The rush to beat the bank verification number enrollment deadline took an ugly turn in Enugu on Thursday as customers of an old generation bank engaged in fisticuffs with staff of the bank inside the banking hall.
The deadline for the BVN enrollment exercise is June 30, 2015, and in Enugu, customers who are yet to enroll have been gripped by fear over insinuations that there bank accounts would be frozen, arbitrarily.
The insistence on the BVN by bank cashiers before attending to customers had heightened such fears.
The development has led to unusually large turnout of customers at banking halls in the Coal City since the beginning of the week.
Some of the customers arrive at the banks as early as 6am in a bid to secure vantage positions on the BVN enrollment queue before banking operations commence by 8am.
Customers who are not able to enroll or complete their enrollment have to return the next day.
Our correspondent observed that some customers have been trying to enroll for several days, but have not been able to do so as a result of the
massive crowd in the banking halls.
The situation is also posing a major challenge to staff of the banks, who are finding it very difficult to manage the crowds.
However, the matter took a different turn at an old generation bank, located in the Independence Layout area of Enugu, when security personnel and staff of the financial institution asked some customers to go outside the banking hall to wait for their turn.
About a hundred customers, who had been converging on the bank since 6am, had trooped into the banking hall when the doors were opened by 8am.
In a bid to maintain order, the bank officials asked the first ten among the customers to fill the BVN forms and join about thirty others who did not complete the registration the previous day, for the enrollment.
The other customers were told to leave the banking hall, and wait outside.
But the directive did not go down well with the customers, who protested in loud voices, causing commotion inside the usually serene banking hall.
Customers also quarreled among themselves in the struggle to be the first to be attended to.
The situation degenerated to a full blown fight when some customers violently resisted an attempt by the bank staff to lead them out of the banking hall.
In the ensuing fracas, a young man engaged an armed mobile policeman, who was attached to the bank, in a physical combat, while another customer, also a young man, exchanged blows with a bank staff who was admonishing him to leave the hall.
The situation further escalated as some customers, who wanted to capitalise on the confusion to move to the front of the queue, were physically resisted by those who were already there.
Normalcy eventually returned after other bank security personnel, who were outside, stormed the banking hall to overpower the violent customers.
Our correspondent, who witnessed the incident, observed that the late rush for the BVN appeared to have overwhelmed the bank staff as customers who were not among the first 100 and were already in the bank by 10am were told to return the next day.
The branch manager of the bank later announced that the bank would open on Saturday to continue the enrollment.
In a brief encounter with our correspondent, the branch manager, who did not disclose her name, expressed annoyance at the development.
She noted that the customers waited until the last minute before coming to enroll for the BVN.
But she also noted that an extension of the enrollment window would be in the best interest of both the bankers and the customers.
Customers who spoke to our correspondent urged the Central Bank of Nigeria to extend the deadline.
“They should extend it to give us time to register conveniently, now that the awareness is there.
“I have been coming here since Monday, yet I have not registered.
“The stress is too much, whenever it’s getting to my turn they will tell us to come the next day and I have been coming from a far place,” a customer who simply identified himself as Nnaji, said.
Another customer, a nursing mother, who gave her name as Mrs. Okeke, also prayed for an extension.
She said it was not easy for her to carry her baby while struggling to do the enrollment.
However, our correspondent observed that pregnant women, nursing mothers and the elderly were given more urgent attention.
Most of the customers complained that they had to leave their jobs, businesses, as well as studies, to queue up for the BVN registration.