By Emeka Aginam

Although the cashless society  initiative of the apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria appears to be gaining the attention of the IT industry, stakeholders have said that unless many challenges including infrastructure, right policies, more POS terminals deployed, among others were surmounted, the policy said to be tickling Nigerians may be derailed.

It would be recalled that the CBN in its efforts to drastically reduce money laundering, terrorist financing and other economic and financial crimes in Nigeria, pegged daily cash withdrawals by individual and corporate respectively.

Last week, a major stakeholder, the Nigerian Computer Society, (NCS) while unfolding agenda for its 2012 Annual General Meeting, AGM with the theme, ‘Towards a Cashless Nigeria: Tools and Strategies” told IT journalists that professionals at the conference will evaluate the roles and strategies the information technology industry plays in the reforms and changes in the financial, economic and social sectors in Nigeria.

According to the NCS President, for the policy to work, a lot of work needed to be done in the area of infrastructure particularly electricity and connectivity. “CBN alone cannot solve these problems but a push from CBN can go a long way” he added.

More POS terminals, he noted needed to be deployed. “100,000 is a good number comparing the number of POS terminals in the country by this period last year. But the country need about 450,000 POS terminals for it to become pervasive. CBN projection for 2012 is 220,000 POS terminals. The banks need to buy and deploy more terminals” he explained.

Point of Sales, POS, facilities

Besides infrastructure, he further said that Ignorance. A lot of awareness and education needed to be created around the policy. Merchant awareness, he said has been low. “Many of them don’t yet realize the many benefits the policy can bring to their businesses” he added.

Penalties imposed by the policy on cash transactions, he said must be implemented by banks to discourage cash transaction across the counter. The objective of any terminal accepting all bank issued cards, according to the NCS President need to be pursued.

“CBN must compel banks and card associations to ensure that this objective is achieved. In most part of the developed economies, e-payment is driven by credit cards. In Nigeria , most of the cards are debit cards.

“ Major issue militating against issuance of credit cards in Nigeria is lack of effective means of identification. CBN can work with NIMC on the NatID to ensure effective KYC by banks using biometric.  Once the banks are comfortable to issue credit card, this will in turn drive the cashless policy. CBN must ensure the buy in of government ministries and parastatals  by conducting their payment transactions electronically” he added.

FirstBank e-cards for cashless society unfolded
While unveiling innovative e-payment products including FirstBank verve card, Visa debit, (dual currency) Visa prepaid, domestic only prepaid card, standard master card, FirstGold Visa card, First Bank Naira Credit card among others for the cashless Nigeria by the FirstBank, the Head, Marketing & Corporate Communications of the bank, Mrs. Folake Ani-Mumuney, at a product fair held last week in Lagos to drive patronage for FirstBank’s products and services said that the bank has developed suitable products and services for the ever growing financial services market.

Believing that right policies would drive cashless Nigeria, she said that First Bank was committed to promoting cutting edge technology to serve the diverse needs of the entire populace. “We are also in sync with the cashless policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria and are presently driving this policy in Lagos, and Nigeria at large, and this certainly makes our bank very fundamental to the nation’s goal of becoming one of the top 20 largest economies in the world by the year 2020.”

With about 18,000 POS already deployed by FirstBank,  she added that FirstBnak had taken some proactive measures by rolling out various e-transaction services and products including even before the new CBN policy came on stream.

She explained that FirstBank’s online-real time banking services have been in place for almost a decade in addition to massive deployment of alternative delivery channels like POS, ATMs, Internet banking, etc, among others adding that part of the challenge is deployment of POS to supermarkets and filling stations.

“We were able to recognize on time that in the increasingly dynamic and sophisticated business environment, the future of banking will be driven by e-banking, hence we established a dedicated e-banking department many years ago.

FirstBank has always been at the forefront of innovative financial services solutions and will continue to lead the innovation drive with the mobile banking services through progressive and robust upgrade of the application to perform optimum services.

“In addition to the mobile money services, the Bank has in place a world-class IT infrastructure to drive its e-payment services across transaction touch points” she further added.

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