ATM Woes in Nigeria: Your Financial Institution is NOT available

I have read several serious complaints from ATM card holders, about using their cards in Nigeria. I once saw a hilarious headline on a popular Nigerian web forum where a poster mischievously defined ATMs as “Automated Thieving Machines” 😀 The only serious problem I have experienced with using an ATM in Nigeria was due to network connectivity issues.

On a dark cool night sometime in June, somewhere in Lagos, I needed cash to pay some critical bills but all the international Visa ATMs in the vicinity I was lodging gave the same error that sent cold shockwaves down my spine: “Your financial institution is not available”. The ATMs I visited were all linked to Vpay – a local subsidiary of Visa International and they all beamed the same error message. I was eventually able to withdraw some cash from a UBA ATM after so much sweat. Apparently, UBA Nigeria is linked to the Visa network via their own direct channels. UBA was a face-saver for me that night.

I had a similar experience in Ibadan in March when no Interswitch ATM would process my GTB-issued ATM card. Obviously, GTB’s network was down and so my card could not be authorized for any transaction. The temporary problem left me high and dry for several hours on a hot afternoon in the ancient city.

What’s your story?

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Oluniyi D. Ajao is an Internet Entrepreneur and Tech Enthusiast based in South Africa. Follow him on twitter @niyyie for more tech updates.


  1. I am in Lagos at the moment and was warned by many locals not to use the Auto Thief Machines. They feel that trading USD for Naira with random northern Nigerians is safer than using Western-leaning banks. When i run out of USD, I’ll let you know how the ATM experience goes.

  2. For all that’s said about safety in Nigeria, I’ll take the moneychangers outside the Sheraton in Abuja as proof of security. They have wads of cash on their person, I’d say about $10K per, and yet no fear of handing cash through a car window to complete strangers.

    Oh, and they give a better rate that the ATM’s inside the Sheraton too. There was a Zenith and a Standard & Charter and I didn’t have a problem with either, or the Zenith I used somewhere random in Lagos.

  3. The ATM is without doubt a good banking innovation in Nigeria. It will surely have its problems like any other bank product. The important thing is for both operators and regulators to follow its operations and the trend of issues and problems and come up with solutions and regulations. One known problem of the ATM today is the security features of the Cards which the banks should look into.

  4. When the Atm says:Your Financial Institution is NOT available.It means there is not link or connection between the terminal and the Switch or it can not see or establish the link to your Bank.
    Therefore,the ATM could be okay

  5. ATMs are large part of the modern banking world. The major problem with ATM is Atm fraud. This problem is very common in Nigeria due to lack of knowledge of the usefulness of the card by the users. Being educated on the use of Atm and the risk and dangers involved in the use of the Atm card will help a great deal in solving this great problem.

  6. ATM is a helpful banking system but, some bankers are also responsible for some frauds encounters. How can ones account be debited by his bank when ATM did not release the money and the money was never paid back to his account.
    This is fraud by the bank.

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