“I don’t have an account, and I can never have one until I die. My pocket and my car are secure enough for me, no matter how much I have,” words of a Nigerian, Ibrahim Gombe, based in Abuja, to PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr Ibrahim, who has several businesses, one of which is being an estate agent, disclosed that after receiving his commission in cash from whoever he works for, his cash is kept safely in his car or in his house.
“I am a very temperamental person. If I open an account and ATM ‘swallows’ my card or I have to queue to withdraw my own money, I might misbehave, so it’s better I stay on my own, I see no need to open an account at all.”
There are several other Nigerians who are like Mr Ibrahim and do not see the need for Nigeria’s banking system.
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Even if several low-income earners like this man feel owning a bank account is unnecessary, some actually wish to have one but are turned off by the many requirements from the bank.
As per a recent Access to Financial Services (A2F) survey, carried out by Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA), 36.6 million adults in Nigeria, out of 99.6 million (36.8 per cent) total adults in the country, do not patronize the banks, with 44.1 per cent being men and 55.9 per cent women.
Aiming to be one of the largest economies worldwide, Nigeria launched the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) 7 years ago as a vital operator to make this happen.
The aim of this move is to boost the number of citizens that will be involved in financial services from 30 per cent to 80 per cent by next year, 2020.
At the end of last year though, financial exclusion rate decreased from 41.6 per cent to 36.8 per cent.
Nigerian commercial banking institutions are also trying their best to ensure opening new accounts, especially when it is by low-income earners, will become as seamless as possible.
Owning a savings account in a few of these banking institutions have been broken down into 3 tiers. The 1st tier is majorly for low-income earners, artisans, and struggling business owners. To have this account, you will need a passport photograph. But the most you can have in it at a time is in the range of N200,000 to N300, 000, depending on the bank and its policies.
As soon as the deposit in the tier1 account is more than the stated amount, whoever owns the account will no longer be able to access it since it instantly becomes a tier 2 or tier 3 account. For this, a proper identity card and utility bills will be required.
The problem of financial inclusion is more rampant in the North, it is so bad that it is times two that of the South.
A recent survey revealed that as the North-west and North-east have 62 per cent and 85 per cent of unbanked Nigerian adults respectively, the South-west has 19 per cent, and the South-south, South-east and North-central have a documented unbanking rate of 23, 29 and 31 per cent respectively.
Traders like Hassan Aliyu will rather send cash to their loved ones via drivers or whoever pays them a visit from the village, like it happened several years back.
A particular trader, who sells oranges in Abuja’s biggest market said, “I prefer to send money to my family in Katsina through a driver who comes from my village, or the driver gives them the money while I pay him once he gets to Abuja.”
Mr Isiaka Kazeem, a pepper trader in the same market disclosed that he was not against opening an account “but he doesn’t trust the banks with their initial requirements.”
“They will tell you to open with just a passport photograph until you want to withdraw your money, they will then tell you to bring all sorts of things to access your own money.”
Taura Ibrahim, a security guard also revealed that he was not encouraged to embrace the banking system due to their requirements.
His words were, “I would have loved to open an account but for the various requirements I cannot meet, my house does not have a meter, so I have no utility bill.”
Another trader, Dahir Yusufu also complained, “I went to the bank to open an account a long time ago. The list of their requirements discouraged me from going back there.”
Since then, he said he made up his mind “to be keeping his money like his colleagues.”
These several complaints still exist even after an intervention from Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) 6 years ago. The number one bank in Nigeria launched a Know-Your-Customer (KYC) framework to ensure the requirements for owning a bank account and accessing bank and mobile money accounts for low-income earners is easy.
We can only hope the Banks can convince these Nigerians that their money is safest with them.