I spent the morning screaming at a staff of First Bank, Allen avenue branch. And by screaming, I do mean screaming. After which I transferred all my money from there into another account with a different bank.

For two weeks I’ve been unable to make a withdrawal. I thought perhaps my card had been compromised, maybe the magnetic strip got scratched or something. But then, how come I could check my balance? So no, it wasn’t my card. Finally after four tries and lots of frustration, I headed to the bank by 8:45 this morning. When I explained, they told me casually, ‘oh, your account has been frozen because you haven’t done BVN linkage.’


Makes sense, right? Except for two reasons.

  1. I did my BVN registration with GTB, and then I took the number/information to First bank and filled a form meaning they now had my BVN details, right? But I opened my GTB internet banking portal and saw something about BVN linkage. I didn’t understand what that meant but I went ahead and did it anyway. So I linked my Zenith Bank and First bank accounts. So when I got a text from First bank asking me to do BVN linkage if I hadn’t, understandably, I ignored it. Because Zenith bank wasn’t giving me any wahala meaning the linkage took/worked.

Then First bank froze my account without warning.  Which brings me to my second problem.

2) This First bank’s habit of freezing your account at the slightest provocation and without warning.

Sometime last year, I mistakenly used my new address in trying to fill a form for firstmonie online, forgetting that the address with which I opened the account was the address of my former place of work. So they casually froze my account and after about three frustrating weeks, I finally made my way to the bank only to be told that they’d frozen my account because I submitted a wrong or different address. I remember asking them if the polite thing to do wasn’t to send me a text at least to warn me? I mean, the bank has all my information – phone numbers, email, everything. They don’t have the courtesy of warning you; they just freeze your account. Meanwhile freezing does not stop them accepting money o. So you are in a dire situation and suddenly realise you can’t make a withdrawal. This could go from merely embarrassing to critical. In this recent case, if my flatmate hadn’t been on hand to lend me the money I needed, I would have been unable to pay for my apartment and I’d have lost it because I had a tiny window.

So maybe you guys can understand why I lost my mind this morning.

But I’m a reasonable person, or I try to be. So I told the lady who was attending to me that I understand their position, I mean, they asked me to do BVN linkage and obviously, I didn’t, at least in their estimation. Now can she try to understand when I say I did it and my other account isn’t giving me any problem so why are they? She kept telling me I didn’t do the linkage. I said granted, I didn’t. If you say so. But here’s the thing, I’m your customer. Could you not have warned me before or right after freezing my account? Or in any case, before I found myself in an uncomfortable situation. What they’re telling me is that if I put any money in that account, I should remain (in)secure in the knowledge that at any time, they could freeze my account without warning. Does she understand this? She was still arguing.

That when I yelled, ‘Oh my god, I’m talking to a fucking robot.’ How can somebody not understand this? If keeping my money with you is a pain the ass, is stressing me out, I don’t need to do this.

What’s worse, when your account is frozen, you have to come back with relevant evidence of the offending information supplied, so in the first case where the culprit was my wrong address, I had to come back with utility bill and passport photograph. So that meant two trips to the bank. Are you kidding me? Which is another reason why you send a text, so that contained in the text is the information and/or document I’m required to bring along to unfreeze the account. To save me having to make two trips.

See, this whole thing speaks to the off-handedness with which the average Nigerian treats time, like it’s nothing. Like coming to your banking hall two times to solve a simple problem is not a terrible inconvenience.

  • It is, especially in a city like Lagos where going from point A-B is a production, however near point B is. Isn’t that how when I first went to first bank to register for firstmonie, they told me casually that the person in charge is not on seat and to wait for two hours or go to another branch or come back; none of the options the least bit appealing. So I abandoned the project.
  • Isn’t that how I went to Airtel office to register my line and I was told that their generator was down. How is that my problem?
  • Isn’t that how I was aware that my Access bank ATM was expiring in two days and noticing an Access bank along the road, I stopped by to begin the process of renewal. And I was asked to come back when it expires. Hunh? Now they’re calling me every other day, asking why my account with them has been abandoned. Well, duh. They can have it.
  • Isn’t that how I went to like three of the banks where I hold accounts to get a Ria money transfer and they didn’t have the service. Meanwhile CBN stipulates that you can only access a money transfer in a bank where you hold an account. Shouldn’t it follow that banks should be obliged to have as many money transfer options as possible in order to accommodate their customers? All the banks have Western Union, a few have Moneygram and after that, you’re on your own. So your money is floating in space.

The worst part is, however hard you try to explain how much of an  inconvenience their policies/attitude, these bankers just answer you like robots. After all, it’s not their father’s business. This is why one person needs to have two internet providers, three mobile numbers, four bank accounts, like you’re a criminal or something. Because all of them find a way to mess up and you need backup.

See, Nigerian businesses need to forget spending millions on advertising and step up their service delivery game, focus on creating user-friendly policies. You don’t spend a hundred million advertising a brand or product to me and then when I try to take you up on the offer, you show your ass. It’s absolute rubbish.  Right now, I have to say of all my accounts, GT bank is the best as far as customer service. That’s my opinion. All the others – UBA, Zenith, First bank, Access bank, they’ve all managed to frustrate me in one way or another. This is not cool. And how is it that first bank keeps winning the award for best retail bank? What are the parameters? Tsk tsk.