Democratic Peoples’ Alliance, DPA, has raised an alarm about a new form of harassment that automatic teller machines, ATM, bank patrons now suffer at the hands of people purporting to be policemen in Lagos.
The party reported complaints by customers leaving banks’ ATM points only to be stopped in public by plain-clothed people brandishing police identification. They would then proceed to undertake a thorough body search of their victims, who are subsequently forced to display their personal identity card, ATM cards and their cash withdrawals, DPA said in a statement by its Director of Publicity, Felix Oboagwina.
DPA urged the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Marvel Akpoyibo, to urgently wade into the matter and call his men to order.
It said: “It is a most dangerous dimension to banking and ATM transactions. Such unwarranted stop-and-search exercises are not only threatening, they clearly violate the security and confidentiality traditional to banks and their customers. Moreover, they can expose customers to attacks from robbers and muggers.”
The party noted that police and banks usually provided security at ATM points inside banking premises and nothing warranted the novel embarrassment the police was subjecting the public to.
Recalling several ugly incidents in which policemen had turned around to rob, maim and sometimes kill people whom they searched and found substantial cash upon, DPA said the practice of trailing ATM patrons must stop immediately.
“Nigeria is not the first place that Automated Teller Machines will be installed, and nowhere else in the world do police trail patrons to enquire about withdrawals from ATM points. Whatever the advantages of this latter_day practice by the Nigerian police, it happens nowhere else in the world; plus it clearly violates the fundamental rights provisions of the Nigerian Constitution,” DPA said.
According to the party, such searching violated Nigerians constitutionally guaranteed rights relating to dignity of human persons, personal liberty, freedom of movement, fair hearing and freedom from discrimination.
The party’s statement cited the specific case of a student of the University of Ilorin who had made a withdrawal at the Ikotun Branch of the Intercontinental Bank on Wednesday in Lagos. The young man was trailed and accosted by two men claiming to be plain-cloths policemen and given a thorough body search. They only released him when they felt uncomfortable with a crowd that began to gather at the scene.