* Blame CBN, Not Banks – Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI) President
Temidayo Akinsuyi, Lagos
Nigerians on Monday said banks were to blame for the rise in the use of Point of Sale (PoS) terminals by robbers to dispossess people of their money – a trend that has been going on for a while without a solution yet in sight.
Recently, there have been reported cases of robbers snatching people’s Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards to withdraw money, using PoS device to accomplish their criminal acts.
The process is usually the same. The robbers break into a house at night or any time of the day. And with guns held to their heads, victims are ordered to furnish their ATM cards as well as disclose their pin numbers, which are then confirmed with a PoS device before the cards are taken away. The robbers then proceed to withdraw as much cash as possible before daybreak when the incident is reported and cash withdrawal stopped.
This trend is also common in robbery in mass transit buses popularly called ‘one chance’ where unsuspecting commuters are held hostage, ordered to surrender their ATM cards and disclose their personal identification number (PIN) – with the PoS terminal to authenticate the PIN – before heading to a convenient ATM terminal and empty the victims’ bank accounts.
During the latest robbery incidents in parts of Lagos and Ogun states as a result of the ongoing lockdown, a victim, Adeleke Adesola, said robbers who visited his home, after collecting his phone, forced him to surrender his three ATM cards and their pin numbers at gunpoint.
He said: “They pointed a gun to my head and asked me to give them the pins to my ATM cards. They came with a PoS machine and slotted in the ATM cards to verify if the pins were correct.
“After they left, I was able to reach out to two of my banks to block my accounts. They asked me some questions about my accounts which I answered and they blocked the accounts. The robbers transferred N31, 000 from my account.”
Another tenant, Olumide Abimbola, stated that the gangsters robbed him and his wife of two phones and N30,000, adding that they transferred the N10,000 in his bank account.
Speaking on the issue, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), said banks should be held responsible if robbers could go about dispossessing people of their hard-earned money through use of PoS terminals.
“I think the banks will have some responsibilities for it, in the sense that there has to be some qualifications for which such transfers are made. There must be a system for which that sort of thing can be stopped. This electronic banking has become an Achilles heel of the Nigerian financial system because it is being abused rampantly. But I think the banks should do more about it. Not only that, the police should be more vigilant.”
Yinka Odumakin, National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, said banks deserved blame as they ought to have put measures in place to checkmate criminal activities.
“The banks should have put in measures to prevent this kind of situation from happening. The banks bear some blame owing to negligence in this regard. But more importantly, we should know that Nigeria is the world secretariat of poverty. You can’t just lock people down at home and not expect this kind of things. We are not a serious country.”
Hon. Kamal Ayinde Bayewu, fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria and former senatorial aspirant in Lagos, also said a bank could be held liable for the usage of PoS by robbers if it failed to do its Know Your Customer (KYC) properly before issuing out the machine to customers.
He also said anyone who perpetrated such criminal acts could be traced by security agents based on information provided by the clients who were issued the PoS.
“It is very simple. It is just to show that that person using that PoS is traceable. So, it is the security officials that should step up their game. Any customer given a PoS is traceable because it must have been attached to somebody and that person must give account of how money gets into his own account, knowing full well that the person who transferred that money with his own card is known and traceable. It is easy to get these PoS robbers.
“If you go to a bank and you inform them you buy and sell, the bank will do its Know Your Customer (KYC) to confirm the information given by the customer, and then issue the PoS. That is why I said the owner is traceable. The bank will only be negligent if they are unable to do their KYC well.
“Any bank that fails to do its KYC well before issuing PoS to a customer is negligent and, therefore, liable. Before you issue out PoS, you must know the person and where his business is taking place.
“I don’t even expect that PoS will be issued to an individual. PoS is a business equipment, issued to a business enterprise. What will any individual without a business need a PoS for? So, if the banks really want to get the enterprise that the PoS is issued to, they will get him easily.
“It is like issuing a cheque. If you issue a cheque, it is traceable, especially when it is crossed. Armed robbers can do anything but I believe security agencies can apprehend them because it is traceable. If a bank fails to do its KYC well, then it is liable and should pay those who have been robbed.”
Monday Ubani, former second Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), on his part described the development as shocking, saying banks should put in more stringent measures before issuing out PoS machines.
“It is very shocking and I think banks should put in more stringent measures to checkmate that. If armed robbers are going about collecting money from people with PoS, what that means is that those in charge in the banking system are the ones to be blamed.
“It means no proper measure is put in place to discover fraud and such bare-faced robbery by people who are users of the PoS. Also, anyone caught engaging in such acts should be severely punished so as to serve as a deterrent to others,” he said.
However, Kola Ologbondiyan, National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), argued that banks could not be blamed if a customer applied for a PoS machine and then converted it into criminal use. He however, said banks could be blamed if it failed to act on the complaints by customers who are robbed with the PoS machines.
“I don’t think banks should be blamed. People go to register business names and, in the process, they demand for use of PoS. So, if they now convert the PoS to carry out nefarious activities, you can’t hold the banks responsible. Except in situations where customers go to the banks to report that PoS was used to rob them and the banks refuse to take action. That is when the banks can be blamed,” he said.
Adeniyi Akintola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said the use of PoS to rob is one of the disadvantages of internet banking, which has discouraged a lot of Nigerians from embracing the cashless policy of the Federal Government.
“Of course, that is one of the drawbacks of technology and that is why a large number of Nigerians have refused to key into internet banking.
“In fact, many Nigerians who are into internet banking are the elite, the ordinary man on the street doesn’t believe in this ATM or PoS thing.
So, many people still keep their monies at home or give it to thrift collectors,” he said.
When contacted, Comrade Oyinkan Olasanoye, President, Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), said banks could not be blamed for the usage of PoS by robbers as the issuance of the machine is part of the cashless policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
According to Olasanoye, “One, because of the unemployment level in the country, there was the introduction of agents that can transact business on behalf of the banks.
“Two, there are so many business organisations, even small medium enterprises (SMEs), that are permitted to have PoS. For any shopping mall that you can buy things from, because of the cashless policy of the Federal Government, they are entitled to have PoS.
How these machines get into the hands of criminals is what I don’t know. Maybe the PoS are stolen from these companies, maybe these PoS are being used by fraudulent persons – it is what should be investigated.
“If you have a shopping mall and you apply to your bank that they should give you PoS, it will be given to you, which means people coming to your mall have a right to use their card instead of paying you cash. That is part of the cashless policy that the Central Bank of Nigeria introduced.
“It is not the banks that we should hold responsible. Yes, the banks can try to trace which banks the money was transferred to and the account it was withdrawn from, but PoS is available for all business owners that applied for it. It is part of the Federal Government’s cashless policy and the banks are not responsible for that.”