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It is a Wednesday afternoon, you need cash urgent to handle important stuff. You attempt to make a dash to an ATM at the nearest bank. You haven’t walked through the gates yet, but from far you can see two lines of a total of about 29 persons standing and burning under the sun. Waiting for their turn to use the machine. At the same time, the machine or machines are so slow. It takes each person average of 10 minutes to make a successful withdrawal. That’s not all, somewhere around number 20, all the cash in the machines are exhausted. And then…

Long queues at Nigerian ATMs are normal for us. Yeah, we are in a seriously underdeveloped country and such is expected and we shouldn’t complain. But it is not the best. I feel the main problem we have is the fact that it is quite expensive for these banks to maintain ATM machines. Infact, apart from the N65 imposed on withdrawals exceeding three per month, there is practically no other gain there. And so I don’t blame the banks totally when the have issues born out of lack of maintenance.

 

But look at it this way, these machines are not supposed to be owned and maintained by banks, the load would be just too much. In many countries, including heavily capitalist countries like the USA and UK, even in African countries like Kenya. These payment and cash dispensing services are handled by private investors up to 90%.

We will have to just make the sacrifice. Yes, it won’t come free, because it costs to keep the services running. And it might cost  more than N65 per withdrawal. But it will go a long way to improve this section of the banking sector. We will have more ATMs, not just in banks but at strategic points. The banks can have the support of CBN to collaborate with payment portals in Nigeria or any other interested parties to find the maintenance of the machines.

Another thing,  CBN needs to do more work to reduce the level of dependency on cash by Nigerians. Cashless transaction  are still low and the number of POS terminals in circulation around is still low. At a time like this, even small shops, drug stores and market traders should have POS terminals for easy transfer of money without cash.

What am I even saying, a lot of banks don’t even have efficient online transaction portals and apps. For most banks, their mobile apps are down most days in a week. Diamond bank used to be like that, but they improving. Yet, there are still areas of the app, that are failing. Especially the magic cash feature that lets you make ATM withdrawals without your card. That part of the app doesn’t function at all.

Another thing the CBN should really look into is the way ATMs now dispense very dirty and unfit notes into the hands of customers. This I believe is solidly against there policy, so where do the notes come from? The banks claim that they only dispense what CBN gives them. So?

Again, Nigerian banks need to speed up their response rate. Especially for failed transactions. It is very normal for an ATM to debit you and not pay you the cash. But what is annoying is the fact that a lot of banks will tell you to just sit around and wait patiently for bit less than a week to get your refund. This is very bad. I don’t understand why a machine should debit me and not pay me in the first place, but what if that is the only cash I have and I need it urgently?

Anyway… I believe that with time, banking in Nigeria will evolve beyond what it is now. And maybe more investors can come in to partner with banks to improve the sector. Meanwhile, let’s keep calm and remain in the queue until we get paid.

 

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