There is a disturbing development in the banking industry as some banks’ Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) now dispense counterfeit currencies, particularly the N1000 notes, which is the highest denomination in the country.
A drama played out last week in Lagos when a customer who withdrew money from an old generation bank went to another bank few metres away to deposit part of the money in another bank, but was shocked when the cashier told him that some of the N1000 notes were fake. Efforts to explain the source of the money were rebuffed. The cashier and customers in that bank confirmed that the development was not strange but was now becoming rampant.
Another victim who withdrew some amount of money from an ATM in Ibadan was stunned when he was told by a cashier in his office, in an attempt to make some deposit, that two of the one thousand naira notes were fake.
Efforts by reporters to get response from the affected banks proved abortive as they claimed ignorance.
Different opinions have been expressed on this disturbing situation.
An ex-banker, Paul Ejodamen told our source, a head of corporate affairs in one of the banks who pleaded anonymity, did not rule out the handiwork of people he described as ‘bad elements’ in the system.
According to him, there is need for the banks to take extra vigilance on those uploading money into the ATMs and double-check bundle of currency notes being put in the vaults by the Tellers.
A financial analyst and Chief Operating Officer, Twinsronk Consulting, Okechukwu Amadi, said ATM has revolutionised banking in Nigeria, calling on the industry regulator, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to take bold step to stop the disturbing trend.
He warned that the act should not be allowed to spread as it was capable of rubbishing the nation’s banking system.
“I have it before but I thought it was all a rumour. One can understand the use of fake currency in public place certainly not in the bank. CBN and banks must put measures in place to stem it or else, people will lose faith in the ATM technology,” he said.
It is recalled that when the issue of counterfeiting was becoming rampant, CBN advised members of the public to always look out for in-built security Dfeatures on the note before accepting it for any transaction.
There are three major features which are easily identifiable with the original N1000 currency, silver lining which is difficult to tear, imprint of picture images on the water mark side of the note and imprint of N1000 figure on the golden spot of the note, he explained.
Analysts see this as a huge challenge as the apex bank is still contending with the issue of excess charges on customers.
Only recently, CBN said it had recovered N8.6 billion excess charges that banks charged customers in the
first quarter of the year.
According to the Deputy Director, Consumer Protection Department of CBN, Mrs Umma A. Dutse, the amount also included what was recovered for customers who complained about conversion, frauds and others.
She said the department received and treated over 2,800 complaints from consumers against their banks at the end of the first quarter.
According to her, “we have also been able to recover more than N8.6 billion in favour of various customers. The figures that I have just mentioned exclude complaints that have to do with Automated Teller Machines and electronic-related complaints, and also complaints from other financial institutions like microfinance institutions and primary mortgage institutions. They are just complaints against Deposit Money Banks.”
The department was created with a view to promoting consumer confidence in the banking industry.
Its roles also include advocacy, enlightenment, education and promotion of awareness among customers.