By Nathan Nwakamma
For Mr. Maduabuchi Eziukwu, a civil servant, February 7 was another day to source for cash to meet his financial needs.
So, he headed for a nearby Automated Teller Machine (ATM) centre for some cash withdrawal where unknown to him, a predator ATM scammer was lurking in the background.
“I had an unfortunate experience trying to get cash at a Zenith Bank Branch at Amarata in Yenagoa.
“That day was a sad day for me as I was defrauded. All my savings in the bank was cleared by one dubious character.
“I had slotted my card into the ATM but the machine rejected it and pushed it out. The guy who had just used the machine before me told me that my card was not properly inserted’’, he said.
Eziukwu thought he had met a Good Samaritan. But the strange guy had other plans for him.
“He removed my card and pretended to help me to properly insert it. The card `dropped` from his hand and he `picked` it up and reinserted it. He told me to put my password again.
“When the machine still did not dispense the cash to me, he returned my `card’ to me and left.
“Immediately I realised that the card he gave to me is not mine but a dummy card while he made away with mine. It flashed in my mind that having observed me input my password, he had obviously memorised it.
“Having realised that I had the wrong ATM card, I made desperate efforts to block my account but it was already late. The stranger had used my card to clear every kobo in my account’’, he said.
Eziukwu, 53, a Yenagoa-based civil servant lost N383,000 to the character in less than one hour.
To worsen the situation, Eziukwu said his desperate effort to notify his bank about the stolen card through the bank’s customer care lines was unsuccessful as the programmed ‘the number you are calling is temporarily out of service’ kept hurling back at him.
According to him, he also tried in vain to use his mobile banking application to transfer funds from the ill-fated account as the APP did not work neither did an email report and request to the bank to block the account help.
Finally, what appeared like a respite came when he successfully used the USSD emergency code to stop debit transactions. However, it was akin to medicine after death as the fraudster had emptied the account.
Eziukwu is not alone in this predicament as many Nigerians have fallen victim to different tricks employed by dubious elements.
Although this is now becoming a familiar story among Nigerian bank customers, the ongoing transition to a cashless economy reinforces the challenge posed by these characters, particularly in the area of ICT literacy and infrastructure.
Mike Tayase and Mrs. Pauline Onyibe, both Bayelsa-based journalists said they have bitter experience of declined transactions at Point of Sale (PoS) terminals at supermarkets.
Tayase said as plausible as the reasons advanced by the CBN to justify the policy sounds, the apex bank has woefully failed in its monetary policy duties.
“The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, has decades of commercial bank experience from Zenith Bank and has served close to 10 years as CBN governor. He is expected to consider all variables in the planned transition to a cashless economy.
“It seems the apex bank did not ascertain the integrity of the ICT infrastructure in the payment system because of the level of failed transition being experienced by bank customers.
“The cash withdrawal limit is also a source of concern and has exposed many Nigerians to be at the mercy of some bank officials and greedy PoS operators.
“There are also reported cases of fake transfers and fake alerts,’’ Tayase said.
According to Onyibe the apex bank should carry enough sensitisation on the benefits of the policy and take concrete steps to ensure that those who sabotage it are punished.
The CBN says it is not unaware of the challenges posed by the new policy as assures that it is working hard to ensure that the hiccups were addressed to the benefit of Nigerians and the economy.
In a recent statement by CBN Director, Corporate Communications Department, Mr. Osita Nwanisobi, the apex bank’s governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, urged Nigerians to be patient as the apex banks fixed the hitches.
Emefiele also said the CBN remained committed to ensuring the effective distribution of the newly introduced naira banknotes nationwide.