with shattered glasses and broken window panes marooned in unkempt environment gradually being overgrown with weed.
The Police at Ogbagi did not respond to distress calls on time. By the time they finally managed to come, the robbers had gone with their loot
A visit to the branch on Friday last week by our correspondent revealed that the imposing all-white building located at Ofe Quarters, opposite Ajuta Market, had become an eye-sore.
Aside from the fact that there was no staff of the bank around to answer enquiries by our correspondent, residents loitering at the adjoining streets declined to make any comment on the fate of the branch.
“If you talk, the police will come and arrest you. To secure a bail, you will be made to pay through your nose. It pays to keep sealed lips so as not to incur the wrath of the law,” a resident, who refused to be identified, said.
According to a source, who took our correspondent round the area, scores of people were initially arrested following a mop-up operation by the police.
“People were made to pay for what they knew nothing about. Then, shortly after the robbery incident, the management of the bank addressed customers, assuring them that the branch would become operational very soon. However, it later dawned on them that the branch, which once served the people of the town, had suddenly become non-operational after a long wait for the branch to re-open. Now, some loyal customers of the bank have to go to Ikare, a nearby town, to transact their banking businesses,” the source said.
Suspected armed robbers invaded the branch on March 7, 2017 in an operation which caught the management of the bank napping as the robbers, who initially pretended to be customers, reportedly opened fire on customers in the banking hall.
The aggressive robbers were said to have stormed the banking hall very early and ordered customers to lie face down. Apparently angered by the non-compliance of some of them, the suspected robbers fired indiscriminately, killing three persons and injuring scores of others in the process.
Having overpowered their victims and cordoned off the entire environment, the suspected robbers were said to have made for the bank’s strong room, from where they carted away millions of naira.
Eye witnesses told our correspondent that the operation lasted about an hour.
“The Police at Ogbagi did not respond to distress calls on time. By the time they managed to come, the robbers had gone with their loot”, said Mr. Debo Ajilo, a resident of the town.
However, SkyeBank Plc’s spokesperson, Mr. Rasheed Bolarinwa, had told our correspondent what the management of the bank thought actually transpired at the branch.
According to him, “There was an attack on Skye Bank Cash Centre in Ogbagi Akoko in Akoko North West Local Government in Ondo State.
“The attack, which took place around 1.30pm, saw the armed gang shooting sporadically upon approaching the bank, and in the process killed one of the two mobile police guards, a regular external guard at the bank and a customer.
“The robbers later carted away some money on the counter, when they forcefully gained entry into the hall.
“The bank commiserates with the people of the town, especially families of those killed, and has expressed readiness to assist law enforcement agencies in their investigations to unravel the circumstance behind the attack; assuring its customers of restoration of normal banking business in the shortest possible time.”
Independent investigation by our correspondent revealed that prior to the attack on the bank by the suspected armed robbers, its balance sheet was nothing to write home about as the weekly banking operations of the bank was only skeletal; to the extent that the revenue generated in a year could hardly sustain the staff working at the branch.
It was also learnt that there had been several attempts to close down the branch but for the intervention of a top retired banker, who saw the need to have a bank in his home town.
The retired top banker was said to have repeatedly prevailed upon the management of the ill-fated branch to allow for time while he wooed his kinsmen to see reason why they must always patronise the branch.