Unidentified armed robbers attacked the head office of the Cameroon Cooperative Credit Union League (CamCCUL) in Bamenda on Wednesday, October 11. They abducted one senior staff member and a guard who was on duty — before freeing them shortly after.
A senior official of CamCCUL, which is a supervisory organisation for microfinance institutions in Cameroon, has told MMI that “nobody’s finances are affected by what happened.”
In a telephone interview on Saturday morning describing the nature of the attack, he said the attackers were heavily armed, and they came in two vehicles.
“They came from the direction of Ntatu, that is, when you’re coming from Bali, and they stopped at the CamCCUL office, which is found in Azire New Church,” he said.
The attackers surrendered security guards at the first entrance into the heavily-guarded facility and then forced open the second entrance.
“At the end of the exercise, they took one guard in one of the cars and one junior staff, and then they released them on the way when they got somewhere around Ntatu from what we were updated,” the CamCCUL official said.
He said CamCCUL did not record any significant damage after the attack because all its financial transactions are done in the bank and not at their head office, as many thought.
The attack occurred following several other armed robbery attacks against microfinance institutions in Bamenda and other parts of the country.
Not the first time in Cameroon
On March 3, armed robbers attacked Bafut Credit Union at Small Mankon, Bamenda, and reportedly stole huge sums of money.
Robbers also broke into two branch offices of Express Exchange in Bamenda within the same period and tried to rob other microfinance institutions in the city.
People who spoke to MMI, however, felt surprised that the robbers had an easy way into CamCCUL’s head office, despite heavy security at the facility.
The CamCCUL official said the robbers broke their way into the building and did not have an easy entry as many believed.
The coordinated nature of past attacks on microfinance institutions in Bamenda have caused some onlookers to suspect they are being carried out by organised militia.
Some are also pointing fingers at Cameroon military officers and Ambazonia separatist fighters.
Rumours of the military’s alleged involvement in armed robbery went viral on social media after gunmen attacked the head office of Mitayen Cooperative Credit Union in Bamenda on August 21, 2020.
This prompted the fact-checking agency, Data Cameroon, to engage in fact-checking the claims.
But Data Cameroon’s fact-checking report ended up refuting claims that the Cameroon military carried out the attack.
The CamCCUL official who spoke to MMI said the identity of those who robbed its head office remains unknown.
“We don’t know the identity of the people who carried out the attack, but what is clear is that they were well armed.”
This was the first time that the organization’s head office had suffered from an armed robbery.
MMI could not establish exactly what the armed robbers took away from the building, especially in terms of finances.
The official who spoke to us did not reveal any details on the material and financial losses CamCCUL suffered from the attack.
He, however, said the institution is reinforcing security around the building and will take more measures to protect its partners and affiliates.
“Despite the challenges, we continue to improve the security of our members and the security of our operations. Additionally, nothing that happened will have an impact on any member, affiliate, or credit union,” the official stated, especially in light of the extensive measures we have taken to prevent similar events.
He also assured CamCCUL affiliates, members and partners that the insurance company working with CAMCCUL will compensate them for any loss incurred during the armed robbery.
CamCCUL is a network organisation of about 210 credit unions in Cameroon, created in 1968 to supervise and orientate micro-finance institutions.
It is registered by the Central African Banking Commission (COBAC) of Central African states.
Soulemanu Buba contributed to this report