Most Nigerian banks have made considerable financial donations to governments’ efforts at containing the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, with major banks and investors headlining the multi-billion Naira private sector-led campaign.
With the full lockdown in key major economic and political centres of Lagos State and Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and Ogun State, as well as partial or full restrictions of movements in several states, customers said the biggest relief is the availability of online financial transactions and advisory services from their banks.
While the lockdown provides exemption for banks’ officials, the restriction of movements means that only few can make it to the physical banks’ branches. And with the growing phobia of infectious COVID-19, most customers also prefer to stay at home, leaving them with online banking services.
Mr Olutoyin Ibidun, a customer of Polaris Bank Limited, said the restriction made him to realise how important his bank is to his day-to-day living and business, noting that the ‘stay at home’ brought him closer to his bank to realise how seamless several transactions can be done with just a push of button.
He described Polaris Bank’s tech-driven customer support services as being most helpful during the lockdown pointing out that he was not only able to fully activate his business continuity plan and run his business online but also received considerable advice on post-COVID-19 management.
As major contact areas for people, Nigerian banks have also increased on its traditional aesthetics and hygiene, with provision of COVID-19 specific neutralizers and detectors such as hand sanitisers, thermometer guns, disinfectants, and increased cleaning of major touch-points outside and within the banking halls. Visits to many branches of banks also showed security officials persuasively enforcing the social distancing.
Besides, on the back of huge database of customers, banks are also leading the social media campaign to disseminate information on preventive measures against COVID-19 pandemic. A social campaigner and analyst, Miss Patricia Peters, said banks have justified their roles as cultural influencers with the huge wave of awareness they have been mobilising on the social media.
She noted that while financial donations will help to provide infrastructure and other medical requirements to tackle the pandemic, the most potent weapon to stop the spread is adequate awareness within the populace.
Another customer, Mrs Tayibat Ibrahim, said she was excited when she received almost three mails from her bank, Polaris Bank, offering concessions on her loan obligations. She said the sensitivity displayed by the bank lifted a huge burden from her mind, saying, the relief from the bank was the best palliative for her as a small and medium business owner.
In a message personally signed by Managing Director of Polaris Bank, Mr Adetokunbo Abiru, the bank reiterated its support for all efforts to end the Covid-19 pandemic, promising that it will lend its institutional resources as well as expertise and diversity of its staff to help governments and other stakeholders win the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.
Polaris Bank stated that while Central Bank of Nigeria’s guide to bank charges allows for one per cent flat penalty for loan repayments due and not met, the bank eased the pressure on its customers by waving the charge in its entirety for its customers during this trying period of Covid-19.
“This forbearance, which is for a period of 90 days, takes a retroactive effect from March 1, 2020. Polaris Bank will continue to support and partner with you beyond Covid-19,” the bank stated.
According to the bank, it recognises the fact that there will be operational challenges that may threaten the customers and thus resolved to fully support them to ensure they are in better position to meet their loan repayment obligations in orderly and realistic manners.
The bank urged customers to contact their relationship managers for any need to reorganize or restructure existing loan terms.
For bank customers, Covid-19 disruptions take them away from the physical bricks and mortars, but bring them closer to the real nature of their banks as partners for all times.