ATM Robber Confesses, Says We Work with Bankers
By Wisdom Patrick, Lagos
He actually started as a common thief within his locality, Ijebu-Igbo, in Ogun State, South-West Nigeria. Time came when he graduated from petty stealing to home jacking (burglary). Record shows that he was first caught in 2011 by the Police in Abeokuta, the State capital for car vandalisation.
After Samiu Akande was released on bail by the Police in Ogun State, he jumped bail by escaping to Lagos. With no feasible means of livelihood in Lagos, he enlisted as a commercial bus conductor with a bus owner at Iyana-Ipaja garage. He also made the same park his home, where he retired to sleep at night.
He continued this until one night, when he ran into a member of a notorious armed robbery gang, who operate in Iyana-Ipaja and environs. It is this new friend that introduced Samiu into full time armed robbery but, “I later graduated into a bank robber and finally an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) hacking expert.”
Even though he is now late, Samiu Akande could best be described as a gifted armed robber. He was not lettered yet had computer and target skills that are shocking. Here is how he acquired his computer skills. “One day I went to a bank (name withheld) to withdraw some money and I ran into one of the bank staff, and with time we became friends. It is the bank staff that taught me some of the basic skills in computer. Every other thing about hacking and ‘skimming’ of customer’s ATM card, I developed them myself.”
Akande who died penultimate week described how to hack an ATM. According to him, “I would install card skimmers and small cameras on ATMs around my neighbourhood, these devices would collect customer bank card information each time someone makes use of the machine, and later I would supply the information to my insider in that particular bank, who would in return supply me with details of monies in the customer’s account, then I would start withdrawing money from the customer’s accounts. He said the devices would also disable the affected customer’s SMS alert on transaction on their account from activating.”
But Samiu later graduated from hacking of ATM to robbing the machines in every part of the country. Before he was gunned down by the Police in Ikeja area of Lagos, where he and his gang members went on unsuccessful ATM robbery operation, Samiu Akande and his gang have successfully pulled down and robbed 43 ATMs across the country.
A retired First Bank of Nigeria Plc senior manager, Francis Nwachukwu, now a lecturer at the University of Lagos, told Political Economist that most bankers does all manner of shady deals with their customer’s account.
He added that apart from squealing vital information about customer’s account to criminals, bankers partner with criminals to steal from their employers.
He added that, the situation is at present precarious and has drifted from bad to worse. “How do you describe a banker who feed in counterfeit currency into ATM for customers or who give robbers the home address of a customer who has just made large withdrawal for the hoodlums to go and clean up the customer.”
Investigation revealed that physical attacks, ram-raids or smash and grab burglary of ATMs are some of the ways of robbing the machine. But one of the most common is through physical attacks, which attempt to gain access to the safe or vault inside the ATM through mechanical or thermal means.
Typical entry methods include caulking shut every opening on the machine and using explosive devices to blow open the safe to expose the cash cassettes or the use of high speed grinders, construction saws, pry bars and torches to cut away the outside security lock to gain access to the inside of the ATM without setting off the alarm. Regardless of the tactic, the ultimate goal is to penetrate the ATM on location and open the safe door, or make an opening in the safe sufficiently large enough to quickly remove cash.
All the above, Samiu Akande said he has undertook with the aid of his banker friends, who serve as informants to him. “My friends who work in these banks would inform me whenever large sum of money has been stored in the machine. This is to guide us, because in every operation he gets 30 per cent and we have 70 per cent. So, the larger the amount in machine, the better for all of us.”
Those familiar with ATMs told our reporter that depending on the size, a fully loaded ATM can hold from N11million to N15 million.
Political Economist checks revealed that Samiu Akande’s ATM robbery operation successes while it lasted were basically due to so many factors including lack of collaboration between all sectors in the ATM Life Cycle and Law Enforcement. In the United Kingdom (UK) for instance, a police operation known as Operation ARTIC, which involved the provision of intelligence, ATM expertise and crime prevention advice from ATM deployers, the post office, ATM Security Working Group, British Bankers Association, and Building Society Association is employed to check activities of people like Samiu Akande.
However, the Commissioner of Police (CP) Lagos State, Umar Manko, said his operatives have investigated related cases. “Out of 10 ATM or bank robbery cases we have investigated, five must end up being insiders’ job.”
He added that the problem is that the bank’s management would never allow the prosecution of staff concerned. “All they would do is plead that the affected staff has been dismissed and that the image of the bank was at stake.”
Manko said his operatives at the State Criminal Investigative Department (SCID) Panti, Yaba in Lagos were currently handling five of such cases. He vowed that he might charge the affected bank staff to court, even though there are pleas for them to be spared.
Today in Nigeria, there is no evidence of collaborative policy harmonisation towards ATM deployment. Although the Central Bank of Nigeria has implemented the E-Banking guidelines, with a section on ATM security requirements, and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Muhammed Abubakar, has announced a requirement for armored Bullion Vans, there is little indication of an overall ATM deployment policy harmonisation and safety yet in the country.
Series of ATM robberies across the country could be tied to some of the above factors. The issue of insider collaboration, the issue of poor security in and around the ATM deployment, the problem of general insecurity in the country and perhaps finally, the problem of personal security among ATM users in the country contribute majorly to ATM robbery.
Analysts believe that with constant armed robbery attacks on ATM, the government cashless policy might as well be heading to a fiasco. Similarly, as the deployment of burglary-proof security doors at banks these days has made raw bank raiding risky to armed robbers, the plan “B” of the criminal elements, beside cybercrime, seems to be that of breaking of ATM and carting away money stacked in such machines.