COVID-19: How ATMs pose risk to bank customers | Dailytrust

COVID-19: How ATMs pose risk to bank customers

Customers clustered at a bank’s ATM point in Port-Harcourt
Customers clustered at a bank’s ATM point in Port-Harcourt

In spite of guidelines against COVID-19 instituted by the federal government to be observed at public places, the use of face masks, social distancing in queues among others are not enforced in many banks especially at Automated Teller Machines (ATM) points, investigations by Daily Trust across the country have shown.

Our findings reveal that while some branches of First Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, Jaiz, Zenith, FCMB, Stanbic IBTC and UBA comply with the COVID-19 protocols, others observe them only partially or not at all.

Daily Trust reports that there was an enforcement of protective measures for customers entering the banks as against those using ATMs even when there are crowds.

Our reporters observed that some of the branches do not have hand sanitizers or hand washing devices for customers. They also do not enforce use of face masks, social distancing in queues within their buildings and at Automated Teller Machine (ATM) points. The violation of social distancing is worse at the entrance of banks.

In Abuja, Daily Trust monitored Guaranty Trust Bank in Jabi, and the branches of Stanbic IBTC at Area 3, Shoprite, Apo and Jabi where it observed that though the banks have taken measures to limit the number of customers within banking halls, customers clustered within the premises without observing social distancing.

Our reporter entered Stanbic IBTC Bank at Utako without being prompted to use a hand sanitiser.

Daily Trust also observed that the ATM points had neither hand washing facilities nor dispensing facilities for hand sanitisers, thereby increasing the risk of transmission as many customers used their fingers on the machines.

There were no arrangements for crowd control outside the banking halls, including at the ATMs where customers cramped themselves.

Our reporters observed that the canopies provided at the two banks available in Kuje , Abuja, First Bank of Nigeria Limited (FBN) and First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Ltd were not enough for the number of customers waiting.

As a result, people stood in crowded clusters waiting for their turns to enter the banking halls or make use of the ATMs.

The security men at the entrance of First Bank, Kuje, ensured that people wore facemask before allowing them in but did not carry out temperature checks, just as they were not given hand sanitisers.

Our reporter asked a security personnel why they did not provide hand sanitiser and he brought out a jar of sanitizer saying, “If you need it, we have it.”

At FCMB branch, our reporter observed that security men did temperature checks and applied hand sanitiser to each customer’s hands before they entered the banking hall but the same measures were not done for those waiting to use the ATMs.

Crowd Control

The same scenario is what obtains in Lagos, with some banks strictly observing the COVID-19 protocols and others only partially.

For crowd control, most banks have set up tents in front of their buildings or within their premises. To ensure social distancing, fewer customers are allowed into the banking halls. They sit in the tents while awaiting their turn into the banks.

Our reporter observed that GTB branches at Isolo Ikotun road and Cele Egbe had no tents. Customers queued at the entrance of the bank without observing social or physical distancing.

All the banks, however, checked the temperature of each customer before allowing them into the banking hall. Visits to First Bank and Zenith Bank at NNPC in Isolo Ikotun road also showed strict enforcement of the use of facemasks.

A customer who simply identified herself as Tunmininu told our correspondent she and another customer were not allowed to enter GTB opposite Jakande Estate, Isolo because they didn’t wear face masks.

The banks also had hand washing machines and sanitisers at their entrances but did not enforce compulsory hand washing for those using ATM.

Customers queued at the various bank ATM points without observing physical distancing. There was no  temperature checks for them and they were not compelled to use face mask either.

In Kaduna, some banks visited in the metropolis ensured observance of social distancing as chairs were provided for customers to sit on while awaiting their turn to enter the banking hall.

At Zenith Bank, behind Murtala Square and UBA at Ali Akilu Road, hand sanitisers and hand washing machines were placed at the entrance of the premises, temperature checks were done and crowd control was in place.

However, at Jaiz Bank, located at Bank Road and GTB Bank headquarters, close to Murtala Square, our correspondent observed that hand washing was not enforced even though there were hand washing devices provided within the premises.

Security personnel did not also conduct temperature checks for customers entering the banks and those waiting were not obliged to observe social distancing.

At First Bank, at Alkali Road, there was no crowd control as customers hung around to wait for their turn to access the banking hall. The only hand washing facility available was close to the entrance of the banking hall and no safety provision for ATM users.

A similar situation was obtainable at FCMB located at Ali Akilu Road. There were no safety measures for ATM users, though customers were obliged to wait in a designated place before accessing the banking hall.

In Port Harcourt, our reporter visited branches of GTB, UBA, Jaiz, Zenith, First Bank and FCMB and observed that they enforced measures such as hand washing, wearing of facemasks, temperature checks with thermometers and maintenance of social distancing in the banking hall.

However, customers for ATM withdrawal were allowed entrance without any of these measures.

At FCMB located at Oyigbo, many of the customers that came to withdraw money at the ATM points were seen clustering together, without social distancing.

In Edo State, all banks visited were enforcing the use of face mask, and temperature checks but were not observing social distancing at the ATM spots. The banks did not also provide hand washing devices and sanitisers.

Partial Enforcement

In Kano, security guards at the gates of First Bank, Zenith, Jaiz, FCMB and GTB allowed only customers with facemask into the premises. Canopies and chairs were provided at reasonable distances for customers to wait for their turn to enter the banking halls.

However, Daily Trust observed that no strict enforcement of safety measures was in place at ATM points apart from a few banks which ATMs were situated within their premises. All the banks visited did not conduct temperature checks on customers.

In Benue State, our correspondent who went round premises of GTB, First Bank, UBA, Zenith and FCMB all in Makurdi, the state capital, reports that the financial institutions were also not observing health protocols within their buildings and ATM points to the latter.

At First Bank along New Otukpo Road, a huge crowd with tally numbers were seen struggling at the gate to be allowed in as the seats in the canopies were limited.

While security personnel at First Bank ensured use of sanitizer and temperature checks on customers before entry into the hall, there was no strict enforcement of facemasks inside the bank.

Of the banks under observation, GTB along new Otukpo road appeared better in conforming to the protocols.

At the Zenith Bank branch in High Level area of Makurdi, the crowd at the ATM and those waiting to enter the bank did not adhere to social distancing all day largely because the only canopy for customers as well as seats provided in the small space could not accommodate them all.

Space is also a challenge for social distancing for UBA and FCMB branches along Otukpo road where little emphasis was placed on strict adherence to wearing of face mask.

Responding, the Group Head, Media and External Relations, United Bank for Africa (UBA), Ramon Olanrewaju Nasir, said,  “There is none of our offices that you will not find a tent, sanitiser and a temperature meter. These were the mandates given by our corporate services department and they have also trained our front staff to ensure strict compliance because it is in our enlightened self-interest to do so.”

Idris Ahmed, the spokesperson for Jaiz Bank, said the bank had put in place robust exercise for observing COVID-19 protocols, adding, “We made it mandatory for customers and staff to wear facemasks and their temperatures taken before they can enter the branches. They are also made to sanitise their hands before going in. Our ATMs are constantly sanitised to make them clean for use. We are constantly ensuring that any identified lag is promptly closed in line with Covid-19 protocols.”

Heads of corporate communications of First Bank and GTB did not respond to calls and text messages, and efforts to reach Zenith, Stanbic IBTC and FCMB spokespersons failed as at press time.

A management source at the Central Bank of Nigeria said the concerned banks were overwhelmed because they decided to either keep some branches closed or maintain a sort of rotation of staff which has slowed down their turnaround speed.

Asked if the apex bank could enforce compliance, he said “health authorities or relevant taskforce have all legal backing to ensure that every corporate entity complied with the protocols in the overall public interest.”

National President of the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), Comrade Oyinkan Olasanoye said, “We have been somewhat worried about the attitude of some of our employers because we are affected in various ways. If the bank puts measures in place to protect us but fails to protect the customers, we are still exposed.”

Olasanoye said the union had been meeting with the management of banks on measures that could improve the situation.