In an endeavour to establish quality service delivery in Nigerian banks, a former Central Bank Governor, Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, launched a most far-reaching and comprehensive recapitalisation and consolidation of the banking sector.
Twenty-five banks emerged after the consolidation. Two positive effects of the restructuring are the banking industry enjoyed a lot more confidence from both local and the international community and it experienced exponential growth in Africa.
Prior to the recapitalisation in 2005, Nigeria had 89 banks which, when aggregated, were no match for a bank in South Africa. But after the transformation, some of the banks became stronger and were found among the top 100 in Africa and the top 1000 globally.
The successful change in the banking sector more than cheered up Nigerians; it was succulent to their ears. Unfortunately, the reformers exonerated quite a number of non-performing aspects of the banks. This has made business transactions with banks a nightmare scenario.
Banking halls are increasingly congested, a development that often relinquishes customers to besotted looks, while long queues exist every single day. As a result, the bank arenas are stuffy, untidy, and choky as the air conditioners are generally ineffective.
Queues are exceedingly lengthy in a manner that incapacitates queue markers in the halls. Contour-like lines extending beyond the banking halls to the outside are observable, thus creating unprecedented frustration for customers and exposing them to risk.
Indeed, time-wasting in our banks has assumed a professed and accepted norm such that many persons lose their jobs or come close to that as such employees are mostly accused by their employers of using the long wait in line as a pretext to engage in their private concerns.
Transfers are as slow as a stopping train; customers still encounter serious complications with system time-out, and withdrawals (either through ATMs or across the counter) are a phantasm. Undue delays associated with credit processing and account opening cause hapless customers to be up in arms over the ugly situation.
A simple cash deposit takes more than an age to transact. As if that is not harrowing enough, some of them exhibit the unprofessional conduct of cutting short their banking hours usually on the last day of the month to run end-of -month processing.
Then most banks are understaffed. Consequently, the few workers on hand get saddled with jobs meant for persons almost thrice their number. This is remarkably obvious when staff is suddenly redeployed to duty lines other than their regular services to clientele.
Service delivery at Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) is yet another horrible ordeal which can only be compared with the unsalutary experience of one who lies under the weight of an incubus. There are strings of queues making it hard for withdrawals to be effected. While some ATMs display an out-of-service message on their monitors, others are unable to dispense cash because of poor network services.
Surprisingly, in the midst of the gross inefficiency, banks keep declaring mind-boggling figures as profits and deposits at the expense of their customers. One expects that beyond the pronouncements of prodigious and attractive figures, what the banks should have as a competitive edge over their competitors to guarantee market dominance is how efficient their service delivery is and how customer-friendly they are.
As it is, the misdemeanour of bank workers strikes hapless customers as unbecoming and unlovable. It is an attempt to discredit the familiar aphorism that “the customer is king”. It seems in this case that the customers are irrelevant while the bank officials act like a king. Then the gains derivable from the laudable reformation and consolidation of the sector have been rubbished.
Given all the constraints, can it be said that Nigerian banks have sustained the goals of Soludo’s reform initiative? Can it be said that the capacity of banks in the country to develop the economy has been enlarged? Has the distress syndrome been eliminated or reduced?
Although the banks may have achieved a good few of the objectives of the reforms as they possibly can, effective service delivery and good customer relations which should be the nitty-gritty of any transformation in that sector have remained unattained. It is an indication that Nigerian banks, despite their deceitful advertisements and perception management, only pay lip service to “best practices” in 21st-Century banking.
By: Arnold Alalibo