Different Strokes As Banking Activities Boom In Asaba

By Austin Oyibode
Asaba, the Delta State capital, is one of the capitals of the states created by the military administration in 1991. Although it was not fit to be a state capital at creation since it was a small community, it was revealed that the late wife of Ibrahim Badamosi Babangidda, the then military Head of State, Mrs. Maryam Babangidda, was from Asaba, hence, that influenced the citing of the state capital in Asaba. This was the view of many in the days when the military held sway in Nigeria. And as soon as the capital was cited, the small village began growing in leaps and bounds.
Business grew and the banking industry, the focal point of this report, gained prominence. In the city of Asaba today, one can see all the banks carrying out business operations. The growth of banks in the city might not be unconnected with the fact that the Delta State Government House is in the city where all government financial transactions are carried out on behalf of the state government and the civil servants in the state. All banks, namely Union Bank, First Bank, Ecobank, Wema Bank, Acess Bank, Stanbic IBTC, First City Momument Bank (FCMB), Fidelity Bank, Guarantee Trust Bank (GTB), Diamond Bank, United Bank for Africa (UBA), Zenith Bank, KeyStone Bank, Mainstreet Bank, Skyebank and Sterling Bank are all in Asaba.
One thing special with the banks is that 95 per cent of all the bank branches are located along the major Nnebisi Road, the most popular and busiest road in the state capital. This may not be unconnected with the fact that Asaba is an emerging state capital and Nnebisi Road is the major road connecting every part of the city to the other. It is the longest road from one part of the city to the other. Its name stretches from the Flyover Bridge, otherwise called Inter Bau round About, through to the Traffic Light Area which runs through to Abraka end of the road, where it joins with the highway leading to Onitsha, the business city of Anambra State. All secondary roads are connected to the Nnebisi Road, hence, it is the centre of all activities and all business transactions in the state capital.
Our correspondent visited a number of the banks in the city. First was the First Bank which is reputed for its large number of customers from the beginning of business day to the end. First Bank has two branches in Asaba, but the busiest of them is the one located close to the Anglican Girls Grammar School and also close to the Stephen Keshi Stadium. It has a very large packing space inside the fenced premises, hence it is one of the banks in the city where customers drive directly inside and leaving the road side free of vehicles.
It has three fuctional Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) built and attached to the fence outside for customers to use. It has shed which covers customers as the cash their money. But one thing particular with the First Bank ATMs in Asaba is that from 10am to about 4pm, there’s always a large number of persons crowding the ATMs for cash withdrawal. It is a normal sight at First bank in the city. Due to the large crowd that always gather at the First bank ATM, our correspondent saw customers complaining of time wasting as they wait for each at the stand.
First Bank has good and well behaved staff in Asaba city. Most cashiers would greet customers before attending to their needs at the counter inside the banking hall. Because of the large customers the bank has, one would always see long queues of customers depositing money in the bank. After filling the deposit slips, some would even sit down and wait for their turn to join the queue. The security men are well alert. They open the door for customers and greet them as they come in and go out after the transaction. But one challenge with the First Bank in Asaba is its policy of anybody withdrawing less than 100,000 naira to use the ATM. This has compelled many cusromers to obtain the ATM cards.
Ecobank is another bank with large number of cutomers in Asaba. Its large number of customers may not be unconnected with its acquisition of Oceanic Bank during the days of banking capitalisation by the Central Bank of Nigeria. Almost everyday, long queues are at Ecobank. Ecobank has three branches in Asaba. One at Nnebisi Road, beside Federal Medical Centre (FMC), another opposite the Flyover Bridge and the third along Okpanam Road.
The branch visited by our correspondent is the one beside FMC. The security men were alert as they observe every customer coming into the bank before allowing them inside the bank. When customers have challenge with the computerised door, they quickly come in to assist the customer out of the challenge. It has three ATMs located outside with shed to ward off rain or sun from customers. This branch always has very long queue on daily basis because it has large customers. The Ecobank has very little space for packing cars, both inside and outside. Infact, customers are not allowed to pack their cars inside because of its limited space.
Access Bank has only one Branch in Asaba. It is located opposite Federal Medical Centre and beside the Uzoigwe Primary School, still along the Nnebsis Road. The bank, having acquired Intercontinental Bank, dumped its first building and moved its staff and equipment over to the acquired Intercontinental Bank. It was fenced prior to the acqusition, but after acqisition, it demolished the Intercontinental fence, thereby creating enough packing space for customers. It has much customers, also probably because of its acquistion of Intercontinental Bank. There is always queue inside but the staff are very dutiful to decongest the crowd.
Guarantee Trust Bank has only one branch in Asaba. It has one of the finest premises in the city with beautiful edifice situated along Nnebisi Road, a few metres drive from the Flyover Bridge. GTB is open without fence as Access Bank. It has five ATMs which are functional intermittently. The bank’s security personnel are unique and well organised in the discharge of their duties. It has much queue because it has much customers banking with it. It has much space for packing cars, hence, there is no much trouble with customers with entering and leaving the bank.
Union Bank in Asaba, located along Nnebisi Road, immediately before the stadium, has enough packing space inside the fenced bank but has few customers. The bank’s staff are not fully engaged as other bankers in other banks. And because its customers are not so much, its staff attend to custmers with much speed. Its packing space, which is large, is not fully utilised because there are no enough cutomer cars to pacck inside. It has two functional ATMs but with few customers who patronise it on a daily basis.
SkyeBank, also located along Nnebisi Road, has two functional ATMs. It has a unique building which seems different from other banks in the city. It is fenced but has limited space for packing cars. Only few cars of staff are packed inside, customers pack outside thereby obstructing vehicular movement when cars are coming out fo the bank. It is not as busy as other banks. This is so because it has few customers that patronise the bank in Asaba.
Wema Bank is a brother to Union Bank. It is one of the most quiet banks in Asaba. Its premises is not as clean as that of Guarantee and SkyeBank. It has one ATM which is barely patronised by bank customers. It is located along Nnebisi Road, beside Uzoigwe Primary School, almost opposite Diamond Bank. It has enough packing space but due to its low patronage, its packing space is under utilised.
The United Bank of Africa (UBA) is another large bank in Asaba. It has three branches, one opposite Lion House, another close to Ibusa Road and the third almost opposite Grand Hotels and High Court. This is one of the biggest banks in Asaba. With specific reference to the branch opposite Lion House, it has seven ATMs, five outside the fence with well built cubicle and two inside. The five outside are more functional than the two inside. It does not have enough packing space, hence most customers pack outside the fence. It has dedicated staff who are well organised in discharging their duties. Security men are well alert, they open gates for customers and assist when necessary.
Fidelity Bank is also a well patronised bank in Asaba. It has only one branch in the city, also located along Nnebisi Road, opposite Sterling Bank and beside First City Monument Bank (FCMB), all along the Nnebisi Road. It has four ATMs located outside the bank. The bank is also busy with average queue of customers waiting inside the bank. It does not have packing space, hence its security operatives are always seen controlling vehicular movement along the road so as to pave way for customers coming and going out fo the bank.
Stanbic IBTC also has one branch in Asaba. The bank is situated opposite THE POINTER Newspapers, the paper published by Delta State Government. It has a very serene environment, cool and clean. It has a good packing space but few customers. The building housing the bank looks sparkling and shining. It has two functional ATMs which are not too competitive as those of First Bank.