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Making ATMs Serve Depositors Better In Nigeria

Automated Teller Machine (ATM) is a key element of cash-less banking, which was introduced last year by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). ATM is meant to ease certain banking activities.

ATM Nigeria and notes











Rather than going to their banks, customers can make withdrawals using their debit cards at designated ATM points. But these days, it is not that easy as customers encounter problems such as poor network; system failure and long queues at ATM points. LUCAS AJANAKU writes on the need for banks to increase the number of ATMs to alleviate depositors’ sufferings.

He had bandages on his head and hands. On seeing him, one would think he was a robbery victim.

Alhaji Zakarau Kangiwa, 54, was not a robbery victim. His problem was caused by the failure of an automated teller machine (ATM).

According to him, early this month, he travelled to Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital on business. Business over, he boarded his car for the journey back to Lagos. When he got to Ifo, still in Ogun State, his car developed a fault.

He was directed to a nearby mechanic workshop by a passer-by. After examining the car, it was discovered that his alternator was faulty. He was told that the repair would cost him N16,000. He had only N6,000 and his ATM card. Confident that he could get some cash, he dashed into the premises of a nearby bank.

“I was directed to a nearby ATM in Ifo. When I got there, the vault was empty. Since I don’t live in that area, I became worried, especially as it was getting dark. There was no one around. Another good Samaritan told me that the only place I could get another ATM is Sango-Ota. I quickly boarded a bus to Sango. When we got there, the bus ran under a stationery articulated vehicle,” he said.

According to him, after the five occupants of the bus were rescued, they were taken to Ota General Hopital where they were attended to. “Pieces of the shattered windshield of the bus pierced my head and other body parts. The doctor carried out several minor surgeries to remove them,” he recalled, adding that if the first ATM had worked, he probably would have been saved the predicament.

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A London-based businessman, Felix Ilori, will not forget the experience he had with an ATM when he came to the country recently. Shortly after his arrival, he converted his hard currencies into naira, opened an account and got an ATM card. He travelled to Ilawe Ekiti in Ekiti State for the wedding of a kinsman. He exhausted his money on fuel, hoping to withdraw from an ATM. At Ilawe, he went to the only ATM around. He was disappointed.

“When I got to the ATM point, I inserted the card only to be told my financial institution was not available. I tried it again and I got the same response. I was frustrated and my cousin saw it on my face,” he said. He was advised to go to Ado Ekiti, the state capital, which is about 25 minutes drive away. At Ado Ekiti, he got the same message. He would have been stranded if not for the assistance from his people.

These are, but a few of the pains bank customers who use ATMs go through in the country. If it is not network, it is non-availability of cash for the machine to dispense to customers. At other times, it would be the refusal of the banks to load the ATMs with cash.

Idimu Road, Egbeda in Lagos has no fewer than eight banks. Some of these banks have between four and six ATMs installed on their premises, but most times, it is only one of the ATMs that is loaded with cash. This leads to long queues at the only functional ATM, subjecting the customers to the vagaries of the elements – the sun and rain.

Frustrated by the long queues outside the banking hall, customers who are even prepared to pay the bank charges that go with on-counter transactions, are not encouraged to do so because the halls are usually filled to capacity without any arrangement made for their comfort.

Another problem with the ATMs is that they are deployed in cities and scarcely in rural communities. But this was not the case before the CBN rolled out a policy that saw to the removal of all off-site ATMs. Before then, there were quite some ATMs in strategic locations in the country.

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Justifying the rationale for the removal of ATMs from off-site locations, the CBN said one of the policies guiding the operations of ATM consortium (ATMC) is that the ATMC shall have the mandate to deploy ATMs at public places while the banks shall deploy ATMs only within their premises.

The apex bank also said the banks were competing with the ATMC in the deployment of ATMs in public places, adding that a worrisome trend is the number of ATMs at the airports and hotel lobbies, which if unchecked could congest these public places. It added that in line with its policy on shared payments infrastructure by the industry and the need to respond to the rising demand for ATM services by the public, the CBN decided to license an additional ATM consortium.

But with the full roll-out of the cash-less exercise, the apex bank has since rescinded this decision.

But Deputy Governor (Operations), CBN, Tunde Lemo disagrees.

Said Lemo:“There was no reversal. Recall that at the time, the CBN said banks should not put branded ATMs outside their banking premises in off-site, it was because then, when you get to some key locations, such as Hilton, you see 25 ATMs; virtually every bank is there and yet other areas are not well-served. So, we felt that instead of wasting resources, why not get licensed Independent ATM Deployers (IADS) to have those equipment there that will serve the industry. The IADs, then, were just three and so we had three in those important locations as opposed to having between 20 and 25 different machines, just to save cost. But recall that at that time, we did’t have a cash-less programme. We decided to look away from that to encourage banks to invest heavily in ATMs. So, it was the cash-less programme that made it unnecessary to do that and of course, we have since ensured that they were compensated for the change in policy.”-TheNation

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