COVID-19 came unexpectedly and its advent has reshaped so many things in Nigeria ranging from the business sector to the education sector, Nigerians now look forward to the new normal with stringent policies coming to play such as the use of face masks, sanitising and social distancing rules, among others.
With the feasible tendencies that many things might not come back to place, many firms hit by the pandemic are laying off their staff and people are evading banks too as a result of overcrowding and swerved to the use of Point-of-Sale (PoS) terminals for withdrawals and deposits.
That Monday morning, Alagbe Bukola has gotten to the bank as early as 7 am to redeem her lost ATM card, only to get number 263, she sat down on the chair provided by the banking security personnel to wait her turn. At every intervals and hours that pass, she growls knowing fully well that she has been deprived another day to go to her shop.
This is her third time of coming to the bank and leaving in annoyance because of the mammoth crowd that often throng banks to complain about one or two drawbacks. The embattled Bukola lamented that she’s gradually losing her customers to her competitors just because she wants to get an ATM card to assess her own money.
Bukola, who said she had waited outside the bank for over eight hours when BRANDSPUR NIGERIA visited the bank, narrated her ordeal.
“I am frustrated already, I wish PoS terminals too can issue new card, just help me beg them to help my life, this is really unbecoming. “
The COVID-19 pandemic is gradually becoming a thorn on the flesh of many and it is not easing by the day as cases soar consistently day-to-day despite lesser test done by the government. In recent times, the epicentre is shifting from Lagos State with the highest cases of the virus to Abuja and now to Plateau State.
Recall that On March 29, President Muhammadu Buhari announced the initial lockdown of Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, the three major places which were first hit hard by the COVID-19 tornado while other states enforced their versions of lockdown. People were asked to stay at home and follow the COVID-19 guidelines to avoid the risk of infection and transmission.
Nigerians were not ready for it; financial institutions refused to open to customers, people were advised to use their mobile banking applications for transactions and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) to make withdrawals. The ones with other issues that required them to be present in a bank were not attended to. Institutions were fast coming up with several ‘Do It Yourself’ options for their customers.
Also, on April 27, when the president reported a staged and slow facilitating of the lockdown, banks made their ways for customers. From May 4 to date, all bank premises have become a conflict zone, actually. Customers storm the banks every day, remaining on long queues for a considerable length of time. Resolved to approach their record, some even spurn the social distancing regulation and other COVID-19 rules.
Like Bukola, other customers recounted their experiences when our correspondent visited a few banks in Ibadan, the capital city of Oyo State. The stories were yearnings for better service by their financial institutions in this pandemic.
Maleek Poopola bemoaned the security personnel of his financial institution for allowing some executive customers to enter the bank without queuing. In his conversation with BRANDSPUR NIGERIA, he said: “I don’t know if some people have two heads but how they are allowed into the bank when they meet others here still amaze me. We also are customers in the bank, no matter how small our money might be, the bank is using it to run its corporate affairs, so we shouldn’t be denigrated, it’s demeaning.”
Another customer, who doesn’t want his name mentioned explained the bank has recently become a ‘no-go’ area in recent times.
According to him, he usually leaves his place of work to come to the bank to resolve an issue of withdrawal he did a few days ago on PoS terminal but wasn’t paid, he thought his money would be reversed as told by the person in charge but to his utmost surprise, it is going to a week and his money is yet to be refunded.
Mrs Anifowose also elucidated the setback the pandemic has caused her saying that it’s been up to about 3 months she reached the bank premises after her ATM card expired since April.
“I am always scared to come to the bank despite the fact that my card has been renewed, the crowd has always been a frightening experience from afar, I just glance from my car most times when I am heading to the office to know the situation of things but the situation has always remained the same,” she added.
“Since that time, I have been transferring to the PoS agents when I need to get money or sometimes use my husband?s card while I make a transfer to him.”
PoS taking over banks with style
The PoS was presented by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2012 to additionally commute home its credit only strategy planned for upgrading Nigeria’s instalment framework. This drive, investigators state, was outfitted towards lessening the measure of money utilized for business yet not to dispose of money use.
The peak bank had, a year earlier, released the PoS guidelines which stated that “PoS terminal owners should include banks, merchants, acquirers, Payment Terminal Service Aggregator (PTSA) and Payment Terminal Service Providers (PTSPs).”
However, in recent times, the PoS has been used to withdraw money and deposit money into accounts.
Before this time, PoS has always been issued to large supermarkets and stores as an avenue to pay for items sold to customers. This was to contribute to the cashless policy introduced by the then governor of CBN. However, in recent times, it has become a platform to deposit and withdraw as the number of PoS terminals is growing sporadically.
According to Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), the value of transactions done across Point of Sale (PoS) channels in Nigeria increased from N1.14 trillion recorded between January and May 2019 to N1.64 trillion within the same period in 2020.
The report implies that the total value of transactions from PoS machines rose by N500 billion, which represents a 43.8% increase in five months.
The total volume of PoS transactions also increased from 152.6 million to 228.86 million within the period under review. This indicates that the volume increased by 76.26 million, or 49.9%.
Gloria Enang said she has solely enjoyed not going to bank, in fact using PoS to transact pays her more if she considers the transport fare and the time she will use in the bank.
“I always withdraw the money I will use for the whole week from the terminal, so as to cut cost. N100 is charged for N1000 to N5000, I often withdraw N5000 to beat the cost of coming to withdraw again,” she asserted.
Meanwhile, it isn’t juicy as it seems for some other customers, Alonge Fatai narrated his ordeal in the face of PoS saying he will never try to use it again because of how it has made him repeatedly go to the banks to claim his money that was debited and not paid.
“I will rather stand the long queues in banking premises than be debited for what I did not get. I don’t like PoS transactions, they always complain of network and leave you to your fate when you aren’t paid.”
“Network cannot be shortchanged, it happens in the bank too and these PoS machines are connected to banks that provided them to us,” a PoS service operator, Idayat Arowosegbe countered Fatai.
The banks try as much as possible to know who they are issuing the PoS machines to avoid fraudulent activities by asking us to sign the ‘Know Your Customer’ form which encapsulates names, address, phone number(s) of the person seeking the machine.
“There is little or nothing to what we can do about the network glitches, but that fraudulent activity will go on on the machine is questionable.” She affirmed.