Nigerian ATM woes and the threat of a cashless society

The queue was definitely longer than this
The queue was definitely longer than this

Yesterday, I spent the better part of my afternoon at a Bank trying to withdraw some cash from the ATM. The disturbing trend of barely functional to non-functional ATM machines seems to have escalated of recent. Some speculate that since banks are no longer get a kickback from ATM transactions, they have decided to no longer care about the state of those machines. I don’t know if I will go so far as agreeing with these people but one has to admit that the time-line is troubling. This is even more evident now that the CBN in its infinite wisdom has seen it fit to begin enforcing its “cashless” initiative.

What we find everywhere these days are queues of such lenghts that they curve several times over like a giant snake. In some places, people are just hanging around, dejected looks on their faces as they wait for the persistent “out of service” message to change.
Yesterday, I was among this second batch of people. I got to the bank to find two out of the four available ATMs functional. This isn’t an unusual sight for most Nigerians, as it is quite strange to find all available ATMs working at any given location, even during the week days, as yesterday was.
It didn’t take long though for the two functioning ATMs to begin misbehaving. Finally, a third stopped working altogether, and we all migrated to the queue for the sole remaining functioning machine. This too soon went the way of the others and we were left moping.
As most Nigerians who frequent banks know by now, there is no use looking for ATMs at another location because the problem most likely stems from the ominous “network” whose reliability is almost at the level of PHCN. So, we did the only thing we could, wait. Some people who couldn’t wait left, probably to go back home and look for change under the mattress or something.

Eventually though, the machine began spitting out cash again, the queue reformed and I was finally able to get my money. In 2013, if trying to withdraw my own money from an ATM can be described as an exercise in patience, I wish to submit that Nigeria is nowhere near ready for a cashless society, and the CBN should probably reconsider her priorities.

2 thoughts on “Nigerian ATM woes and the threat of a cashless society

  1. Isn’t the cashless policy meant to alleviate the ATM cash withdrawal problem?
    If people no longer need cash to perform most transactions, there would be little to no need of cash withdrawal.

    But, like you pointed out, the unreliability of network in this country would be a serious drawback for a cashless society.
    Imagine trying to pay for purchased goods and there’s network failure.

    1. Exactly!. Its the same networks powering the ATMs that are used for the POS machines. It will be much worse if I go to buy something in a shop and the “network” is down, especially if I dont have the option of using cash.

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