Adeola Balogun, Femi Makinde, Success Nwogu, Olufemi Atoyebi,Samuel Awoyinfa, Nonye Ben-Nwankwo, Jesusegun Alagbe, Eric Dumo, Armstrong Bakam, and Ovie Okpare
Millions of Nigerians were left stranded and frustrated on Friday when Automated Teller Machines in most banks across the country dispensed less cash in some cases and failed to dispense cash in some other instances.
Many of the customers, who had hoped to get enough cash from the ATMs to pay bills and shop for food items and other goods ahead of the Christmas break this weekend, went home disappointed after waiting in long queues for several hours.
In Lagos for example, angry customers desperate for cash turned the heat on bank workers in some parts of the city, mounting repeated pressure on them to provide them with money.
At the Iyana Ipaja branch of a new generation commercial bank, enraged customers nearly beat up a bank worker, who ignored their queries for explanation following the failure of the three ATMs within the bank premises to dispense cash.
One of our correspondents, who visited the area around 12:00 noon on Friday, witnessed the ugly scenario. Six ATMs in three other banks within the neighbourhood also failed to dispense cash.
In the Ketu and Mile 12 areas of the city on Friday morning, only two ATMs inside a branch of an old generation bank at Kosofe bus-stop dispensed cash.
The development led to a very long queue in the bank’s premises for most part of the day, while a large crowd of desperate customers also besieged its main banking hall.
A middle-aged man, who stormed the bank around 10:30am, begged others in the queue to be allowed to use the machine as according to him, he had been trying to get cash all the way from Ikorodu following an emergency he had on his hands.
“Please my dear people, kindly allow me to use the machine, I have an emergency case at hand, I came all the way from Ikorodu to this place, no ATM was working in all the banks I visited at Agric, Garage and Ebutte. Please, I am begging you,” the customer was heard saying by one of our correspondents, who was there at the time.
The man was later allowed to use the machine by those he had met at the place after repeated pleas from him.
At the Redeemed Christian Church of God’s Redemption Camp along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway on Friday, bank customers were also left frustrated as they moved from bank to bank in a desperate attempt to lay their hands on cash via the ATMs.
The situation inside the banking halls was not different either, as customers waited in endless queues without any hope of getting cash.
In Abeokuta, Ogun State, many commercial banks had to deal with a large turnout of customers, most of whom were there to make withdrawals.
The ATM points of many of the commercial banks were dotted with long queues of customers from as early as 7am.
The customers had one complaint or the other about the ATM services in the banks. Some of them said the network was slow, while others said the ATMs could only dispense N5,000 instead of N20, 000 at a time.
A customer, Adedamola Abiodun, at one of the banks, told one of our correspondents that he had been in the queue for almost one hour and yet it had not got to his turn.
In Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, bank customers also had difficulties withdrawing money from ATMs.
One of our correspondents, who took a tour of the city on Friday, observed long queues at ATMs in most banks while the same was witnessed in the banking halls.
Some bank workers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the traffic of customers was heavy because, apart from being the festive period, some companies paid their workers’ salaries on Thursday.
He said, “The long queues are expected because as you know, people need money to purchase items in readiness for Christmas.”
Some of the customers, however, expressed dissatisfaction at the bank’s services. They said the banks did not prepare for the busy season.
Another customer in Dugbe area, which is the busiest commercial district in Ibadan, Mary Adekola, said she was annoyed that the bank she patronised did not attend to the problem of customers staying in the sun while ATMs malfunctioned.
“I am annoyed because out of the six ATMs, only two were actually dispensing cash. The rest stopped working soon as I reached there. We were more than 100 waiting to be served by two slow ATMs,” said Adekola, an editor in a publishing firm around Jericho area of the city.
Residents of Osogbo and some other towns in Osun State, who visited various banks to make withdrawals, also went home disappointed.
One of our correspondents observed that some customers were at various ATMs as early as 6:30am to withdraw money to buy food items.
Oloruntoba Adedeji, a customer, said there were unusually long queues at ATMs because the state government just paid three months’ salaries for workers on Thursday.
Adedeji said, “I left Ilobu to come and use the ATM in Osogbo because of the long queues.”
There were also long queues of people waiting to withdraw money from ATMs in many branches of commercial banks especially in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, on Friday.
One of our correspondents, who monitored the development at branches of banks at the Unity Road, Taiwo Road, Murtala Muhammed Way, Tanke, Adewole and Zango areas, noticed many bank customers in the queues
The bank customers in some branches noted that they had so much difficulty withdrawing cash in some other branches. They lamented that some of them had come to withdraw cash so that they could travel to their hometowns while others wanted to withdraw money for Christmas shopping.
Most ATMs in Bauchi State were also crowded on Friday as many of the machines failed to dispense cash.
A customer who spoke to Saturday PUNCH lamented that he spent close to two hours trying to transfer money to his business partner.
He said, “It is frustrating when you go to the bank and you spend hours and you still cannot achieve your aim.”
In Katsina, a large crowd of bank customers swarmed around different ATMs on Friday. Even though many of the machines were dispensing cash, customers had to endure long hours in the queue to access their funds.
In Delta State, over 100 customers, who had been in the queue at an ATM in the premises of a new generation bank, were left fuming after the only machine dispensing cash stopped working.
The bank located on Ughelli Road, witnessed a large turnout of desperate customers for most parts of the day on Friday.
A frustrated customer, who identified himself only as Ochare, said, “I went to my bank’s branch on Friday along Ughelli Patani Road to collect cash but later inside the bank, a man believed to be the manager addressed us that they couldn’t pay more than N50, 000 until 11am. I wanted to withdraw N100, 000, so I issued another cheque and reduced the cash. Again, the man came and announced they couldn’t pay more than N20, 000. I cancelled the previous cheque and wrote N20, 000.”
Long queues were observed in most of the banks in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
A resident, who spoke with News Agency of Nigeria, Mrs. Esther Uche, lamented that despite waiting in the sun for more than 20 minutes, she could not withdraw money.
Also, a bank customer, Mr. Gabriel Okwoche, said it was unfortunate that banks did not prepare to meet customers’ demands during the Christmas period.
When contacted, the Vice-President, Association of Corporate Affairs Managers of Banks, Mr. Charles Aigbe, declined to comment on the matter. He said he could only speak for his own bank, United Bank for Africa, which he said was doing well as far as ATM transactions were concerned.