Friday, 7 June 2013

Customers Lament as First Bank Shuts Down Operations


There have been mixed reactions from First Bank customers over the temporary nationwide closure of its operations for an upgrading exercise.

Some branches in Lagos State witnessed calmness as customers were able to withdraw money via the Automated Teller Machines.
However, in virtually all the branches, customers had long queues to contend with.

At Ojodu/Berger Road, Lagos, Saturday PUNCH observed that customers were making withdrawals via the ATM points.

Some customers in Lagos commended the bank for adequate publicity ahead of the exercise, but many customers outside Lagos complained of inadequate publicity to enable them to prepare for the consequences of the bank’s action.

In Ibadan, the Oyo State capital on Friday, customers described the recent hitch being experienced in the bank’s operation as disappointing.

They said it was a common sight to find customers crowding the banking halls with long queues at the ATM points for transactions.

A financial expert, Tunde Alalade, said, “This development is affecting in many ways. It reduces customers’ trust, frustrates business transactions and creates hiccups in commercial activities. The experience is nationwide and one wonders how long this would last.”

A Business Administration student of the Polytechnic, Ibadan, Damilola Afolabi, said students’ registration was affected as a result of the hiccups being experienced in the bank’s services.

In Jos and Bukuru environs, all the First Bank branches were locked in line with the bank’s scheduled upgrading exercise.

At the branches at the City Centre, Market, Ferin Gada and Bukuru, customers, who had no inkling of the exercise, were seen around the bank premises.

They complained that they were not given adequate information to enable them to withdraw some money to feed their families pending the conclusion of the exercise.

A customer, who identified himself simply as Haruna, said that he had an important transaction to make and was surprised when he went to his bank and saw it closed for business.

In Ilorin, Kwara State, there were diverse reactions from customers over the temporary closure of First Bank.

Saturday PUNCH found that about 2.30 pm, many of the customers that went to the Geri Alimi branch and a few other branches to collect cash via the ATMs were disappointed as the machines were reportedly not dispensing cash.

But the experience was different at the Unity Road branch, the bank’s head office in Ilorin and some other branches in the metropolis.

At these points, many customers were seen queuing up to make use of the ATM, which was functioning well.

In Awka, the Anambra State capital, the closure of First Bank banking halls is taking its toll on its customers.

Many of those affected were traders at the Eke Awka market, the biggest market in the city.

Some customers seen withdrawing money at the ATM points said they had little to do with banking hall transactions.

Sunny Okeke told Saturday PUNCH that he went to the bank on Friday morning to pay in the proceeds from his transactions but he was turned back on the grounds that the bank did not open.

Okeke wondered how he was going to keep the proceeds safe until Monday that the bank would open again.

Mrs. Uju Okoye, who was turned back at the Onitsha-Enugu Expressway branch of the bank, said she was desperately in need of cash to pay her rent.

“My landlady says she is travelling on Sunday and wants the money now. The most you can get from an ATM is N100,000. I don’t know what to do now?” she lamented.

In Ondo State, some First Bank customers lamented its temporary closure.

In separate interviews with Saturday PUNCH on Friday, they said they could not access their money through any of its branches or cash points.

Mostly affected are some of the Batch ‘B’ corps members, who said they were unable to travel back to their destinations after completing their service year.

They alleged that the time of the notice sent by the bank to customers on the issue was too short and that it did not allow them to make adequate preparations.

Despite the prior notice given by First Bank of Nigeria Plc that it would shut down operations to upgrade its banking application system, a large percentage of customers were still caught napping.

In Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, many First Bank customers said the closure notice was off the mark.

A customer, Emem Moses, said people could use the ATMs to access their accounts, but added that they had to endure long queues for between two and three hours, as they could withdraw money via other banks’ ATMs.

He noted that on Thursday, only three out of six ATM points in Uyo FBN main branch worked. He added that on Friday, none of the ATM points worked.

A customer, Miss Iniabisi Eyo, said she had to suspend her business trip to Dubai as she could not get the money for her flight.

In Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital on Friday, customers bemoaned the closure of the bank.

Many of the banks’ customers, who besieged the branches in Sapon and Pansheke areas of Abeokuta, kicked against the action of the bank’s management.

At Sapon, a customer, Mr. Emmanuel Madu, told Saturday PUNCH that the action of the management had clearly demonstrated a lack of feeling and insensitivity.

Another customer, Mrs. Bisi Daniel argued that the bank did not need to completely shut down its operations because it wanted to carry out some duties.

At Pansheke branch of the bank, scores of customers, many of whom were students of the nearby Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, were seen loitering around the premises.

In Abuja, many of the customers, who besieged various ATM points, were jolted when they could not access their accounts for withdrawal or money transfer.

Some of them complained that the notice was so short even as it was not properly communicated.

A customer, who identified herself as Comfort, said, “As you can see, the queue here is too long, majority of the people have been complaining about the closure of the bank. Many of us were not even aware of the closure because if we had gotten the information earlier, we would have prepared for it.”

Culled from PUNCH

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