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5 Fundamental Problems of Online Payment in Nigeria

If you ask me, I would say many are the afflictions of online payment in Nigeria...I have carefully been garnering my facts for this post after a heated conversation with some colleagues on two different occasions asking why the process of making online payment must be difficult in Nigeria. These colleagues of mine keep on showering praises on PayStack's approach as simple, cleaner and more efficient because you don’t need to think of solving many puzzles before you can pay. Writing about PayStack's paradigm of making payment as simple as ABC is for another post because in Nigeria, payment is not as simple as ABC and it should not be seen as such. Below, I have highlighted 5 fundamental problems of online payment in Nigeria and you would have to relate with me on why I think online payment should not be as simple as ABC in the Nigerian context.

The Blame Game

This reminds me of my childhood experience. While growing up, no one wants to take responsibility of any mishap in the house. Who wants to be held responsible for something that got missing or wrong? All the children wash their hands clean because you don't want to trust Nigerian parents with the truth. Same goes here, the bank does not want to take the blame when there is fraud in the system, the gateway providers want to wash their hands clean that they never gave room for the fraud and the merchant will never want to accept the onus. Who then takes the responsibility?

While we are trying to bring more people online and trying to make them comfortable with online payments, preaching how secured their transactions are and how it will not be easy for any random person to have access to their money, the gateway providers also need to have the interest of the merchants and users at heart by not trading security for their convenience.

When a case of fraud is reported on a system, the victim of the fraud never wants to accept the story that he had revealed his debit/credit card details somehow, even if he had done that obviously he still wants to nail someone for his wrong. He cries and takes his complaints to almost everyone that he knows and this may taint the good image of the platform which processed the transaction.

In creating a system of trust, the bank has some requirements to be fulfilled by the gateway providers; the gateways also have requirements to be met by whoever wants to make payment so as to cover their ass when the shit hits the fan. So, if you are an e-commerce merchant and you are ready to take up the responsibility when fraud happens on your system, go get an account with the gateway, disregard the existing protocol and make online transaction easy for your customers, open up to accept credit/debit card details alone (without stringent security check) and charge the card. You would be surprised to discover that even a confirmed saint can use a stolen credit/debit card on your site. In fact, you don’t need any soothsayer to tell you how soon you would go bankrupt.

New Terrain for Insurance Companies in Nigeria

Can you remember those days when Nigerian policemen would approach you on the road and ask for what you are carrying in your laptop bag? I am not sure if it still happens now. Obviously they know it is a laptop but they are looking for the opportunity for you to attest to the title of a “Yahoo boy” (fraudster). The few times this happened to me, the policemen didn't even know how to operate a laptop. I overheard one of them asking the other to put the laptop inside their van so they could drive me to their boss, who allegedly knows how to operate a PC or at best knows how to “detect a pregnant snail from the shell”. I laughed but it was not loud, it was just compressed within me because it is an “offense” to laugh in front of a police officer in Nigeria. “To short the long story cut” (never mind the twist), nobody could do anything on my Ubuntu box, I say nobody, not even their badass boss. Hmmm I’m almost carried away. Come on! Let's go back to the main issue of the day.

Online payment is an entirely new terrain for the insurance companies in Nigeria. Now, the idea of insuring gateways against fraud and all its razzmatazz is a delicate decision for most insurance companies to make. I assume that most insurance companies don't know the extent of the risk and they won't want to also take the risk. A lot of things go into breaking this new ground, but I believe that with time many insurance packages would be created to alleviate this huge challenge in the e-commerce sector.

Security Concerns; The Fear of Fraud

When it comes to the Nigerian context even fraudsters are afraid of being a victim of fraud. You don’t know who is next in the trap. It looks more like we have a default instinct to be fraudulent. I can't forget the memory of when I was youth corps member back in 2007; someone introduced me to someone who needed a web programmer to work with his friend who needed a web programmer for another person. Can you imagine what they wanted? They needed an international gateway to process credit cards on an online store that I was supposed to develop for them.

The main client wants me to build him an online store where he sells digital products and integrate the international payment gateway. I was doing my thing because I saw everything as legit until I was proven wrong. While working on the project, I overheard him discussing on the phone with a white woman who did not agree to sign the setup agreement from the gateway. Apparently I later realized that the lady was a victim of fraud. She objected because she found out that the liability of fraud will come to her and obviously she has nowhere to run.

Now, let's come back home with this in mind. A fraudster would not even think of such in Nigeria because the horror of One-Time-payment (OTP) won't allow you think it through. This does not mean the risk is eliminated but obviously the fraudulent attempts would have been narrowed down to only the professionals who have standard crime networks than to mere “agbero” (hoodlum) who suddenly turned a “yahoo boy” bandit because he’s got brother who gave him a hacked credit card. Fraud in Nigeria is organized and you don't want to dare those boys. Can you remember those days when debit/credit cards were cloned and people's money were disappearing? Can you remember the story of how we started using debit cards with chip? You want me to tell you the drama? That would be for another day.

Less Creativity

Complacency is one of the biggest problems of online payments in Nigeria. Payment gateway providers have forgotten that what they have is a product that needs continuous review and development. WebPay from Interswitch has maintained the same layout for as long as I have known or paid on their platform. They also introduced few form inputs at some point. Does this imply that they have conquered payments issues and have moved on to greater things? Till this very day, Interswitch the giant payment processor (owing to its rate of patronage) in Nigeria does not have mobile SDKs. Do you want to ask me how many platforms have it in Nigeria? Maybe 2 (Paystack and one other platform that I can't remember now). This same complacency runs through the whole system. You can rarely find a payment company that changes anything since they lunched. Very few have been adding bit-and-bit features but it is not just enough. With the kind of questions people tend to ask me every day about different features they want in a payment platform, I am not sure our online payment platforms are prepared for it. You would rarely find a responsive design.

No matter the complaints and queries from the users, these platforms see it as rant. They don't even bulge. We understand that government policies make payment process difficult but they should be more concerned about a better user experience that makes the process look less tedious. There are many things we can collapse into one. Why would GTPay ask you to choose a card and this is not used when you get to Webpay? Why do I need to select my card type on WebPay when it can be derived from the card number? Why are there so many whys?


Nigerians don't trust themselves well enough talk less of trusting an online payment service with their money. The trust issues are in two folds; if my money gets trapped in the air what happens and what if 'Yahoo Yahoo' guys get hold of my credit/debit card and rip me off? For the fear of the unknown or the ‘what ifs’, all Nigerians take a just don't trust anybody with your money.

Having to reminisce on the mess that Nigerian scammers make with stolen credit/debit cards, you can't but shiver in fear of the unknown. I can still vividly remember my neighbor's plight. He got the first debit notification for a transaction he never did, he tried to solve the puzzle personally and quietly, trying to understand what happened and how. Then he got the second debit alert, he was not even ready to form any agent “Sabi,” he took to the street shouting “help me”. It took about three other neighbors to get him in order because it was on a weekend. I understand him though; money matter is always a serious matter. Later, he managed to block his account but it is so sad that the money was not reverted. How do you convince such a man to buy online with his debit/credit card? In fact I am sure that by now, the guy would be skipping the option of using a debit/credit card attached to any of his accounts.

So, as payment platforms try to bridge this gap of trust, the process of refunding money lost takes time and many people still find it very difficult to trust any online transaction. So far, the number of debit/credit cards issued by banks can in no way be compared to the number of people doing online transactions.

Some people say we are close to that payment revival in Nigeria but I think we still have a long way to go. However, with the right products, creativity, security, efficiency and focus, I believe that Nigeria payment system will be the next big thing in the global sphere.

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