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Nigerians groan under failing ePayment channels

By Adeyemi Adepetun and Comfort Oderemi
07 October 2022   |   8:47 am
Failing banks’ electronic payment (ePayment) channels have continued to compound the woes of the banking community with Nigerians, who make use of the platforms for transactions, being frustrated

Electronic payment

Failing banks’ electronic payment (ePayment) channels have continued to compound the woes of the banking community with Nigerians, who make use of the platforms for transactions, being frustrated with persistent challenges.

The frustration is borne out of the rise in transaction failures, primarily via the unstructured supplementary service data (USSD), and long queues at the automated teller machine (ATM) terminals, which are associated with intermittent service slow, sluggish Internet banking among others.

The challenges, which have been on the rise in the past few years, rose significantly in the last few months, making it nearly impossible for customers to complete simple transactions from the comfort of their homes.

The Guardian observed that the number of customer services banks lodging complaints following failed transactions has increased.

The challenges have equally forced many people to resort to across-the-counter transactions, which has increased congestion at banking halls.

Speaking with The Guardian, Apapa-based customer, Temitayo Ogunjobi, said: “Banking apps have been crazy. I think it is a general problem. We don’t know when it will be resolved.”

Another customer based in Surulere, Lagos, Emeka Francis, said he used his mobile banking App to transfer money to his relative twice and the transactions were reversed.

The challenge of Linus Okonta, another customer, has to do with non-dispensing ATMs.

“You will get to ATMS, seven in a row. But only one will be dispensing money. How do you explain that? That is why you see queues, I mean the kind of queues we used to see during festive periods. They have become daily experiences.”

The challenges spread across the country. As customers in Lagos face it; so are those in other states.

For instance, some Ogun residents have called on banks to be more professional, especially in their customer service operations.

Narrating her experience, Abeokuta-based Mary Adegbite, a working-class student, said: “My worst experience with the ATM was when I was stranded at Ayobo. I tried withdrawing from the nearest ATM terminal, but after waiting for more than 30 minutes, the terminal stopped dispensing. I was told the machine was out of cash. I got stranded because I did not have the cash to even move from one location to another.”

For Raliat Oyadeyi, her challenge was with the use of USSD.

“I was to make an urgent transfer to my mum for medicals. I was debited but the recipient account was not credited for days. That was frustrating because I sent the balance to my account. The problem was not resolved until about a week later after I had visited the banks multiple times,” she narrated.

Last week, the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) threatened to withdraw the USSD services, which run on their infrastructure from the banks.

The Chairman of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, disclosed that the USSD debt rose from N45 billion as of May 2021 to N80 billion by September 2022. He said if the matter is not resolved within time, “telcos may be forced to withdraw their services from the banks. You all know what that means.”

Yesterday, sources within the ALTON told The Guardian that consultation was on how to resolve the issue.

On why the services remain epileptic, a source said: “We have not withdrawn the service yet. If the services have been bad, then something fundamental must be wrong with the banks. It must be an internal issue.”

Indeed, reports have it that over 2,000 bank IT employees have abandoned their duty posts and relocated abroad.

Executive Secretary, of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Ajibola Olude, said the mass exodus of telecoms experts, especially some holding strategic positions at the banks, from the country is worrisome.

Olude said this would lead to poor quality of services if not addressed as fast as possible.

Indeed, a senior bank official told The Guardian that the banking community is facing a serious threat, especially the mass exodus of professionals from the system.

According to her, the gap created by this mass exodus is partially responsible for some of the hitches customers are experiencing.

“But as a responsible sector, we are working on those challenges. Banks will recruit and train more hands, invest in new infrastructure and upgrade those which need to be upgraded,” he said.