For many Nigerians it has become the norm to get to the banking hall and hear “there is no network now you can only deposit” message, many approach ATMs of other banks with great caution and anxiety not knowing if they will get the Issuer or switch Inoperative message, or worse still get debited but not paid and then have to go through the hassles of filling forms and waiting for days or weeks for the money to reverse. In fact some have marked some ATMs notorious for debiting without payment and would never approach them even if you held a knife to their neck.
We have conditioned our minds to take all of these blunders, inefficiency, unprofessional conduct of bank staff who speak to customers as they like as normal when that should not be case. Today I tried withdrawing money from my account using my atm card at 3 Banks after standing in a long line for several minutes got the same message, Issuer Or Switch Inoperative. I tried withdrawing from these mobile pos vendors and the story was still the same so I embarked on a long journey to the nearest branch of my Bank(Polaris Bank) to withdraw cash from the banking hall only to meet scores of dejected looking people sprawled both in and outside the bank premises. Some were sitting and a lady was lying on the bare floor, on inquiry I learnt that since yesterday morning (Monday December 3rd) there has been no network to withdraw cash.
I was taken aback when a staff of the bank casually said we should wait and that by 1pm today if the situation persists they would resort to plan B. Time they say is money. People on their way to work will have to wait hours due to no fault of theirs except that they patronized a Bank to keep their money. Well some of us waited till 1pm to see what the plan B was. At 1pm we were all called into the banking hall and we were addressed to put it kindly, in a most unprofessional way by a man probably the branch manager and a lady. They apologized for the network failure and said it was being worked on and tried to justified it by saying that some other banks are currently having the same problem too.
To our horror they then said that that will take a risk and pay only those who opened their account at that particular branch and that others like me whose account were opened at other branches of the same bank(Polaris Bank) should find our way to the branch were our account is domiciled as they will not attend to us. When other customers who had been at the bank since 8am protested they threatened to throw us all out. From their tone it was as if they were doing us a favor, paying us money that we gave to them to keep for us.
Well I really don’t blame them, its the financial regulators, CBN in particular that I blame. Because if Small incidents of ATMs debiting you yet you don’t get cash are taken seriously, if online transactions that you will be debited and the receiver will not get the money for days and without even an apology from the erring institutions are promptly penalized these institutions will not take its customers for a ride.
An elderly woman who had not had breakfast was there in the banking hall till 1pm if she collapses there when she has money in her account to take care of her needs who will be held responsible. A girl who was to travel to Bauchi from Abuja was stranded with no hope in sight. Many business men like me who wanted to get money to run around and do some work were grounded after spending productive hours on end at the banking hall and yet got no money.
Nigeria When will we get it right. I hope someone up there will read this and do something to make our financial institutions work like their counterparts in other climes. Else we would have no other option than to return to the dark days of keeping money under our beds and take the risk of moving cash physically.