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Huge debts, trust issues put Nigerian banks at risk

CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele
CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele

Millions of Nigerians do not deposit their savings in banks and the wealthy choose to invest elsewhere.

The country’s central bank said just two percent of Nigeria’s 190 million people have savings of at least $1,400, and just 350 individuals are responsible for 80 percent of the country’s bank debts.

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The report by Aljazeera also offered reasons why millions of Nigerians are losing faith in their banking system.

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Aljazeera’s report corroborates the survey by Communication Week Media Limited, a certified global ICT company with over 20 million subscribers and publishers of Nigeria Communications Week, a fiercely independent business decision instrument with support from MobileMoneyAfrica, Africa’s leading resource for mobile financial inclusion.

The survey showed that Nigerians trust mobile phones more than banking institutions and that digital banking through the mobile phone is here to stay in Nigeria.

The survey which borrows significantly from an earlier study in 2013, is a direct attestation of the growing influence of mobile phones and mobile money.

The findings drew from interviews and questionnaires conducted and administered in major cities across the country.

The interviewees were asked: if they forget their mobile phones and ATM cards or cheque books, which will they go back for?

Almost all those interviewed and respondents said they will go back for their mobile phones.

The study also found that mass banking through the mobile phone is imminent in the country, if the many roadblocks to mobile banking are removed.

Emmanuel Okoegwale, lead researcher, said the report is comprehensive and expected to guide the industry as financial institutions and mobile operators as well as users on the operations of mobile money services.

The study also supports the use of agents to reach the unbanked millions in Nigeria and suggests efforts to place Nigeria on same status with Kenya and Brazil.

According to the study, more than 70 percent of the semi urban and rural population that were interviewed completely chose to have mobile phones as the primary channel for financial services rather than visit a bank.

Another 95 per cent chose not to go back home to pick their cheque/savings books but will go back to pick their phones if left at home.

Mobile money service is touted as a game changer as it enabled customers to conduct basic financial transactions such as mobile money account opening, buying airtime, deposit and receipt of cash, as well as pay utility bills through their mobile phones.

If implemented properly, it can offer enormous benefits to the Nigerian economy by channeling the huge funds in the informal sector through the banking system to engender economic development.

In Africa, traditional banking is not a viable option for many of the poor and those living in rural areas.

High fees, low education and literacy, as well as long distances between banking facilities get in the way of simple transactions. (Communication Week)a

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