18 March 2019

Nigeria: NIBBS' Alleged Terminal Failure Rocks E-Payment Transaction

The deluge of dispense error and non-reversal of failed transactions at the Point Of Sale (POS) terminal and ATM, have been largely attributed to the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS).

The blame is coming as the platform of the institution that is strategic for clearing and settlement of inter-bank transfers and payments, has been reportedly having downtimes since last year, even making it difficult to auto-reverse failed transactions.

The development has seen more than 30,000 industry transactions botched on a typical "bad day", with the accounts of banks customers debited, leaving the financial institutions and their clients at log-ahead.

Besides, banks' customers are almost staging protest across branches, as they suffer from dispense errors and frustrating efforts to get their values reversed.

An investigation by The Guardian showed that all the banks have a fair share of the challenge, with few being worse hit, due to huge number of active cards in their records.

Majority of banks' officials polled, who pleaded anonymity, are alleging frustrations from NIBSS' platform, which they said has been having issues since it crash on December 24, 2018, where about 25 per cent of industry transactions failed.

The month of March 2019, appears to be taking more hit than ever, as a particular bank told The Guardian that nearly 30,000 of its POS transactions failed in one day.

"From our end, we have tidied up possible leakages and have measures in place to resolve issues quickly, as long as it involves our bank's Automated Teller Machines and Point of Sales Terminals. The major problem is when the transactions involve third parties (other banks).

"Ordinarily, if a transaction fails, the NIBSS platform supposed to reverse it. But the non-reversal has put our customers against us. Of course, we are not blaming customers because they only know us, not NIBSS and the intricacies in the electronic payments system," the official said.

Another bank's Head of Card Business added that the lender has taken it upon itself to settle customers who come with proof, to assuage their frustration, but to pursue the reconciliation with the parties involved later.

An official of another bank also alleged that NIBSS platform is yet to be restored fully since its admittance of multiple transactions' failure in December.

"They have severally apologised to us and promised to step their system upgrade. I think the problem is more of system overload, because the e-payment system has been widely accepted and used, which infrastructure may not have been projected adequately.

But NIBSS spokesperson, Lilian Phido, said it is an "industry system glitch", which involves several stakeholders- banks, payment service providers and even the Central Bank of Nigeria.

"I cannot be here now to pass the buck or apportion blames. When issues like these come up, the tendency to apportion blames and not be responsible is there. The truth is that there are issues, but they industry glitch. Everyone is needed to resolve it," she said.

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