Friday 13 February 2009

Nigeria: The telling silliness of silly tellers

Remittances abroad

The issue of money remittances to Nigeria should be an easy task, at least when I do it from here.

Before, I used the MoneyGram [1] services through the GWK outlets but just about a year ago the MoneyGram services were replaced by Western Union [2].

Having been away from Nigeria for so long, I did not know that everyone now had a national identity card – the MoneyGram service did not have that requirement; however the Western union service did.

I had to pull a completed transaction and first enquire of the recipient about having an identity card before completing transaction somewhere else.

Checking the transaction I made yesterday (12/02/2009) against what MoneyGram would have offered me, MoneyGram offers a considerably better exchange rate of about 4% more and 18% less commission. Slightly obfuscated text - ( Begin - MoneyGram rate 188.47 €200 + €9.99 = NGN 37,694.76 WesternUnion rate 180.14 €200 + €11 = NGN 36,027.60 - End )

The process

Now, all I have to show is my Western Union card and they can retrieve my details and enquire if the last recipient would be the same recipient for this transaction.

After showing my identification papers, the transaction is complete with me now thinking it is best to convert directly from Euros to Naira rather than using the intermediary of the US Dollar.

In fact, I have noticed how far the Naira has fallen from about EUR 1.00 = NGN 140 in November 2008 to EUR 1.00 = NGN 180, basically, that is greater than 20%, it is a lot.

Once the transaction is concluded on the sender’s end the recipient should receive just three pieces of information, the MTCN number, the amount payable and the answer to the test question.

There is a quality of multifactor authentication in this simple transaction and that should be it – the recipient should be able to present an identification document that matches the names to the person, the MTCN number and answer the test question.

Asking for the moon

Unfortunately, that simple task is now completely beyond the capabilities of the tellers in the banks.

On one occasion they were asking for the address of the sender and his date of birth – it is of no significance to the transaction, in fact, the recipient called me from Nigeria and switched on his speakerphone as I rubbished the stupidity of it all.

Again, if the slip already has the conversion determined by the sender, it should not then been converted again to benefit the issuer – one ends up twice charged and robbed blind just because they are in a position to frustrate the deal.

I was also surprised to learn that the form the recipient has to fill in requires that the recipient state both the question and the answer.

Well, what is the point of having the recipient state the question? Though it helps ascertain full communication between the sender and the recipient, it could well have been someone picking up the detail and using it.

Knowledge not recitation

The whole point behind requiring the recipient to answer the question correctly is to offer the teller the ability to vary the wording of the question to still arrive at the right answer – it is supposed to be a memory/knowledge thing not a recital.

But again, it reminds me of the educational system that pervaded my secondary school and tertiary education years in Nigeria – people wanted you ability to regurgitate what you were told rather than express an understanding through comprehension of what you had learnt.

The only parallel to that is requiring the interpreter of dreams to tell you both the dream and its interpretation – whilst having such is skill is legendary, the purpose of sending money home is not to hone the skills of soothsayer recipients but to hope that the business end of the transaction is stress-free, friendly and done with a sense of service and comportment.


[1] MoneyGram International

[2] Western Union

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