The complaints of customers to five banks rose by 117 per cent to 6,865,217 year-on-year as of June 2023 from 3,156,704 complaints as of the same period in 2022, The PUNCH can report.

Financial claims arising from the various complaints in the review period stood at N326.11bn, up by 289 per cent compared with N83.78bn paid in claims in June 2022.

The reviewed Lenders’ reports obtained from the Nigerian Exchange Limited include United Bank for Africa, Fidelity Bank, Access Holdings, Zenith Bank Plc and Guaranty Trust Holding Company.

Customers’ complaints to UBA rose to 1,930,518 as of June 2023, from 475,121 in the same period in 2022. This marked a 306.32 per cent increase and the highest among the reviewed banks.

The amount involved in the complaints was N125.26bn from N4.39bn as of June 2022.

Access Holdings followed as it witnessed a 132.25 per cent jump in complaints between June 2022 and June 2023. Received complaints rose to 3,222,907 from 1,387,702 with the amount being disputed rising to N136.75bn from N57.87bn.

Fidelity Bank also saw its received complaints rising by 77.69 per cent to 1,010,586 from 568,738 with the amount being claimed standing at N55.20bn, a 268 per cent increment.

For Zenith Bank Plc, received complaints rose by 12.55 per cent to 247,685 from 220,067 as of June 2022. The amount involved in the complaints was N8.38bn, which is about 66 per cent appreciation on the H1 2022 figure of N5.04bn.

Of the reviewed financial institutions, only GTCO saw a decline in its received complaints, which went from 505,076 in H1 2022 to 453,575 in H1 2023, signaling about 10 per cent improvement. The disputed amount also dropped to N517.67m from N1.51bn.

During the period under review, the banking sector had to deal with the fall out of the Naira Redesign policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria which led to an increase in the volume of electronic transactions on the back of a cash crunch.

The Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System in its e-payment data report released in April revealed that the value of electronic payment transactions rose year-on-year by 298 per cent to N135.52tn in the first quarter of the year from N34.04tn in Q1’22.

Meanwhile, the Managing Director of Financial Institutions Training Centre, Chizor Malize, has fingered the ‘Japa’ trend in the country as one of the reasons for poor services from banks.

Speaking during the launch of a collaboration with online varsity, Nexford University in Lagos to fill skill gaps in the sector, Malize said, “The finance sector is the worst hit when we talk about talent migration. Everyone in this room must have started to face some kind of significant reduction in the quality of services from their financial services providers and a lot of times, you hear that a lot of the people have left or migrated.”

The president of Bank Customers Association of Nigeria, Dr. Uju Ogubunka, also hammered on the knowledge gap in the financial sector which he said has led to the surge in customers’ complaints.

Speaking with our correspondent, Ogubunka said, “One of the reasons is the inexperience of the people who deal with customers at the banks in terms of skills and knowledge. In order words, the banks are hiring people without the knowledge of banking and experience.

“Unfortunately, they are not providing enough training.  If the staff don’t know what to do, the only thing that will result is putting customers in situations where they have to complain.”

On the Naira redesign of the CBN which led to a cash crunch earlier this year, Ogubunka said, “It was sudden and some customers didn’t know what to do. Some thought that it was going to be the end of the world, so they were stressed. Unfortunately, the response from the banks and the so-called bankers were not appropriate because they have not been trained in interpersonal relationships. They thought the customers were giving them trouble which was not the case. They (customers) only needed their monies and weren’t getting it.

“Most of the customers were not very knowledgeable about the IT platforms and how to make better use of them. In fact, I’m aware that some customers had to request people to handle certain things for them because they didn’t know how to use the platform. But that is not as critical as the banks not having the right staff.”

Turning the focus on customers, Ogubunka said that some of them don’t keep tabs on their accounts until actions are taken against them.

“The other thing is the sudden changes in the policies of banks. The CBN comes up with a policy and the banks have to abide by it. I know customers who complained of the sudden closure of their accounts without notice. I know people who complained of their accounts being regarded as dormant and maybe transferred to other places without their knowledge leading to complaints,” he said.

On the ‘Japa’ trend, which has seen skilled Nigerians leave the country for greener pastures, Ogubunka said, when people who know the job exit from the system and the right fit are not hired to fill the vacancies, then complaints will abound.

“Like I said, if you don’t provide enough training from the beginning, there is a gap in knowledge, there is a gap in practice, even in relationships with the customers.  Some of the customers even complain about how the bank staff attends to them.

“As far as we know, the critical aspect of the complaints is skill gap. Banking is not like other businesses, so before you go in to serve customers, you should be properly trained.”

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