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Opening a Current Account in Nigerian Banks- How to Get References to Activate Your Account

After the ugly experience I had with getting referees for my current (domicilary) account in a Nigerian bank, I can imagine there are other Nigerians who will be having similar problems. As you may already know, among other requirements for opening a current bank account, you will need to provide two referees (two current account holders that would sign a reference form to recommend your suitability for maintaining a current account). It’s just about the same rule for every bank in Nigeria. You may be or have been lucky to easily get through this phase of getting your current account activate (without your reference cleared, you can pay in cash or check to the account but you can’t withdraw you money), But in some cases, getting the reference cleared can create a burden for the account holder, especially in a matter of urgency.

The Problem With Getting Referees
There are several problems you could encounter while trying to get a referee. Such problem could be:
1. Invalid Current Accounts:
May be this isn’t the right term, but what this means is that not all current account holders are qualified to reference another. Such current accounts includes;
* Salary Accounts
* The Bank’s Staff Accounts
* Accounts that are not up to 6 months old
* Dormant Accounts and
* Accounts that are not frequently maintained.
References from such accounts will be rejected by your banks. So You would want to verify these from your potential referee so that you wouldn’t waste your time and his as well.

2. Bankers Incompetence:
I’m sorry to say this but some of these bank staffs can be lousy sometimes. In my case, Before I finally got my reference cleared with Guarantee trust Bank, I had submitted like 5 different reference forms from different banks. At first I made myself believe that my first two refs. from Union Bank and Ecobank weren’t qualified for a reference, so I got two other close referees from UBA and Zenith Bank who assured me to have used the same account to recommend other current account holders. Three to four weeks later, and my reference was still outstanding. I had to convince My referee from Zenith Bank to visit his bank and verify if the reference form was ever sent to them. Only for him to find that it has been on their system for over three weeks. Someone simply chose to neglect the request. The reference was confirmed afterwards. I wish Nigerian bankers would be more cooperative and reasonable on issues like this.

3. Reference From Different Banks
This happens to be the most common problem, and it’s somehow related to problem 2. Some bank branches get reluctant on purpose when they recieve mails for reference from another bank on their customers behalf. I really don’t understand why it should be that way. As a result of this, most banks will recommend that you get referees from their customers. But considering the fact that there are 25 consolidated banks in Nigeria, chances that you know someone that has a current account with the same bank could be slim.

A Quicker Way to Get References from The Same Bank
At a point it was getting too burdensome on me; I’d paid in checks to my account but couldn’t withdraw my money, I’d waited for so long in hope for the banks to make things easier, but nothing seemed to be changing. So Here is how I finally solved the puzzle and you can do the same if you find yourself in such situation.

Walk to your bank, and talk to one customer at a time to help you sign your reference form. Ask someone to do you the favor. It’s not that hard. I had to talk to 8 different people at the banking hall before I finally got one that agreed to fill my form and we ended up exchanging phone numbers. I’ve called to thank him for his help. I Would have sent flowers if it was a lady.

If you have a problem with asking for help from people you don’t know, Here are some tips to help you on this one:
* Look for someone that is not in a hurry to leave the bank.
* Start with something as polite as, “Good Morning. Sorry to bother. Please I need your help..” with a genuine smile of course.
* Ask if s/he owns a current account.
* If s/he does, Ask and Explain to him/ her how difficult it has been for you to get a referee from the same bank. If you’ve had referees from other banks that have been delayed, tell him/her. Anyone who’ll be willing to help deserves some explanation.
* Don’t host him/her a pity-party. You are not hopeless. Ask modestly and if s/he declines, look for someone else.
* Some People will normally not agree to have a current account, even if they do. Hence, you’ll want to be a bit observant. The current account holder that finally signed mine had his GTB check book with him on the counter, when I approached him. At that point he couldn’t deny having a current account.

In any case, just ask and don’t feel discouraged if the first few people you meet don’t give you attention. Each time someone declines your request, ask one more person. Go on and have a banking experience of the day.

I hope this helps make things easier for you. I’d love to hear your advice on getting a referee to activate a current account in Nigerian banks today..

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