Customers of the BICEC bank, Mamfe Branch, have cried foul, years after the closure of the town’s bank branch. In addition to the branch being shut down abruptly, they say management has not rendered any official explanation, apology, or alternative for their banking needs.
Talking to Mimi Mefo Info, customers say since the Mamfe branch, in the South West Region of Cameroon, was closed down in June 2018, they have had to brave the odds to perform even the least of their financial transaction in the neighbouring towns of Kumba and Bamenda.
“BICEC customers in Mamfe have been going through hell since the closure of the branch. Some even lost their lives plying the Bamenda and Kumba roads to get their monies,” one of them says.
What makes it worst, he adds, “… is that other banks are operational”.
Honest decision or foul play?
With the abrupt closure of the Mamfe branch of the bank in question and the silence of the authorities concerned, customers say there may be varied reasons for the closure, including illegal practice.
Speaking on the bases of anonymity, some have expressed the concern that the branch might have played with customers’ accounts and are scared of letting top management discover they did, thus their drive to maintain the branch closed.
Other have cited similar reasons, pointing accusing fingers at the branch manager for failing to communicate adequately. His continuous silence, they add, either implies his complicity in the supposed scandal, or could even mean he is primary cause of their plight.
“The closure was motivated by selfish interests. The manager knows what he’s done…. We suspect the accounts may have been tampered with,” another worried customer stated.
In addition to rumours of the branch manager single-handedly closing the town branch, some customers have claimed he gave out fraudulent loans, and could be trying to cover up his tracks.
The Mamfe BICEC bank branch it should be noted, also bore the burden of other banks and microfinance institutions in the division, who depended on it for cash deposits and withdrawals.
With the bank building abandoned for years now, customers say they intend staging a protest at the office of the Senior Divisional Officer for Manyu, to get him to all the concerned to order.
No hope soon
Talking to a source familiar with affairs of the said bank however, she explained the June 2018 shutdown was justified as a result of the escalating violence that made transactions harder by the day, as the town at one point became practically cut off from the rest of the country.
This, according to them, was exacerbated by the increasing difficulty of movement of finances, personnel and equipment to and from the town.
“All attempts to get security support from the competent authorities in Manyu; to ensure smooth movement of funds and workers to and from Mamfe were futile,” the source noted.
In addition to these, the bank’s pivotal role in aiding other banks and microfinance institutions facilitate deposits and withdrawals, is said to have made it a potential target.
While news of plans to reopen the branch still seems far from feasible at the moment, given the security situation in Mamfe, the only hope customers can rely on, is banking digitally.
The source familiar with operations of the institution cites its digital services including the ‘Bi-pay’ bank to wallet which permits cardless withdrawals and, transfer from bank to wallet via mobile money.
It however remains uncertain, why the branch decided to enact the temporary closure of the bank branch, without informing customers publicly.
Insecurity remains an endemic menace
There is no gainsaying the fact that one of the industries most affected by the war in is the financial sector. Since the crisis became violent over four years ago, several financial institutions have been closed down mostly owing to security issues.
Mamfe like most parts of the North West and South West regions of Cameroon is faced with a war that has lasted over four years today. The town has had its fair share of violence, killings, kidnappings and other forms of violence, as the war persists.
The closure of the Mamfe-Ikok border with Nigeria has not made the situation any better, given that it served as a profitable trade route for businesspeople.
The people of the town and Manyu division as a whole like their counterparts across the North West and South West regions, remain the biggest losers as government forces and separatist fighters fight on.
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