with his driver to one of the villages for some business project,” he says. “This businessman had over 25 million francs [$51,000] in cash in his car. On their way, robbers waylaid them and made away with the money.”
The police official describes these attacks as “coupe de routes,” when robbers attack cars or buses traveling at night or on quiet roads.
“These coupe de routes are very common now because most businesspeople and travelers often carry physical cash on them,” he says.
The police official says that street vendors are also victims while selling bread or yogurt around the city. After distributing to hundreds of shops, vendors have hundreds of thousands of francs in their vans or waist bags at the end of the day. Most people know the vendors’ routes, making them easy targets for robbers.
Njangi groups, a local money lending system, are also easy targets, the police official says. Members pool large amounts of money – sometimes hundreds of thousands or millions of francs – to lend to each other on a rotating basis.
Members usually contribute the money in physical cash and display it on a table so that it’s visible to everyone. But this makes it easy for armed bandits to attack njangi groups, the police official says. Most meetings occur in unsecured premises, such as houses and bars.
“Any time you carry physical cash on you, you are an easy target for robbers,” the police official says. “These cases are reported every time, but I think companies, schools and individuals need to think of safer options of securing their finances and cash.”
Parents paying school fees are also prime targets for theft, the police official says.
Last year alone, there were three prominent reports of armed robbery at secondary schools in Bamenda while parents paid fees, he says. Among other cases, the incidents at the Presbyterian Secondary School Nkwen, Starlight College Nkwen and Sacred Heart College Mankon sparked the most public debate.
Dr. Charles Awasom, director of the Bamenda Regional Hospital and the president of the Parent Teacher Association of Sacred Heart College Mankon, says armed robbers stole 30 million francs ($60,300) from parents standing in line to pay their children’s fees to the school bursar at the start of the 2012-2013 academic year.
“Most parents wait for the school’s reopening date and they carry cash to the school and pay the fees for their kids,” he says.
Awasom discourages this practice.
“This not only wastes time but makes the crowd an easy target for armed robbers,” he says.
Parents may also pay fees during school vacation. But Awasom says that they still pay in cash, which is risky.
Police have made arrests regarding the Sacred Heart College Mankon case but have not yet caught all the suspects, the police official says. The investigation is still ongoing.
The school’s first PTA meeting on Feb. 9 after the robbery addressed the robbery. Nde Richard Lajong, a parent of a Sacred Heart