President Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday, April 27, 2020, ordered the relaxation of lockdown in the high risk states of Lagos and Ogun, along with Abuja.
The lockdown relaxation, however, came with new directives for financial institutions. The new measures include revised operating hours, temperature checks, use of gloves and masks for customers and employees alike, as well as the enforcement of strict social distancing in banking halls.
Unsurprisingly, the address was met with fierce show of dissatisfaction by Nigerians on social media platforms.
On Monday, the lockdown ‘shackles’ were off. Nigerians in the hardest-hit cities, particularly Lagos, donned face masks and ventured on their respective livelihoods. By 10a.m., videos and photos surfaced online capturing Lagosians waiting in exceptionally crowded, long queues outside branches of the country’s biggest banks struggling with one another on who first would enter into these banks.
More so, there was a noticeable increase in vehicle traffic and people out and about on foot. As the impact of the coronavirus disease is felt across the country, there is fear that these images can only mean one thing for the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control: a surge in cases.
Reflecting on the past 24 hours, you can wonder why despite the efforts of local Fintechs and digital banks, virtual banking continues to record low adoption rates. Institutions such as ALAT and KUDA lead that charge, but there is still a long way to go. Some obvious reasons could be ascribed to slow internet adoption and smart phone penetration, and the more dominant factor about the Nigerian culture of trust, especially when it comes to money, which typically means that Nigerians see physical structures as a key factor when choosing where to keep their money.
Despite its numerous benefits from cost saving, greater control over service delivery, reduced wait times, to higher perceived levels of customisation, Nigerians – learned and unlearned – know little about virtual banking and still place their trust in physical banking structures not on the quality of service offered.
New entrants into the virtual banking space, like VBank, have sort to address these trust issues in a rather entertaining way, choosing to employ the services of a respected public figure in Mavins Record Label Chief Executive, Don Jazzy, as their brand’s face. These are encouraging signs that virtual banking can be a thing in Nigeria.
The videos from yesterday serve as a reminder to us all, especially those keeping safe at home, that we are all at risk. There is little difference between the man at home practising isolation and the man waiting in a banking hall queue as we speak. The virus can be transmitted through physical surfaces, one of which includes money, which moves from one hand to another as Nigerians go about completing different transactions. Cash used to be king, but we cannot avoid continuing like this. The digital revolution needs adoption. It’s time to bank virtually.