There was outrage in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital as dozens of residents, who besieged the Udo Udoma Avenue, Uyo branch office of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to deposit their old Naira notes, were injured in a stampede following several cannisters of teargas fired by Anti-riot Policemen to disperse the surging crowd from the premises.
Military personnel and Police operatives also averted attack by angry customers and prevented them from torching the Aka Road branch of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) after forcefully pulling down the Nigerian and UBA flags at the bank premises, as the bank officials were said to have escaped through the backdoor to call in the security agents.
“The customers had already filled the banking hall and officials had hectic time attending to them, while dozens outside struggled to enter. At that point, the officials were overwhelmed and had to escape through the backdoor to call the security agencies, who came, threw teargas, and shot sporadically into the air, causing stampede with scores injured,” an eyewitness, Inyang Inyang, said.
“We heard the CBN would be our last resort after commercial banks have refused to accept the old currency denominations from us. But we are shocked this morning upon arriving at the Udo Udoma office of the CBN, to discover that we can’t do the transaction,” Emmanuel Inokotong, one of the distraught customers lamented.
“How can you ask the whole population of about 7.2 million to converge in one bank to deposit their old notes? It’s wrong because it appears the Federal Government is deliberately setting Nigerians up to revolt against the state,” Effiong Udofia, a civil servant, who explained that he shunned going to work to keep vigil at the bank, noted.
Checks by LEADERSHIP revealed that the streets were virtually empty as scanty vehicles, mostly government officials, political parties on campaign trips, few commercial buses and tricycles ply the streets as fares were raised by over 200 per cent for only commuters with the new Naira notes.
Efforts to speak with the State Controller of CBN, Mrs.Ogbomon Pius Itohan, proved abortive, but a senior official of the apex bank explained that security agents were called in to quell the anticipated violence, wondering why the bank customers could not comply by depositing their cash in time after weeks of sensitization programmes across the country.