By Odunewu Olusegun
Many banks customers have lamented the scarcity of funds in most Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) in Lagos State and other major cities, describing it as a ploy by banks to force customers to patronize PoS operators who will charge more on behalf of the banks for every transactions conducted by the customers through them.
And due to the inability of those ATMs to dispense cash, customers have been left with no other option than to patronise agent banking operators. These agents are able to provide various services with the device; cash withdrawal and deposit, money transfer and electricity bill payments. Each service costs a fee depending on the amount involved.
“At a POS shop I visited, the agent charged N100 for a N5,000 cash withdrawal. He handed me a “First Bank” receipt for the transaction, bearing the name of the agent and even agreed to change a torn banknote,” a customer lamented.
According to another customer in Egbeda area of Lagos, there is a conspiracy here so that all the PoS operators around can make more money for the banks. “The Firstbank ATM in Egbe, Isolo road, the four machines, all in good working conditions, but had no cash to dispense. It’s not just First Bank, even ATMs belonging to GTbank in the areas are also not dispensing, so the only alternative is to approach PoS operators who would charge you N100 per N5000.
For Babajide Okunola, PoS operators are gradually taking over the functions of banks, and customers are actually paying more for their services as against approaching conventional banks.
“For instance, withdrawing a paltry sum of N5,000 will never attract N100 commission if I use the Bank’s ATM, it does with the PoS operators, and to make matters worse the commission goes to the banks, while the banks pay them commission at the end of the month.
“So the banks actually make more commission through the agent banking than through their ATMs. It cost them less, so no wonder most ATMs are not dispensing cash,” he added.
Reacting to the allegations that Banks are intentionally starving their ATMs of funds to encourage customers to patronize PoS operators, CBN‘s Acting Director, Corporate Communications, Mr Osita Nwanisobi, described as “preposterous” insinuations that the apex bank conspired with commercial banks to ensure there was no money in the machines.
“It is highly preposterous for anyone to say that CBN connived with banks to deprive people of their money this season. The primary purpose, for which ATMs were introduced, is to ease the sufferings of Nigerians and to make banking easier and convenient.
Meanwhile, a visit to some ATMs around Iyana Ipaja, Iganmu and some part of Lagos showed that the machines in some bank premises were not dispensing, but the ones in the banking hall are working well.
The introduction of agent banking in the financial sector is to make financial services available to bank customers in all parts of the country, as well as boost the financial inclusion drive by the CBN.
According to the CBN, financial institutions are allowed to select three kinds of agents: super agents, sole agents and sub-agents. The institutions are expected to oversee the activities of the agents, ensuring they keep to the regulations of the financial industry
Agents are not permitted to charge any fees directly to customers, and details of remuneration for the agent shall be specified in the contract between the agent and the principal.