Lagos residents in Iyana Ipaja, Ijaiye, Abule Egba, and environs have had a lot to contend with in recent times. For example, the dual carriage Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway that connects the network of suburbs and leads to the ancient city of Abeokuta has been under construction for about three years.
For over 2 million inhabitants of this area who rely on the Lagos-Abeokuta Express way to commute, slow moving traffic, dusty haze from coal tar and debris associated with road and bridge constructions are some of the challenges they have to deal with daily.
First timers driving past the Lagos section of the 80 kilometre expressway that cuts across two of Lagos State’s largest local government areas will quickly observe a fast developing, densely populated neighbourhood full of shops, roadside sellers, hawkers, the popular danfo buses, okadas, filling stations and banks flanking either side of the road. Keen observers will notice something else too – lengthy queues outside nearly all the commercial banks waiting to access their Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).
The queues sometimes stretch outside the ATM areas to banks’ parking lots, as customers wait in anguish to withdraw cash. At one of our stops, a mother carrying an infant behind her back sits waiting in the queue, while a young man holds out an umbrella to shield himself from the hot sun.
Most of the users of these ATMs accuse Diamond Bank, Fidelity Bank, Ecobank, First Bank and GTBank of neglect, due to the poor services they often receive at these banks’ ATMs located in the area.
The customers, who made their frustrations known while speaking to Nairametrics, expressed displeasure over the persistent long queues that characterise most visits to ATM galleries in that part of Lagos. The queues, they said, are always there at different points of the day and week, and get even worse on Saturdays, public holidays, and festive seasons.
Poor banking services
According to the customers, the problem has now become a norm, while the banks seem unperturbed by the stress which their customers often go through just to withdraw money from their accounts. The customers also got to the point of accusing banks of deliberately withholding their monies, just so that they (the banks) could use said monies for transactions, thereby making profits at customers’ expense.
The customers alleged that the banks are neglectful towards them, probably because Iyana Ipaja is mainly comprised of low and middle-income residents. According to them, residents in highbrow areas such as Ikeja GRA and most parts of Lagos Island seldom experience difficulties while withdrawing money at bank ATMs.
What factors are responsible for the queues?
Based on our findings, there are three main reasons why residents of Iyana Ipaja and environs often face the challenge of queueing longer than normal to withdraw their money.
Firstly, there are not enough banks in the area to adequately cater to the needs of the customers. In the heart of Iyana Ipaja, there are about just five banks available.
Inasmuch as five banks may sound like a lot, it should also be noted that this part of Lagos is home to millions of Nigerians, as it also doubles as a major economic hub for small-scale business activities. Consequently, the residents, traders and commuters depend on the ATMs in these five banks for quick transactions.
Commenting on this situation, a bank customer who identified himself as Sunday Ubeze said, “Nigerian banks really need to make it a priority to open their branches in this part of Lagos.” According to him, the bank that he patronises does not even have a branch in Iyana Ipaja. To compound that problem, there are hardly any banks close to where he lives in Iyana Ipaja. As a result of that, not only does he always have to come to Iyana Ipaja Roundabout whenever he needs to make an emergency cash withdrawal, he is also forced to pay the mandatory withdrawal charge of N65.
The second reason for the queues is that most of the banks fail to provide adequate maintenance for their Automated Teller Machines, thereby inhibiting optimal functionality. A visit to some of the ATM galleries of banks located in the area will show that most of the machines are always “out of service”, thereby limiting the number of working ATMs. Customers are, therefore, delayed as they are forced to queue up and use the few functioning machines.
“Temporarily unable to dispense cash”
The last causative factor has to do with what some of the customers alleged as a deliberate ploy by the banks to keep them from withdrawing their money whenever they want. Some of the bank customers who spoke to Nairametrics accused banks of not putting money in ATMs, especially during the weekends. This, they alleged, is deliberate because the banks would rather “use our money for business than allow us withdraw it.”
A complicated challenge
Attempts to reach each of the affected banks for their comments on this matter proved futile. But that notwithstanding, Nairametrics spoke to a retail banker at Zenith Bank Plc who gave more insight into the situation. According to her, it is rather untrue to claim that banks intentionally withhold customers’ funds. This is because “it actually pays banks to shed weight (cash) in their vaults,” she said.
Using Zenith Bank as an example, she stated that branches earn a proportion of the charges paid by the customers on such withdrawals. Consequently, it does not work in their favour to withhold customers’ money.
Speaking further, she noted that during weekends, ATM managers are usually on weekend shifts to ensure ATM availability for the banking populace. She also stated that the challenge of long queues is not limited to the Iyana Ipaja area alone.
She did agree that malfunctioning machines and the scarcity of enough bank branches are all factors that contribute to the long queues. However, though it is good for banks to open up branches across Lagos, she cited money considerations as a major hindrance.
“It takes money to do that. Moreover, you don’t just establish a branch that would close down due to lack of profitability.”
More should be done
Banks need to set up more ATM galleries in places like Iyana Ipaja, where their presence is needed. However, doing this would require that the banks carry out adequate feasibility researches and ensure that the ATM galleries would at least be able to pay for their own maintenance instead of eating into the profits of the banks. More so, security concerns must be put into consideration in line with CBN mandates, and the necessary logistics and manpower concerns should be sorted out.
In all, it is a fact that there are many bank customers living in Iyana Ipaja and environs. These customers often experience challenges when trying to withdraw money via ATMs. Unfortunately, the difficulties they face cause various forms of inconveniences for them. Some of the customers spoke about how they lost out on important opportunities and missed deadlines just because they queued for long hours trying to withdraw cash.
It is, therefore, for the good of all concerned parties, that the banks should do all that is necessary to put an end to this problem.