Weeks after the Federal Government, through the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, approved the reopening of financial institutions across the country, many commercial bank customers in Lagos State still find it difficult to access the services.
Findings by The Guardian showed that many of banks’ branches were still shut to customers, forcing them to besiege the operating branches as early as 6am in a bid to conclude their transactions early, sometimes without success.
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During a visit to a few of the operating branches of the affected banks in Isolo, Ikotun, Idimu, Igando, Ikorodu and Mushin areas of the state, customers were seen at the gates struggling to gain access into the premises, where they would be offered seats under a canopy to wait for their turns to be admitted into the banking hall.
In the process, social distancing rule aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 is disregarded. Many customers lamented the effect on their businesses, which that said suffer while they spend hours to be attended.
A middle aged man, Victor Udeh, who had been trying to interact with his bank’s Customer Care Service concerning his trapped Automated Teller Machine (ATM) card, was furious when the bank’s security personnel locked the gate against him and denied him access to shelter, despite a heavy down pour.
“I came to the bank last week to withdraw some money, but my card got trapped in the ATM and I have been trying to get in touch with the Customer Care Service for a week now so that they can return my card or issue me a new one. But all my efforts have been futile due to the crowd at the bank.
“Today, it was raining heavily and the security personnel still demanded that I remained outside, despite my pleas to be allowed to stay with the other customers under the shelter.
“If anyone had told me that a day would come when I would have to beg before gaining entrance into a bank, I would never have agreed,” he said.
On her part, Mrs. Ade Temi said she could not carry out her transactions with her bank after waiting on the queue for three hours, adding: “I never knew banks now have roster or list of customers that would be attended to.
“I left my business to carry out a transaction at the bank only for me to get here and was told to hold on by the security personnel. They said they now call customers’ names from a particular book and advised that I write down my name, so that they can call me when it gets to my turn.
“I only have three days to open my business place. Out of it, I have spent almost a whole day at the bank trying to carry out a transaction. Does it mean making a banking transaction has now become a whole day activity?”
Madam Ijeoma Agu also lamented difficulty in carrying out a transaction with her bank, saying: “I had to leave home at 5am to go and write down my name before the bank would be filled with customers.
“I was fortunate to be the fifth on the list. This shows how big of a task going to the bank has become nowadays. I went home and returned to the bank by 8am, but the crowd I met there was unimaginable.
“Some of the customers who were buoyant enough had no difficulty entering the bank, because they were able to do the ‘needful’ at the gate,” she said.
A customer care representative of one of the banks, who pleaded anonymity, however, said customers were making things difficult for themselves, explaining: “Most customers don’t know about online banking and how it operates, while those who know still prefer to come to the banking hall to carry out their transactions.
“Banking has gone beyond people queuing up to make payment or transferring money, especially in this delicate time. The banking industry has been educating its customers on the usefulness of the mobile app and short code, together with the benefits in carrying out their necessary transaction without much stress.
“What most of the customers come to do at the bank is something that could be done in the comfort of their homes.”