As crises slow transactions, banks urged to strengthen e-payment channels

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The USSD codes *966#, *894#, *737#, #*919#, and *711# continue to be difficult for Nigerians.
Financial institutions have been told to improve their e-payment platforms because more Nigerians are turning to electronic payment methods as a result of the severe cash shortages in the country’s economy.

This recommendation was made over the weekend by Nigeria’s lCT and Infrastructure Development Company, PPC Limited. The Director of Operations and Head of the ICT Division at PPC, Dr. Patrick Ede, observed that the inability of the e-payment channels to withstand the flood of transactions orchestrated by the surge in the use of such channels for payment is causing many failed and unsuccessful transactions while speaking on the impact of the redesigned naira notes on banking infrastructure.

The country’s banks were never prepared for the level of surge they are currently experiencing, he continued, so the congestion and ensuing system downtime are negatively affecting the commercial activities of merchants. Transactions have become slow, delayed, and occasionally incomplete as a result. ​

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The ICT expert urged banks to take action to ensure that all electronic payment channels operate concurrently, quickly, and effectively.
According to Ede, “the increasing demand on the banks’ digital channels calls for increased investment in trustworthy payment systems that quickly process transactions.
“To alleviate the congestion on payment channels, banks should carry out an audit of payment channels to identify gaps and loopholes in the system with a view to phased resolution. This first step will ensure that banks raise the standards of experiences they provide to customers and ensure that customers remain at the centre of their business models.”

He urged banks to consider upgrading their ​server, network and hardware infrastructure to handle peak-time​ operations, adding that this move will ensure that all electronic payment channels can process transactions swiftly and efficiently.

Ede advised the financial institutions to enhance their security protocols to ensure that all electronic payment channels are secure, protect customer data and prevent fraud.

According to him, there may also be a need for financial institutions to expand their existing payment channels to accommodate more transactions. Ede said PPC’s expertise in the deployment of high-end ICT and engineering infrastructure has assisted several organisations in the public and private sectors to create secure, robust and scalable systems suitable for a broad range of commercial uses.

Indeed, it is not yet uhuru for Nigerians, especially with the use of the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) platforms in the last three weeks.

USSD banking is an SMS-based mobile banking service, where a USSD short code is used to access financial services like transfers, bill payments, and airtime recharges, among others.

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Due to their inability to obtain cash over the counter in the banking halls and the fact that the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) refused to dispense cash and the Point of Sales (PoS) terminals are currently a no-go area due to the excessive service charge by the merchants, many bank customers switched to the USSD platforms to conduct financial transactions.

According to information obtained, some USSD transactions that seemed to have completed on these platforms—transactions that could take up to 30 minutes to deliver—were later found to have failed.

Nigerians often have trouble with the USSD codes *966#, *894#, *737#, #*919#, and *711#, among others. As long as cash is scarce, there have been a great number of failed transactions reported on these platforms.

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