By Emeka AGINAM
Electronic payment system is a relatively new phenomenon in Nigeria. Today, majority of transactions in the country are done with cash as a result of the fact that cash remains the preferred medium for payment despite the rapid penetration of ICT in the last decade, and government policies in this direction.
However, poor awareness of e-payment solutions, ignorance, poor banking culture, lack of trust, illiteracy and lack of enabling laws have been fingered as responsible for the high volume of cash transactions in the country.
In this encounter with Mr Demola Aladekomo, the Managing Director of Chams Plc, who also was recently elected President of the Nigeria Computer Society, he spoke on a number of issues concerning e-payment system in the country, the need to expand the number of current ATMs to 250,000, and the new push by the IT industry for enabling laws for e-payment coming soon
How many ATMs terminals do we have in the country now?
According to CBN’s published figures, we have more than 11,000 ATMs. Terminals. Out of this, 7,000 are up and running. The CBN policies will drive the number of ATMs in the country. I believe that efforts are in place to move those ATMs from current number to about 25,000 ATMs in the next couple of months.
Not enough ATMs
Given the population of the country, do you think that the number of ATMs are enough for the population?
Definitely not enough. 11,000 ATMs are not enough for our current population. We strongly believe that we need at least 250,000 ATMs across the nation, according to available survey. It is still a drop in the ocean on what we have.
If you really want to stop a break in mortal banking, you need to make banking , ATMs to be accessed in the rural area so that you do not have bank branches all over the whole places.
With this, people do not have to carry large sums of money about. They can carry N50,000 and when it is exhausted, they can go to the next ATM to get additional money. That can reduce incidences of robbery and corruption.
Security of ATM use
What can you say about security of ATMs users?
For the ATM users, I think they are pretty secure. There will always be issues where cash is involved. But the more pervasive, the more implicating those ATMs are, the less the security problems.
And of course for the users, it is just like you are carrying cash, you need to be careful carrying too much cash. But the location and usage of those ATMs will determine the security.
But that is not say, no matter how careful you are or the ATMs, there may still be security issues. It is just for the ATM users to make sure that their cards are protected.
They must make sure that their ATMs are rigged in such a way that they cannot easily be tampered with. Users should not go to ATMs that are hidden in corners. They should go to ATMs that is publicly used where they can safe.
What about the culture of ATMs in the country?
Use of ATMs is increasing by the day; the awareness is there. I strongly believe that what happened to GSM will also happen in other areas. Today, there is pervasiveness of SMS by the so called illiterates in the country.
Even farmers now send SMS to their children. We have about 90 million GSM SIM cards in the country. I believe we have enough skills to manage e-payment. It may not be as sophiscated as we have in other environments, but I believe that our people are educated enough substantially to manage e-payment systems.
Security has been the issue in the e-payment system in the country. Fraudulent people have been doing well because we do not have enabling laws. What can you say about this?
On laws governing e-payment
Yes, we do not have enabling laws to guide the practices of e-payment in the country. We are working with the National Assembly, especailly wit the Senate, with NITDA and with the new Ministry of Communications & Technology to be able to come up with laws that will guide the v implementation of e-payment systems.
You also know that the central Bank is heavily interested in this. In the next couple of months, there will be a lot of legislative activities in the national assembly being pushed by the NCS, Ministry of Communication and Technology, NITDA and Central Bank. We are going to ensure that these laws are actually pushed.
What are your business areas?
At Chams, we have two primary areas — the identity management systems and electronic payment systems. For Identity Management systems, we have solutions for individuals, corporate, state and federal governments. Today, we are working with the Federal Government in resolving the National Identity Management crisis.
We are working with state governments to do staff auditing, minimize the amount of money they spend on salaries and wages. We work with corporate bodies. We are also working in e-payment systems.
We do mobile banking. We have a website where we provide e-commerce. Locally, we deploy PoS terminals. But all these , you can group under under identity and e-payment systems.
It is important to note also that ChamsCity, a historical digital city is a pioneer in Nigeria and globally. It is a world class Digital Mall that facilitates transactions in payment, identification, pleasure and large-scale data management. It provides a cashless, innovative and pioneering environment for digital transactions.
What have been the challenges for Chams?
In any business, you will have challenges, you have issues. Inconsistent government policies do affect us . Bureaucracy delays some of our activities. Funding has been a major challenge for ICT companies .
The level of employability of human resource has been a major issue. When you employ them you train them and you refine them and at the end of the day they will still go and work else where.
But those are major business challenges which by the grace of God, we are surmounting by the day. But we doing well even in the face of many challenges.