It appears the significant progress made in the Nigerian banks' payment systems with the introduction of the Automated Teller Machines (ATM) the last decade is loosing momentum as banks' customers across the nation are groaning under unreliable ATM services. There is no disputing the fact that the advent of the ATM technology has been a welcome relief to the nation's bank customers who for years suffered the stress of queuing for many hours in banks just to withdraw money, especially on Fridays and days preceding public holidays.
The real cost of the cumulative losses in man hours to individuals and corporate bodies could only be imagined. All that changed for the better when Interswitch introduced the ATM into Nigeria making it possible for bank customers to withdraw money faster at the tap of the button day or night, weekends or public holidays. The banks no doubt reaped the benefits of the ATM device as they saved money on personnel cost by pruning staff that hitherto functioned as cashiers in the numerous banks' branches.
However, it is certainly not yet 'Uhuru' for banks' customers condemned by regulation and expediency to use the 11,800 ATM machines deployed by banks and private operators in the country.
The most alarming scare was the rising incidence of ATM fraudsters who cloned customers ATM cards and withdrew money from their accounts their knowledge except for alerts in their phones after the scammers have stolen their money. When affected customer reports to his bank, all the bank would do is to block the ATM card to prevent further use. The distraught customer got blamed for compromising his ATM card and got no compensation for his lost money. It is to the credit of the banks that they rose to the challenge of fighting ATM scams by putting in place better security measures which has reduced the crime drastically. Presently, other catalogues of woes confronting customers using the ATM machines include frequent breakdowns announced by the inscriptions "temporarily out of service" or unable to dispense cash" starring at stranded customers who often wait in vain for long hours for service to be restored or go in search of functional ATM service points. Sometimes you have just one out of several machines at banks' ATM galleries working resulting in long queues who are soon informed that the machine is out of cash. Most embarrassing is that these failures occur mostly after banks' closing hours, weekends or public holidays when the stranded customer hardly has options to assuage their need for cash. Added to these ATM woes is the rampant problem of a customer's account being debited whereas the ATM has not dispensed cash! Even when this shortchanging of the customer is reported to the banks' branches concerned, the customer is subjected to a rigmarole of procedures which takes days or even weeks for the debited money to be refunded or credited to his or her account without any compensation for inconveniences. We think it is time that the Central Bank made banks that subject their customers to these embarrassing and avoidable disappointments to pay them substantial compensation. We also encourage customers to sue erring banks for breach of contract.