The Automated Teller Machine (ATM) is a new-age electronic device that facilitates off-site banking transactions. It is convenient, stress-free and utilisable at any location where it is installed.
Financial analysts note that, just few years after its introduction into the nation’s banking system, the experiences of bank customers are diverse and varied.
While some customers applaud the innovation, others narrate tales of woe in their use of ATMs for banking transactions.
Mrs Joy Agu, a media practitioner in Lagos, says that she once withdrew N40, 000 from her account through the ATM service, only to receive an alert on her mobile phone, indicating a much higher withdrawal.
She dashed to her bank to lodge a complaint and found out that she had been defrauded. The fault was hers, as she was careless with her Personal Identification Number (PIN), which was spied on by loiters around the ATM machine.
Agu, like many other bank customers, thinks that banks should monitor activities around the ATMs installed within their premises, so as to keep loiters away.
Observers say that incidents of fraudulent withdrawals from personal accounts via the ATM abound across the nation.
Bank officials are themselves worried about the upsurge in ATM fraud.
Says Joseph Oyewole, a bank worker: “Some customers are so scared now. They do not even bother to renew their ATM cards once they are expired.’’
Oyewole points out that there is a seeming decline in the use of ATM facilities by customers.
Another banker with a first-generation bank expresses the viewpoint that, “most of our customers are not discreet enough with their PIN and so, fraudsters take advantage of such carelessness to hack into their accounts and defraud them.”
However, the police say that they are working hard to stem the crime.
The Lagos State Police Command recently held a five-day intensive training programme on cyber and other related crimes for 68 of its officers and men.
Mr. Moses Saba, a Commissioner of Police, who heads the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) of the command, confirms that “there are incessant cases of ATM fraud which is alarming but we are determined to confront them head-on.
“With the active cooperation of a bank in Abeokuta recently, a trap was set and two suspects fell into our net as they had gone for a fraudulent transaction,” he discloses.
Saba recalls that in that operation, a card-cloning machine, two laptops and other documents were impounded in the home of one of the suspects.
The police boss alleges that the suspect is responsible for a series of spam mails, asking unsuspecting customers to forward their card details, on the pretext that their banks demanded it.
Saba expresses worry about the international dimension to the crime, as some suspects had reportedly confessed that some foreigners, who were linked online, built fake websites of banks for them.
He adds that the cloning machine, recovered from the suspect was purchased from an Asian country.
Keen watchers of the banking system say that the fraudsters are becoming more determined, taking their criminal activities to a greater dimension through the Internet.
They say that the fraudsters, in their nefarious trade, send scam mails to unsuspecting victims, claiming that such mails emanated from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) or Inter-Switch Nigeria.
The nation’s apex bank, on several occasions, had dissociated itself from the activities of these fraudsters.
CBN’s Corporate Affairs Manager, Mr. Mohammed Abdullahi, describes the trend as ‘unwholesome’, saying that the public should be very vigilant.
“The CBN is not in any way directly involved in the day-to-day operations of the Automated Teller Machines.
“It is also not involved in any ongoing ATM upgrade or any related activities that requires customers to reveal their PIN codes or passwords as being circulated through the scam e-mails,” he says.
The CBN, in a proactive measure last year, directed all banks to hand over their numerous offsite ATMs to an appointed ATM consortium of operators.
It set a deadline of June 30 for the handover, while bids were invited from financial firms interested in taking over the ATMs.
Many stakeholders, who saw it as a bold step at sanitizing the banking industry, hailed the action.
However, due to several appeals from the banks and the need to put the consortium in place, the CBN extended the deadline to March 31, this year
About a month after the expiration of the deadline, records available from financial institutions indicate that many banks have begun to comply, as an estimated 1,446 ATMs have been handed over to the consortium of firms.
Mr. Mitchell Elegbe, is the Managing Director/Chief Executive of INTERSWITCH, a major player in the ATM support system.
He says that his company is deploying all available resources to tackle fraud in ATM management in the country.
He stresses that his firm has launched an enlightenment campaign on ways to minimize fraud in the system, as well as tackle other challenges posed by the new innovative technology.
According to Elegbe, current efforts, assisted by security services, have led to the closure of some fake websites used by the fraudsters.
“Our company has put in place an IT Risk and Fraud Management Team, alongside other fraud prevention initiatives, such as ‘MoneyGuard, ‘FraudWatch, ‘FraudGuard, ‘FraudInsure, ‘IdentityGuard and ‘FraudAware’, “ he says.
Elegbe adds that his company has introduced the “VERVE”, a more secured CHIP/PIN card, which replaces the magnetic strip card being phased out.
These measures, financial experts affirm, are adequate response to the CBN’s directive to upgrade the country’s present Magnetic Strip card payment system.
Security experts note that the “VERVE” has many security features which make card cloning activities very difficult for now.
Elegbe says that most banks are presently replacing millions of their old cards in circulation.
An anti-fraud expert, Mr. Alex Oku, who heads the Lagos-based Kalex Global Solutions Ltd., says that “high-definition” ATM cards are very ripe for the Nigerian market, in view of fraud trends in the nation’s financial system.
He says that the ultra-modern card, now being used in a country like the United Arab Emirates (UAE), works with fingerprints of account owners and totally eliminates the use of PIN.
The challenge to curtail fraud in the financial system is daunting and calls for the collaboration of all stakeholders.
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) is one such body that has risen to the challenge and it has entered into a joint initiative with the CBN and commercial banks, to stem the rising incidents of fraud in the financial system.
Some analysts recall that recently, their tripartite efforts paid off, with the recovery of huge sums of money defrauded some bank customers in Anambra.
The South Eastern Zonal Co-coordinator of the CPC, Mr Tam Tamunokoubia, says it is imperative for banks to resolve any reported ATM complaint within 72 hours.
He advises that customers must learn to keep their cards from unscrupulous persons, keep their PIN very confidential and avoid careless disposal of ATM transactions receipts.
With cautious optimism, stakeholders in the financial system hope that the innovative measures being implemented by the CBN and the commercial banks will minimize the losses sustained during banking transaction through the ATM.
…Creates Two New Offices In Govt House
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of two new executive offices to guarantee efficiency and effectiveness of activities at the Government House, in Port Harcourt.
The governor’s action was made known in a statement signed by the Special Assistant on Media to the Rivers State Governor, Kelvin Ebiri in Government House, Port Harcourt, last Monday.
The terse statement reads, “To ensure activities are functioning efficiently and effectively, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt.
“The Deputy Chief of Staff will be in charge of the Logistics, Correspondence of the Governor and Legal Matters.
“Similarly, he has also announced the creation of the Office of the Special Adviser on Aviation”.
Accelerating Gender Parity In Nigeria
In virtually all societies, women are in an inferior position to men. Sex or gender determines more rights and dignity for men in legal, social and cultural situations, These are reflected on unequal access to or enjoyment of rights in favour of men.
There are also the assumption of stereotype social and cultural roles.
In Nigeria, gender inequality has been for decades in spite of modernization and the fact that many females have done better than men in many spheres.
Analysts are convinced that gender inequality is largely influenced by religious and cultural beliefs, as some cultures and religions still hold strongly that women are the weaker vessels created mainly to be home keepers and child bearers.
Analysts are also worried that gender inequality negatively affects status in all areas of life in society, whether public or private, in the family or labour market.
Although the Global Gender Gap Report 2018 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows some progress amongst the 149 countries that were indexed, the progress toward closing the gender gap is slow, because it will take 108 years to close the gender gap and another 202 years to achieve parity in the workforce, according to the report.
The report benchmarks the 149 countries on their progress toward gender parity across four dimensions – economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
A number of initiatives have been made by corporate organisations and governmental and non-governmental organisations to address gender imbalance in Nigeria.
One of the latest is the launch of First Women Network (FWN) by the First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., in commemoration of the 2019 International Women’s Day (IWD).
IWD is celebrated globally every March 8 to recognise social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
The celebration is also a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
The global theme for the 2019 celebration is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change” while the theme for the social media campaign is “#BalanceforBetter”.
According to the bank, the FWN initiative is an avenue for career management and mentoring for women to enable them to balance their career with private endeavours.
The aim, according to the bank, is to address gender gap and increase women representation in its senior and executive levels, as well as encourage women to tap into opportunities and contribute to nation-building.
The bank’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Adesola Adeduntan, explains that First Women Network is targeted at the banks’ staff and customers, among others.
He believes that women can achieve more if given the necessary strategic support, hoping that the initiative
will increase the bank’s productivity and profitability.
Adeduntan notes that the initiative is also a demonstration of First Bank’s adherence to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Sustainable Development Goals which mandate increased women representation in all banks.
The sustainable goals require that the financial services sector should adopt a quota system to increase women representation on boards to 30 per cent and that of senior management level to 40 per cent by 2014.
Adeduntan is optimistic that the FWN will address six key area – career management, personal branding, mentoring, welfare, financial planning and empowerment.
He is convinced that the initiative will address gender disparity at the workplace.
“It is commonly agreed that gender parity is an essential factor influencing the advancement of institutions, economies and societies.
“Studies have shown that gender parity in corporations promotes increased performance and returns on investment.
“The need to invest in composite women empowerment and enhance their contributions at senior management levels to achieve organisational goals cannot be over-emphasised,” the CEO says.
For him, it is paradoxical that the presence of women in paid employments continues to increase, yet the progression of professional women to positions of leadership and management remains slow.
“Gender gaps persist in economic opportunities and political participation in many countries.
“This is part of the reasons for this women network initiative,” he notes.
The chief executive officer wants employers of labour and the entire society to encourage women to advance, excel and contribute optimally in workplaces and communities.
Mr Abiodun Famuyiwa, group head, Products and Marketing Support, promises that First Bank will continue to promote female entrepreneurship for national growth and development.
“We recognise that promoting female entrepreneurship and independence is key to economic viability of every home in the country,” he says.
According to him, FWN is a further demonstration of the bank’s commitment to women empowerment after the launch of FirstGem in 2016.
He is satisfied that FirstGem is providing opportunities for women to achieve their financial goals and aspirations through with access to support funds, free business advice, specialised trainings on business development and insight on business development.
For Mr Lampe Omoyele, managing director, Nitro 121, an integrated marketing communications agency, points out that courage is important in addressing gender imbalance.
“For gender imbalance to be resolved, there has to be courage, vision, values and character,” he says.
He is convinced that women should have courage and confidence in taking risks within organisations.
Omoyele advises that women must not play the victims.
“Ultimately, whether you are a female or male, what is going to sustain you is your character and values.
“You need to have values; character is important in the balance that we live to, and it sustains you as you move into the future,” he adds.
The Chief Executive Officer, Standard Chartered Bank, Mrs Bola Adesola, wants women to take advantage of FWN to make their lives better.
She urges women to aspire to grow in their endeavours and refuse be limited because of their gender, stressing that they should use all resources at their disposal to grow.
For the bank chief, FWN is not a silver bullet to creating the first female chief executive officer of First Bank, but about opportunity.
“So, it is important that as women, we take advantage of it,” she urges.
Ms Cecilia Akintomide, independent non-executive director, FBN Holdings Plc, is dissatisfied that Nigeria is still far in gender balancing.
Akintomide says Nigerian women are still being restricted from working in some places and owning some property.
According to her, restrictions are rendering 50 per cent of Nigeria’s population – mainly women – economically unviable.
A First Bank customer, Mrs Ifeyinwa Okoye, lauds the FWN, and urges the bank to ensure that its customers – the secondary target of FWN – benefit from it.
Okoye describes women as critical to economic growth and development but regrets that many women were lagging behind in their endeavours because of gender inequality.
She wants the banks to enlighten its customers on FWN for maximum results.
“If you empower a woman, you empower a nation.
“Empowering women is especially effective because the benefits are felt throughout the whole community,” she argues.
Analysts call for more strategic support for Nigerian women to enhance gender parity.
By: Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma
Joel-Nwokeoma is of the News Agency of Nigeria.
Covid-19 Vaccination: Role Of Local Leaders
It was a matter of time, but Covid-19 vaccination has already started to generate heated arguments following a hint that the Federal Government could start sanctioning anybody who refused to be vaccinated.
Dr Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, disclosed this at a recent press conference in Abuja. He, however, said that implementation was dependent on availability of the vaccines.
“The Presidential Steering Committee and the Federal Ministry of Health are exploring ways of making vaccines more available to all Nigerians, including federal civil servants and corporate entities.
“Once these vaccines are made equitably available to all Nigerians, then we will need to have a frank discussion about justice, fairness and liberty that exist around vaccine hesitancy.
“So, you have a right to refuse vaccines, but you do not have the right to endanger the health of others,” he said.
Already, attempts have been made by two states – Ondo and Edo – to make Covid-19 vaccination compulsory, especially for public servants and members of the public who wish to gain access to certain places.
These places include religious worship centres, banks and public buildings.
However, those attempts and the suggestion that the Federal Government might sanction those who refuse vaccination have been criticised by some trade, professional and religious associations.
The Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) that kicked against the compulsory vaccination, said that government should rather embark on advocacy and persuasion, than coerce citizens into getting vaccinated.
The spokesman for JOHESU, Mr Olumide Akintayo, said the policy would only be sensible if there were enough vaccines to inoculate eligible citizens.
Akintayo stated: “If you are thinking of it in terms of responsibility, it makes sense; but practically, we all know it is an impossible task.
“ If all the doses that have been sent to Nigeria since this outbreak is less than 10 million, how do you enforce that kind of policy in a country of over 200 million people?
“You don’t just come up with policies that are not backed by common sense; you don’t just say things because you want to talk. It would have made some sense if the vaccines are available for everyone.”
The General Secretary of the NMA, Philips Ekpe, said citizens could not be forced to be vaccinated against Covid-19 the same way they had the right to reject medical treatment.
Rather than being forced, he said Nigerians should be made to understand the need to be vaccinated.
According to him, although they cannot be forced, citizens who refuse vaccination should stay in their houses so that they don’t endanger others.
He said: “The Federal Government needs to make people understand the reason why they need to be vaccinated. They have the right to say no. You cannot force people. People have the right to say no to medical treatment.
“But you should let them understand the dangers of not getting vaccinated.
“For example, if you want to travel out of the country, if you are not vaccinated, you will not be let in. The reason is because the other country you are going to won’t want to endanger the lives of its citizens.
“Let them understand the importance, but then if they refuse, they should stay in their houses and not go out and endanger others.”
Experts believe that properly communicating the advantages of being vaccinated, through the use of existing structures, such as religious and cultural institutions, would yield better results than subtle threats.
Communication connotes persuasion, even on occasions when the purpose of a piece of communication is not to persuade, there is still the need to win over the audience to accept the message.
In this era of fake news, and when the social media is awash with conspiracy theories against vaccination, persuasion must first be deployed to get the attention of citizens.
The burden increases tremendously when there are cultural and religious stereotypes which could prevent many adherents from accepting that being vaccinated is safe.
This challenge is not peculiar to Nigeria. In the U.S. for instance, vaccine hesitancy is responsible for over 90 per cent of all Covid-19 related hospitalisation.
Getting some Americans vaccinated has been so challenging that many people have been offered monetary incentives to convince them to get vaccinated in an unusual case of persuasion.
In Nigeria, where religious and traditional leaders are custodians of faith and culture respectively, they wield great influence on devotees and those institutions can be deployed to boost vaccination drive.
Historically, religious and traditional rulers often employ the cognitive process of persuasive communication to change an entrenched social perception or public opinion hindering required public support for relevant people-oriented policies.
Leaders have the influence to subtly appeal to the target to listen, accept, comprehend and act.
Therefore, before considering the stick, government should first explore the use of carrot.
Religious and traditional leaders can help in giving correct messages on vaccination as well as being role models, making sure that they and their loved ones too are vaccinated.
Faith-based and culture-based organisations can also collaborate with other leaders to sensitise communities on the benefits of vaccination and to also dispel the many myths and disinformation about it.
King Bubaraye Dakolo of Epetiama Kingdom in Bayelsa has been putting this practice to use, since vaccination was first rolled out in Nigeria in March.
“The arrival of the vaccine brought a huge relief to our kingdom. I mobilised my people to carry out awareness campaigns in the various communities to guard against apathy.
“My council chiefs and I led by example in being vaccinated early. When the people saw that, they were fully convinced that the vaccine is not harmful.
“We made it clear to our people through town hall meetings that the vaccine is safe and is designed to save humanity.
“We equally reminded them how some persons who refused to be vaccinated for poliomyelitis in the past are suffering the consequences of their actions today,” the traditional ruler said.
According to the WHO Covid-19 Dashboard, Nigeria had administered 4.4 million Covid-19 vaccine doses as at Aug. 31, 2021. Out of that number, 2.9 million Nigerians have been fully vaccinated, according to the NPHCDA.
With a fairly efficient vaccination structure, owing to many years of immunisation against polio, the Nigerian government should activate collaboration with religious and traditional bodies in its vaccination drive.
Experts, including health professionals and public administrators, believe that involving these leaders in advocacy and public enlightenment will lead to more people accepting to voluntarily get Covid-19 vaccination.
Of course, with just a paltry 0.7 per cent of the population vaccinated, the key indicator for any punitive measure for avoiding vaccination will be subject to availability of the vaccines.
However, to achieve the goal of vaccinating 40 per cent of its 200 million population before the end of 2021 and 70 per cent by the end of 2022, Nigeria will need more than availability of vaccines.
There has to be the acceptance and willingness of the majority of its population to be vaccinated.
One of the crucial and effective way to achieve that is to work with religious and traditional leaders.
By: Kayode Adebiyi
Adebiyi writes for News Agency of Nigeria.
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