LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigerian police on Friday said some citizens frustrated by cash shortages in the country were attacking banks and vandalising cash-dispensing machines, and warned that they would be treated as armed robbers.
Ahead of an election to choose a new president and lawmakers next week, frustration is rising in Africa's most populous nation over a central bank plan to swap old naira bank notes for new ones, which has caused shortages of cash, disrupting trade.
On Friday angry customers in Lagos and other states in the south of the country attacked banks and burned tyres on the streets to protest failure to access their money, local television showed.
Nigeria Police Force national spokesperson Olumuyiwa Adejobi such actions would elicit a strong response from law enforcement agents and those caught should not claim that their rights were being violated.
"Let us get this straight, it's not a peaceful protest when you are coming out and attacking ATMs (automated teller machines), attacking banks or any financial institution. It is robbery and we will treat you like an armed robber," he said in a statement.
Cash is the main medium of transaction in Africa's largest economy, which is largely informal.
Some politicians have criticised the timing ahead of the Feb. 25 elections, as campaigns are funded by mostly hard-to-trace cash.
On Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari defended the cash swap plan, but authorised the central bank to extend the deadline to turn in old banknotes by another 60 days.
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Leslie Adler)