By John Danjuma Omachonu
Threats of sanctions from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over refusal of some banks to adhere to decisions jointly reached on the currency swap at the recent Bankers’Committee meeting have pervaded the industry.
Also, unruly behaviours of some customers who have been pushed to the wall as they are starving due to claims by banks of not having cash in their Vaults, have manifested in some branches of the banks to physical assault and some customers throwing decency to the winds.
Metrobusinessnews (MBN) reports that the major headache of the banks is the fact that all the new notes could be tracked and traced with their codes, hence the earlier directive by CBN that the banks could only load them on their Automated Teller Machines (ATMs)
Some of the banks who ran foul of the directive through interceptions of the new notes at parties and social gatherings were fined to the tune of some millions.
To tighten noose more on the banks, the committee meeting chaired by CBN Governor put in place some other measures, which have become albatross to the operators.
At the emergency meeting, the chief executives of banks agreed that
against the backdrop of reports of increasing system downtime and transaction failures on POS, USSD, NIP channels, they are required to ensure 24/7 system uptime and transaction failures reduced to the barest minimum.
Also, that, following increasing customers’ complaints of failed transactions with subsequent debits, which take unduly long time to resolve, all banks are required to implement immediate auto reversals on failed POS, NIP and Web transactions failing which the CBN will legislate auto reversals below a certain threshold.
They also resolved to explore the option of re-routing failed transactions to other alternative electronic channels to ensure that customers’ accounts are not debited with the attendant negative impact on customer experience and confidence.
All banks shall embrace and encourage increased adoption of NQR as additional alternative payment channel for merchants to boost electronic transactions.
In this regard, the MD NIBSS shall provide daily activity reports on adoption and volume of NQR transactions to the Governor. The DG FSS shall monitor to ensure compliance.
Following the New Naira notes allocation to banks in the ratio of 40:30:30 for Agent Cash Swaps, Over-the-Counter and ATMs respectively, the bank’s were advised to commence and implement effectively, payment of the re-designed Naira notes over the counter, subject to a maximum daily payout limit of N20,000 in order to ease the pressure on ATMs
CBN and law enforcement agents shall monitor banks’ compliance with the cash withdrawal limits and sanction any erring bank accordingly.
Easier as the measures rolled out were, execution has become a major problem as some banks, apparently, under pressure from some influential and high networth individuals, have decided to flout the self made decisions.
For instance, one of the banks was penalised N20m because it was discovered that some new notes sprayed at an Owambe party in Lagos were traced to it.
For instance, the culprit discovered that the notes were traced to a particular ATM card that withdrew the money and they found out that one person withdrew N800k, N600k, N500k and N400k with different ATM cards but having the same BVN, which made easy to track.
Another discovery was that some of the bundles used at the parties were still wrapped with stripes, an indication that, there may have been taken from banks’ Vaults directly and handed over to the people concerned.
However, according to a source, despite the new policy of paying customers on the counter, the regulatory and security agencies are monitoring all payments and cash dispensed.
In fact, MBN further gathered that names of some banks who have been discovered to be involved in the infractions are being compiled, while others are being summarily fined.
While some banks are ready for the fines as, according to the source, the business is lucrative and also enables them to retain their customers, the indigent and smaller customers who are made to alternate between the evil queues of ATMs, Fuel, PoS, among others, are devicing means of drawing the attention of staff of some branches to their plight by putting the laws into their hands.
In fact, it was further learnt at one of the branches of a popular bank in Lagos that on Wednesday, after keeping the customers in the sun unattended for over two hours, they finally came out to share ‘tally numbers’ starting from 21.
It was later learnt that the first twenty numbers were reserved for their staff who have become emergency ‘currency dealers’.
Already, some peaceful protests are turning to violence as hardship, occassioned by Scarcity of fuel, cash, light is biting harder.