By Isa Isawade
The question many customers of one of the high profile commercial banks in Nigeria, the Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) are asking is whether the bank is covertly managing a fundamental crisis.
This impression is triggered by the inability of the bank to resume full operations months after the general COVID-19 lockdown and subsequent curfews occasioned by the catastrophic #EndSARS protests experienced throughout the country late last year.
As a customer of the bank, you would be familiar with a programmed weekly message from the bank to its customers such as this: “The Following GTBank Branches Will Be Open Monday, January 18 – Friday, January 22, 2021”, with the body of the mail reading, “Dear Customer,Please, see below a list of our branches where we will be open to serve you from Monday 18th to Friday 22nd of January, 2021 from 8am to 5pm.
“When visiting any of our branches, kindly protect yourself by wearing a face mask at all times. It is also very important that you keep a safe distance when in a queue inside or outside the branch…”
Customers had thought this supposedly temporary measure would, after the lockdowns, give way to normal operations, just like the way other banks have since normalized their operations.
However, that has not been the case. The bank has continued to alternate operations among its branches, opening only few of its branches across the country under the guise of protecting its staff from the ravaging novel Coronavirus, a claim by which the general public is no longer persuaded. Many see it as a ploy to cover up a probably bigger crisis the bank may be experiencing.
Truly, a visit to any of the few opened branches will make you swear by your ancestors not to have any cause to return to the bank soon. On two occasions late last year I tried unsuccessfully to carry out some transactions at the bank. Many hours were wasted achieving nothing on those occasions. Hence, I decided to jettison any business that would physically take me to the bank, until Monday, 18 January when I called again.
At the instance of my director, I was to do some transactions in the bank and one other bank. I first went to do that of the other bank, which went smoothly within less than fifteen minutes, before heading to GTBank, Ogba. The first branch I got to was not open for business. I was then directed by one of the security officers guarding the bank to the only operational branch in that axis, the GTB EXPRESS.
The picture I saw there was so scary that I had to call my boss to suggest alternative course of action via another bank. The crowd was so large that even with my nose and mouth tightly masked, leaving there without contracting the deadly coronavirus would be uncertain if I had decided to join the crowd. I was also very sure that it would not get to my turn till the bank’s closing time.
Customers at the branch seriously lamented the “unfortunate stress and risks” they were put through. One of them added that if the bank continued with the unhelpful method of operation, its centers might constitute avenues through which the virus would rapidly spread, especially in Lagos which boasts of very large population.
Therefore, it is high time the bank got its acts together and borrow a leaf out of other banks’ book. Those banks have clearly overcome the resultant effects of the lockdowns, because they now offer smooth stress-free services under very safe atmosphere to their customers.
Doing this is very imperative at this delicate time in order to effectively contain spread of the deadly pandemic that is currently raging like a bush fire in the harmattan.