By Our Reporters
The brilliant policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) geared towards financial inclusion of the unbanked and the under-banked Nigerians as well as the largely informal sector of the Nigerian economy into the structured economic system through the Point of Sale (POS) terminal banking system, which has taken the banks to the remotest nooks and crannies of Nigeria, is currently being threatened with collapse from greedy bankers and their insatiable thirst for profit, regardless of the human cost of accruing such filthy lucre.
Reason: In a shameless upturn of the CBN’s POS Banking System on its head, banks in the country have started sending threatening e-mail messages to POS operators to disrupt the latter’s small, pre-existing businesses by retrieving the POS terminals from these mostly small and micro enterprises if they do not meet an arbitrarily set hundreds of transactions per week on the POS.
According to financial experts, the banks’ action constitutes an attempt to forcibly recruit these independent small businesses as their official, casual marketers after sacking thousands of marketers hitherto employed by the banks as bona fide employees.
Ironically, some of the sacked banks’ ex-marketers who went into small businesses following their job loss and who incorporated the POS payment system into their ventures as both seamless payment mode and side gigs to these businesses as bank agents are facing the double jeopardy of being sacked as bank marketers for not meeting deposit targets and losing their POS for, again, not meeting POS weekly transaction targets
The attention of The Dream Daily Newspaper to the threatening emails from First Bank, specifically, was called by concerned POS operators who have become dependent on servicing their customers on the POS terminals but currently facing a downturn in patronage – both as First Bank First Monie Agent and in their pre-existing businesses before they partnered First Bank via the POS scheme – because of the general economic situation in the country as well as the ubiquitous spread of POS terminals which has eroded transaction numbers per POS operators compared to when they started three or four years ago.
One of the mails cited by The Dream Daily Newspapers reads:
“Dear (AGENT’S NAME)
“We noticed that you processed only 26 transactions on your Firstmonie terminal between April 1 and 7, 2022 [week 14].
“Kindly note that you are expected to process a minimum of 120 transactions per week. Please ensure you meet and surpass (original Italic) this target in the new week to avoid retrieval of the POS terminal given to you.
“If you have any challenge with the POS, kindly reach out to your branch [NAME OF BRANCH], for immediate repair or replacement. You may also provide feedback on any issues you have by responding to this email.
“Thank you for choosing Firstmonie.
“The Firstmonie Team”.
But First Monie agents who spoke with The Dream Daily Newspaper on condition of anonymity wondered how First Bank (ECOBank, we are told, operates a similar POS policy) “which does not pay our rent and overhead, did not give us any loan to start our businesses, arbitrarily determines what to give us as our share of transaction fees on their POS suddenly wakes up to start setting targets for us to meet. We are now their casual marketers, who what!”
Another First Monie agent added: “Are we First Bank employees? Do they think we are fools? How much is their POS terminal that they have not made its cost of purchase from me since I started using it as their agent in this shop over three years ago? Is it from the shinkini (stipend) share of the charges they drop into my agency account that I use to pay my shop girls, pay shop rent, buy fuel to charge their terminal, buy paper for their printout and other cost of running both my business and their own? These people no rate us at!”
However, another First Monie agent blamed First Bank and others for their reduced transaction numbers. He said: “Let me tell you something. When First Bank brought this First Monie did you know that they did not just give us anyhow? They came here to my shop to inspect it because they said they wanted to make sure my shop is not near another First Monie agent.
“Now, go out and count how many us are First Monie agents in this plaza, not to talk of other banks’ POS. So if POS is everywhere now, how do I make 120 transactions per week? Na so e easy for this country now? I have returned ECO Bank POS when they started troubling me for target. First Bank can come and take their own too.
“What I sell in cash or transfer to my account I manage. I am not their slave who must meet their target. I will just withdraw all my money from First Bank and the account go die there! Na so I do dem for ECO Bank!”
Financial analysts who spoke with The Dream Daily Newspaper frowned at the banks’ pressure on the POS agents and called on the CBN to stop the banks from setting any target for agency bankers.
One analyst said: “The ripple effects on the CBN’s financial inclusion policy, government tax net expansion, etc should concern Governor Godwin Emefiele of the CBN and the FIRS (Federal Inland Revenue Service), even state governors and local government chairmen who bnefit from taxation because if you withdraw these POS from these small businesses operating in kiosks, under umbrellas here and there, you are destroying financial inclusion, shrinking the tax nets as they would simply slip out of the formal sector economic operations and you will not be able to tax them as such, meaning government loses tax revenue and so on.
“You are also likely to kill jobs. I know the banks want to build liquidity and recover the cost of the POS. But that should be long-term, over time. It is ridiculous to force a jobless graduate servicing her poor neighborhood with your POS in front of her father’s house into your pseudo-employee and a casual worker who must meet your ‘target’.
“May be another generation of bankers who neither witnessed nor have been educated on the bad press which ‘targets’ generated for the banking sector are now calling the shot in the banks. I am sure many Nigerians can recall the unsavory aspect of how banks turned young girls and women to prostitutes just to meet ‘target’ in the ’90s and in the first decades of this millennium. Those young women are the mothers of the youth you see operating POS today.
“The banks are courting controversy again with this, I would say, which is not good for their business, especially among this ‘woke’ generation on social media. The damage to their brands could be massive and costly. I’ll advise caution and a review of the ‘target’ policy for POS operators. It can boomerang on the banks.”