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Nigerian banks to fight surge in armed robberies

By Staff
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LAGOS, May 3 (Reuters) Nigerian banks will spend 15 million dollars on armoured personnel carriers to help the ill-equipped police fight a wave of violent crime, a central bank official said.

Africa's largest oil exporting country has seen a surge in robberies on banks involving highly organised, well armed gangs over the past six months.

''Each of the 25 banks and the central bank will invest 70 million naira (547,000 dollars) to buy armoured tanks to support the police fight against robberies on their operations,'' Ignatius Imala, central bank director of banking operations, said yesterday at a news conference in Lagos.

They will also give another 100 million naira (780,000 dollars) to help police design a strategy to tackle the crime wave.

Last week, a gang raided a bank in the southeastern oil hub of Port Harcourt and got away with 140 million naira (1 million dollars) after breaking into the vaults, bank officials said.

Another gang killed eight police in an attack on two banks at the headquarters of Italian oil company Agip in January.

In October, armed robbers stormed a bank headquarters on a busy thoroughfare in the exclusive Victoria Island district of Lagos, escaping with the cash in a boat before police arrived.

Nigeria's poorly paid and ill-motivated police officers are better known for collecting bribes from bus drivers than for fighting crime in Africa's most populous country.

President Olusegun Obasanjo has increased their numbers since taking office in 1999, but he has struggled to change a culture of corruption. His former police chief Tafa Balogun was sacked and convicted of corruption last year.

Reuters CH DB0950

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