In this report, Raheem Akingbolu writes on a young Nigerian, who shared his experience on a news portal about how a FirstBank mobile app saved him from being defrauded by kidnappers
The story of how technology redefined the financial sector will continue to amuse Nigerians. Comparing what the banking publics were experiencing 15 years ago and the situation today is like word and opposite. Banking transactions were not only difficult in those years; they were boring, challenging and time consuming. Today, things have changed so fast that more transactions are now done outside the banking hall. Gone were those days when bank customers spent hours on the queue before being attended to.
However, if there is anything that further differentiates the present regime from those dark days, it is the fact that banks are not competing perfectly to introduce products that will align with different lifestyles and classes. This explains why every segment of the market can now embraces various products depend on the purpose. In recent time, the most trending one is obviously the mobile applications which help customers to transact from anywhere they are. In a way, this has deepened the relationship between the banks and the youths.
FirstMobile as example
First Bank of Nigeria Limited was one of the first brands in the industry that unveiled its integrated lifestyle mobile banking app, FirstMobile. During the first launch of the product in Lagos a few years ago, the management had emphasis that it was in line with its commitment to offer value-added products and services that suit the lifestyles of its customers.
The mobile banking app is believed by many patrons of the brand as another secure platform that allows customers to execute banking transactions and access lifestyle news content on the go from their mobile phones. It is currently one of the most effective mobile banking apps that customers can download on their mobile phones, activate and transact on without having to visit a bank branch.
According to the promoters of the brand, with the smartphone app, customers can enjoy real-time mobile banking services such as domestic funds transfer from self-owned accounts to other FirstBank accounts and other bank accounts. It was also stated that it can be used to make quick airtime purchase for self and others on all mobile networks; bills payments; cheque services, including confirm cheque and stop cheque, flight booking; and quick account services such as account balance inquiry and statement view.
In addition, the lifestyle banking app offers FirstBank customers unique access to the latest articles and videos across a wide variety of categories, including technology and gadgets, life and travel, the economy, local news, luxury goods, business, health, sports, entertainment, shopping and more.
When declaring that the application was free and available for download to customers of the bank, the management of the bank had pointed out that it was another step towards leveraging evolving technologies to bring fast and convenient financial services closer to Nigerians, in line with the bank’s digital banking strategy.
“Today, we are delighted that we have been able to deliver an app that supports the consumer lifestyle by providing users with an instant suite of financial options on their mobile devices in a convenient and highly secure environment. By enabling people to use their mobile phones as a tool for carrying out financial transactions and accessing lifestyle content, FirstBank is delivering long-term benefits for both our customers and the Nigerian economy as we continue to put our customers first,” the bank had stated in a statement.
Like many Nigerians, who have not bought into online banking, Christian C. Osor, had never been attracted with the beautiful stories about online banking because of the challenges that come with it in Nigeria. According to the story he narrated in Hovabuzz, a news blog, he distanced himself from the technology advancement, because of the fear of confronting hitches like connection error, service time out and unfriendly charges. Even when the mobile app was introduced, he still found it unappealing. He also stated that he was not a patron of First Bank as well, until circumstance compelled him to start patronising the brand
“I was not a fan of First bank and I didn’t pretend about it. Before I eventually became one of First Bank’s customers, I had been hearing about the poor services of the bank; their rude customer care agents and massive queues in the banking hall. I didn’t like it but fortunately the bank was recommended for me by NYSC for receiving my monthly allowance. At this point, I had no choice but to use it except I wanted to do away with the monthly allowance. As fate would have it, I served at a village in Rivers State and the closest place for me to access bank was Port Harcourt. Since there is no bank or ATM in the community, I would have to travel to the main town to use either the ATM or carry out other transactions.
The turning point
The world view of the corps member started to change in April, when one of his sisters was planning to send him a huge sum of money for something important. At the same period, his domain was due for renewal as he was approaching the end of the month.
According to him, he was preparing to go to Port Harcourt to renew his domain when he encountered some challenges. “I couldn’t even leave my PPA to Port Harcourt. I was stuck, and like I pointed out above, there was no bank or ATM in the community. And I couldn’t just back-out, I don’t want to lose my domain name. I was left with doing an online transaction. What I was running away from, I had to go for it. It’s not a choice; it’s just the best option at that moment. I downloaded the First bank mobile app which I used to pay for my domain. That marked a new turn, and I began using the Firstmobile, though not frequently,”
The next stage was on 2nd of June, when his sister eventually sent N210, 000 into his First bank account. Of course he was happy, especially since the money was given to him as gift.
“I was hoping to leave the money and use the sum of N210,000 and other money I was able to save before the end of the programme to start up any small scale business after my passing out. On 8/06/2016 at about 10am, I was coming back from Port Harcourt. I entered a car in Choba going to Buguma. The journey was so smooth but when we got to Ogbakiri junction to divert to Kalabari kingdom, we met some men but thought it was just the usual police check point. It never crossed our minds that they could be kidnappers.
“Everything looked like a dream. Not until they asked us to get down from the car and began beating us. Two of them had guns. Within 10 minutes, they had ordered the five of us into their jeep. We began hearing gunshots from behind. I guessed the police were fast approaching. The kidnappers had to move us out of the place. I thought the police would keep up chase, but it wasn’t. We were taken to an uncompleted building and made to sit on the ground. Of the five people kidnapped, I was the only youth, others were elderly.
“We were taken to one uncompleted building, collected our pulse, phones, handbags and my wallet. I had heard of kidnappers collecting ATM cards and pins from victims and zapping their accounts, but this was it! They collected the money from us and ATM cards. Funny enough, only two of us had ATM cards with us. Others said they didn’t use ATM but our captors said they would not release those without ATM. They insisted those without ATM would have to call their families to pay ransomed.
I was so scared within me. “All the money I had in my account will be taken away,” I thought to myself. “How will I tell my story? The money I was planning to use to startup small business.” My second account in another bank had only N23, 000 in it. “Thank God I left the other ATM card at home, if not they will still demand for it and use it to collect the remaining money in it,” I thought to myself, because they said they would collect all the monies in our account before they release us. Even if it took three to five days, they insisted that they would keep us there till they get what they wanted.
“I gave them my ATM card and pins. The other man gave them his own too. It was sad because he had about 4 ATM cards with him. He gave it to them with the pins. I was so scared when two of them went to withdraw the money. I was just praying in my mind for God to perform miracle and my ATM card will just be deactivated or for it not to pay,” he said.
Transaction in the jungle
According to the corps member, 20 minutes after taking the ATM cards from them, his phone rang but one of the kidnappers, who stood back to watch them cut it. When the phone rang again, he asked them who owned it.
“He inquired from us to know the owner. I said I was the one and he said if not because he loved the ringtone, he would have smashed it. “So you dey watch Empire?” he asked me. I said “Yes.” My ringtone was “ready to go” by Jamal from empire. In fact I had almost all the songs used in the series. I tried to see if I could chat with him, if that will make us friendly and will turn his mind around to tell his fellow kidnappers not to withdraw my money. I told him that I have almost all the empire songs used in the movie series. He said it was nice. He asked how I got them. I told him I downloaded them online. He said he only stopped in season 2, episode 10.
“I told him I had watched it till episode 18 in season 2. I told him I have the whole series till the current one on my phone. I told him I could even send them to him from my phone. He smiled. He said I was not going to get my phone back. That he would only give me my sim. He asked me the password of my phone and I told him. That was how he opened the phone. “Five minutes later, he said he couldn’t find the film. I told him where he would find the series and gave him password to that folder. I believed he had challenges operating the phone. He had to give me my phone to open the folder. I was scared to use the phone and in fact my hands were shaken while operating it. As I was swiping to get to the folder, I came across the Firstmobile app.
“At this point, something in me said; “why don’t you transfer your money in First bank to your GTB account.” At first I was scared, I didn’t know if the ones that had gone to withdraw had already completed the transaction. Or in the process I was caught! I had to summon courage, on my network as fast as possible. I logged in and my N265, 540 was still there in my first bank account. I transferred the money to my GT bank account. In fact the network in the area was so fast that I did everything within 45 seconds. The kidnapper that gave me my phone felt I was wasting a lot of time. He thought maybe I was sending a text message to people about the kidnap. He came and asked why I was still wasting time. I told him I was still on it as I had already logged out and opened the empire movie folder for him.
About 15 minutes after the corps member transferred the money in his account, the kidnappers received a call from those that went to withdraw money that Osor’s account had only N540. With that, they concluded that they would hold him there in the bush until his family paid ransom. That was when he began to plead with them that he was serving and didn’t have money.
Three hours later, he was released but his phone was collected. He said the kidnappers pointed out that he was released because he could not offer anything as a youth corps member. It was after he was released and left the environment that he discovered he was in Bayelsa state. That was how First bank app saved him from losing his money to the kidnappers.