In the last days of last month, August 2021, some customers of the branch office of United Bank for Africa UBA in Umuaka received a message that sent shockwaves that altered their heartbeats. The message which simply went straight to the point, “indicted” Umuaka community in the current insecurity in Southeast. The message reads, “Please we wish to inform you that our Bank Management has decided to shut down Umuaka Branch Office for 30days due to high insecurity issues in Umuaka City and Orlu Road axis as well.”
The bombshell from the letter also created an avenue for a soft landing which reads, “We will be back when some necessary modalities are put in place.”
Many observers and customers who received the message last week and some others who read it via some Umuaka digital platforms did not take it as a surprise. For a very long time now, Umuaka Times has been reporting about the disturbing security situation in the community. There have been stories of several customers of the bank who went to withdraw money from the Umuaka branch office and were later accosted by motorcycle boys who snatched the money from them at gunpoint. Some sustained bullet wounds while some were beaten up. Another group of persons that has suffered seriously over the high rising criminal activities in the community is the POS community operators. At uncountable times, these local businessmen and women were robbed at gunpoint also after going to the bank to withdraw some money for their business transactions.
The insecurity in Umuaka today has always been a source of deep worries for all Akalites in and outside the country. Sometime ago, Umuaka Times was planning to hold meetings with the branch manager of the bank and some other stakeholders in the community on how to find a lasting solution to the menace before another tragedy struck. The police station in Umuaka which is the next door neighbour of the bank was set ablaze by yet to be identified gunmen and arsonists. Since then, the bank had been without protection. Just weeks after the burning of the police station, the branch manager of the bank was kidnapped and was later released after a huge ransom was paid. The kidnap of the branch manager of the United Bank for Africa in Umuaka was the last straw that broke the back of the big financial institution. This fatalistic development Umuaka Times gathered, made it inevitable for the bank to suspend its operations for at least the next 30 days.
Some people who spoke with Umuaka Times saw this from another perspective. Chief Ikenna (not his real name) who spoke with Umuaka Times on the suspension of UBA banking operations in the community saw it as a welcome development. According to him, “It is better for Akalites to go to Owerri to make withdrawals, come back and spend the money according to his or her wishes than for him to withdraw from Umuaka branch and the money is snatched from him almost immediately.”
Another fellow who spoke with Umuaka Times said that he predicted the development long ago. “Ask my friends, I said this that one day, this bank (UBA) will close and very soon other banks will follow due to insecurity.”
As it stands now, UBA has done what it considered national or international best practice, with a clause that it will re-open when some modalities are put in place. From the look of things, the bank will keep to its promise but if things will continue to nosedive, Akalites may be witnessing the last days of Umuaka Branch for United Bank for Africa in their community, at least for now. According to Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley, time will tell.