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Opinions of Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

How Safe Are Our Banks And Their Customers?

The Security Officers At The Banks’ Entrances: Who Are They Protecting?

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF A PUBLIC SAFETY SECURITY SYSTEM which offers no protection for the people it is supposedly designed to protect? What about the one that makes the enforcer vulnerable and a target of armed robbers’ vengeance?

If you do not see anything wrong with this kind of porous security system then do not read further. This very dangerous system of security management is what we have in Ghana for protecting our banks, customers and bank employees. I see this old- aged security system at various banks as very perilous, porous and ineffective.

With the oil boom in the horizon sooner than later all sorts of criminal elements---both homegrown and from our neighboring countries--- will exploit the seemingly poor and porous security system in the banking industry. I’m talking about bank robbery in particular.

When a nation’s economy improves, other social ills skyrocket. When there is scrambling for wealth, there is the corresponding pressure for the Have-nots to find a way to settle economic scores by attacking the Haves. To a large extent, the have-nots see the haves as persons who have denied them of what was due them.

Anytime I transact with banks in Ghana, I watch with bewilderment the level of vulnerability of the employees, the customers of the banks, the “pale” private security guy and even the assigned Police officer of the banks.

The porosity in the security set-up is so ridiculously imperiled that it makes me wonder whose idea it was—especially in these dangerous times. Apparently, the security arrangement was designed to stop any armed robber or any “intruder” from entering the banks with intent to rob the banks or rob individuals at the precinct of the banks. But, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out the limitations and failure of such security detail at the banks.

Anyone with a little bit of psychological sophistication, common sense and intuition can spot the flaws in the current security set-up. Imagine, an armed man decides to rob a rural bank at Dadowaso. Upon his investigation he will find out that there is always one police officer sitting inside a booth in front of the bank with a (loaded) raffle on his lap. Sometimes this officer is either reading a newspaper or dozes off. So on the day of the robber’s operation his first target will be to take out the police officer with one shot then the employees and the customers of the bank will become easy prey. The Police dairies have cases of this nature in the past where some of its officers were gunned down in like manner. But I am surprised they have not varied their tactics ever since.

Apart from some few bank premises most banks are sited in rented private properties that were not originally built to serve as banks. They were built with no consideration for overt security response.

So you think I’m teaching the criminals how to rob a bank? I don’t think so!! I’m just appraising the current security management at our banks and the urgent need for the Police and the Bank Managements to wake up before worse things befall all of us. The security systems are outdated for the challenges that exist today. The weakness will surface clearly when, not if, one of the banks becomes the victim of armed robbery, just like it has unfortunately happened to some of our Parliamentarians at their homes recently.

Unfortunately, many people will read this piece with bifocals and blinders on, hastily tuning out anything that doesn’t seem directly and specifically relevant to their immediate concerns, families, businesses, lives and friends as they see it at this moment.

That is a big mistake if you have gone through this piece quickly, saying, “that doesn’t apply to me, and “that certainly isn’t my problem because I hardly use a bank”. My purpose here is to sound the alarm and help to prepare your mind for an impending security lax which has an unavoidable potential to be deadly.

I doubt if any action would be taken to ratify this perilous and porous security set-up which has been institutionalized for years. The system is being operated with the false notion or mentality that, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. But, how long can we rely on an archaic, lousy and lax Public security system that supposedly protects the customers and bank employees?

It’s important for the financial institutions, the Police and the security companies to realize how rampant and sophisticated robbery has become in Ghana since the days when security objectives were mere deterrent to prevent riots between the customers and the banks’ employees, and put fear into the minds of the intruders. There is an urgent need to step up the security systems before we wake up one morning to a preventable chaos.

SUGGESTIONS: I have plenty of suggestions and solutions to offer the banks and the Security companies, but as a Public Safety practitioner, I am uncomfortable to advertise them here because the criminal elements are likely to use them quicker than the law enforcement agencies and the bank managements. Mindful of the fact that they are on the net 24/7 and they read and monitor what is put out here constantly.

Admittedly I don’t expect anyone to do anything about this subject because Ghanaians (including the banks’ managements and the government’s officials) are more reactive than proactive. So we’re going to sit and wait and hope that nothing happens to our banks’ employees, their customers and security guards.

However, it’s my hope that the management of the banks and the Police will look into it when they have time.

*Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi (The voice of Reason)