I don’t mean to be sarcastic, but if you believe Coronavirus is real, or have faith in the protocol put in place to fight the plague, please don’t go to Kano. Except in the Banks, where customers are subjected to undue torture, occasioned by delays and long queues, everything everywhere in the state is business as usual. In fact, in some places, it’s even business beyond the usual.
Markets, mosques, public places and even hospitals are operating with brazen disrespect to the protocol of social distancing or the strict use of face masks and hand sanitizers.
Only banks, who seem to be taking advantage of the desperation and pathetic plight of customers, particularly those in dire need of cash to meet the obligations of Sallah, arbitrarily force people to comply with the COVID-19 protocol.
Rather than making additional provisions to meet the increase in customer’s demands and ease the stress on the system, the banks are simply operating like polling stations, leaving everyone at the mercy of their poor selective choice or random personal whim.
Depending on who you know or your ability to buy your way, access into any bank in Kano is not only herculean but as scary as breaking through a military barrier.
There are tales of people sleeping in front of the banks or skipping the congregational early morning prayers, in order to get a frontal position outside the bank, to permit for fast entry. All in an effort to perform legitimate financial transactions.
Long before the coming of COVID-19, and contrary to the assurances given to the public, that the cash-less economy will bring about increased convenience, more service options, reduced risk of cash related crimes, cheaper access to banking services, and credit to customers, the policy only came to increase the blood pressure of the people of Kano, by subjecting customers to all manner of nightmares daily.
The most difficult task anyone can undertake any time in Kano now is to attempt withdrawing money through the ATM. Most of them are permanently empty, and the few that are functioning, are synonymous with riot scenes.
The only option is to go to places where some people are providing POS services, with painful charges. The legality of such services is another issue for another day.
Someone told me the CBN had directed banks to ensure that all ATMs are well stocked with cash at all times but methinks that directive is yet to arrive in Kano. Or probably Kano is on the special exemption.
Particularly painful is the excuse given by some banks that the situation is only chaotic at the month’s end because people are withdrawing salaries. Yes, people are withdrawing salaries, but the question is, ain’t the banks aware of the coming of month-end? Can’t they plan and make arrangements for such periods?
In saner societies, where banking is driven by business prowess that is geared towards customer satisfaction, a lot of efforts and skills are put into forecast-based banking, which would make room for anticipatory actions.
Banks would think ahead and prepare on what to expect and when to expect it. Accordingly, it would put in place the mechanism to mitigate whatever problem, through changes in priorities.
It’s either the banks in Kano don’t give a damn about the convenience of their customers, or the CBN is indifferent about the success or failure of the cashless policy in Kano.
A visit to the CBN site on cashless policy said, “The policy will ensure that a larger proportion of the currency in circulation is captured within the banking system, thereby enhancing the efficacy of monetary policy operations and economic stabilisation measures”.
But as far as Kano is concerned, and as far reducing the problem of cash transactions is also concerned, the above ambition was dead on arrival. Banking services in Kano are terrifying, frightening and extremely discouraging.
People are now compulsorily compelled to resort to keeping money in the primitive ways because if you make the mistake of taking the money to the bank, withdrawing it when you need it, may require spiritual intervention.
The initial thinking is that Kano is only bedevilled by political leadership problem, but it’s now glaring that the state is also suffering from the poor financial foresight and planning by those in the banking sector.
People are made to suffer because of the mental laziness of some bankers, who continue to use the same analogue approach, and expect the customers to get different, but improved results.
Unless the intention is meant to punish the people, by implying that the coronavirus is only resident in the banks, those in charge had better change the system to fall in line with the insanity everywhere.
The Banks should add to their already existing inefficiency, by throwing caution to the wind, and discarding the social distancing policy, in line with what is happening everywhere in the state
Bala Ibrahim writes from Kano.