Nigerian Banks: My Tale Of Woes

When the issue of Nigerian banks is raised in a public discourse, you’ll often find people crawling from nooks and crannies to lend their voice to their personal harrowing experiences. Ranging from the subtle rudeness of customer care agents, to transaction failures with no resolution date in sight, ears are full.

I didn’t really pay attention to decentralization until Nigerian banks happened to me. The demerits of having a central authority became very obvious. Nothing strikes more than having your funds unavailable when you need it the most.

In this short article, I would be describing 3 experiences that have stood out in the wrong manner. Grab your popcorn as I take your mind on a journey!

This one was very funny. I needed cash to cater for a trip I was embarking on the next day. So. I took my Access Bank debit card to an Access Bank ATM. Unfortunately, it wasn’t working. I then proceeded to the next ATM of a bank close by — Stanbic IBTC to be precise. The queue was quite short. When it got to my turn, I slotted my card and went through the normal procedure. As it got to the point it was supposed to dispense, I heard that characteristic cash counting sound. In my mind, I was ready to pick up my cash and leave. All of a sudden, I just saw “No Service” and my card was ejected. No money popped out! By then, I already got a cash debit notification. I left the stand hoping that the transaction was going to be reversed. I waited in vain till the next day. To make matters worse, that was the only money I had. I went from planning my travel to becoming stranded.

I got to the bank the next day, waited for hours till it was my turn and I got turned back. Customer care said it wasn’t 24 hours yet. I had to delay my trip. I spent the whole day glued to my phone, waiting for the reversal. It never came. I went back to the bank the next day. Repeated the process. This time, the response I got was that since it didn’t happen in their bank, they have to send a mail to the bank where it happened, and there is no specific date it will be resolved.

Wow. Plans distorted. I gave them 4 working days to sort it and return my money. On getting there, I got the greatest shock. The customer care agent told me that Stanbic IBTC said I collected the money.

Which money? How would I collect money and start coming to the bank to make complaints?

My temper was beginning to rise. Of course, they had a CCTV camera. Maybe we should go pull out the tapes. The agent told me he would keep engaging them, but I knew it was a ruse to just discharge me. He gave me his email address to contact him because I already made it known that I needed the money for a trip.

I had no choice than to look for money from other sources. Two weeks later, I sent him a mail asking for updates. He said nothing had changed, and the other bank was insisting. That’s how I just left it till date.

Overtime, I realized that my POS dispense errors with my First Bank card never gets resolved/reversed. They are often meagre amounts, so when I think about the stress of queuing in the bank to get it done, I just let it slide.

On this fateful day, I went to a restaurant to buy snacks. I tried to use my other cards to pay, but the POS terminals were rejecting them. Lo and behold, I brought out my First Bank card as a last resort, saying a tiny prayer that it behaves differently this time.

I was wrong! Totally wrong. I was debited twice for that transaction. And it didn’t go through. I had to return the snacks because there was no cash to pay with. I wasn’t going to let it slide this time. The sum was quite substantial! The normal rule is to wait for 24 hours before making a complaint. I waited for 2 weeks! Nothing!

I eventually got into the bank. The customer care agent asked why I was just coming after checking my account details. Why should I visit the bank for a transaction reversal before it gets done? Anyways, I was asked to fill a dispense error form, then I should give another bank staff. As I got to where I was to submit the form, the woman in charge didn’t even let me say anything.

“There is no network o, just come back tomorrow”, She said.

She didn’t even check the paper in my hand. Meanwhile, it took a lot of sacrifice to get to the bank that day, because I stayed quite far from there. With my head hanging in disappointment, I left the bank. While thinking about how to put my life on a pause the next day to resolve the issue, my thought pattern changed radically. Why can’t I just close the account and get a better service provider? I’d rather close my account and move on with my life. I didn’t want to care if they reversed it or not.

Like one that received an inward baptism of fire, I entered the banking hall again. This time, I requested for an account closure form from the customer care desk. Immediately I said that the person that attended to me first now paid attention to ask for what the issue was. She was appealing to me not to close it. She collected my form, promised to give it to the person in charge and make sure she logs it before COB. I asked how soon I’d get the reversal. She said 3 days.

Wow! I thought that was where it would end. I waited for 3 days extra. Nothing. At this point, I was tired. Did the lady trick me just to pacify me? I picked up my pieces, and in a brimstone and fire approach, I stormed the bank. I went straight to the lady in question. She insisted that she made sure the request was treated that same day, staring in surprise that I hadn’t seen the reversal. She directed me to the woman in charge again. This time, she asked me to take a seat. What could have changed? She asked for my details, shaking her head at what she was viewing on her system. She told me that she’ll send a mail to that effect. It was only at that time I got a mail of a ticket raised on my account. Then I was asked to leave and wait for the reversal. No date given.

Ladies and gentlemen, to the glory of God and the shame of the devil, 2 days later, I got my reversal! I saw it and I was like “Oluwa o sheyy oo”.

The last episode I’ll share is with First Bank. Yeah. It’s so bad that they came up twice in a 3 banks shortlist!

To avoid issues with POS transactions, I decided to get the mobile App, although I used it sparingly. On this fateful day, I was in the market to get something. I had used the app a couple of times before and there was no issue. After spending hours rummaging before settling for what I wanted, it was time to pay. I took out my device as every normal person would to make the transfer. To my utter dismay, I couldn’t make the transfer. I initially thought it was my network. I changed network, still the same. I deleted the app and reinstalled it. Still the same. The problem now became how I was going to pay because I already unsealed what I went to buy.

You can imagine how perplexed you would be, having your money somewhere and you can’t access it when you need it. Before the situation degenerated into an embarrassing one, I had to reach out to someone else to make the transfer and I’d give it back later. Fortunately, that worked and I was able to leave the place. I tried to use the card also, and I discovered I couldn’t withdraw again. What the heck is happening? I was almost stranded.

I thought it was just a mobile app issue. So, I went to the bank. After spending like 2 hours outside, I was allowed in. When I showed the guys in charge of mobile app the response I was getting on my app, they said I have to see customer care, that there is an issue with my account. At the customer care section, I couldn’t wait to queue with other complainants due to their massive number. I approached one of the ladies in charge, explained myself and she was very edgy. I just wanted to confirm if it was truly an issue on my account or maybe it was a mobile app problem. She started raising her voice, probably due to the pressure of work. I left immediately.

I went back to the bank the next day, this time early enough that I was among the first people to get in. After I gave her my details, she said my account was blocked from their head office. How do you block my account without notifying me? Not even an e-mail! She said I made a transaction of above a particular amount, and I needed to do KYC. First of, I asked her to check my account. I didn’t make any transaction of that magnitude. I was so frustrated. Why stress my life when you could have just sent me a mail to go to the nearest bank for KYC? What if I didn’t have any option? I would have been embarrassed in the market.

I didn’t have all the documents she asked for, because I didn’t think my account could have been blocked just like that. I had to leave. I started the KYC process in another branch, and they said the process will take 4 days. What if I have an emergency? At that point, all I could do was to just wait, clench my fist and swallow my frustrations.

In the end, they unblocked it. Here I am, anticipating the next possible issue.

Three episodes, terrible experiences. Nigerian banks should and can do better!

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I write as led!

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