Liberia: Ecobank Threatens Shutdown in Lofa County
Voinjama, Lofa County – The management of ECOBANK in Voinjama is considering a decision to quit operations in Lofa County for what bank terms as ‘’too much of withdrawals, but low deposits’’ by customers.
Report Arthur Kowah, FPA Contributor
The bank, which started operations in Voinjama City over five years ago, serves as a major reference point for financial transactions for most civil servants, including teachers, health workers, business people and private citizens.
Many of its tellers have been downsized and there are only two that are now seen serving customers.
This is because of poor transactions, in relation to the low rate of deposits from customers, which enables the bank to loan out money to earn interest, the bank’s branch manager says.
Once notified of the information after a brief engagement with the bank’s management, the county superintendent William T. Kamba has been reaching out to the Legislative Caucus and prominent businesspersons in the county to the source means of possibly preventing the closure of the bank.
Superintendent Kamba said there’s need for a mass forum to engage citizens, organizations and groups within the county to open accounts with the bank.
The information of the bank’s closure started as a rumor but was confirmed to the public when the Bank’s manager David Dennis alarmed over the “high rate” at which customers were withdrawing money from the bank as compare to a ‘very low rate” of deposits. He made the disclosure at the recent county sitting held late August.
“We have informed the county authorities about this but things are not improving,” Dennis said.
“The situation is currently before our head office and we are giving it some thoughts. If things don’t improve, we might have to close and leave.’’
Some residents have, however, accused EcoBank of poor ‘customer service’, terming it as one of the reasons many people are unwillingness to do transaction with the bank.
Civil servants, who trooped from afar to collect their salaries, have often complained of challenges and delays in receiving their money. Many complained that the bank has only a teller and on many occasions struggles to attend to hundreds of teachers, health workers and private citizens during transaction.
“I usually come from all the way Salyea to get my salaries at the end of the month. When I reached to the bank in Voinjama, it takes me two to three days just to get my salaries, and all those days can cost us more money on food, lodging and transportation,” a teacher, who had come for transaction at the bank, lamented.
The situation grew at a noticeable height in 2015 when a teacher died around the bank’s vicinity after spending hours in queue to collect his salary.
It prompted a communication from Lofa County Senator George T. Tengbeh, which was endorsed by plenary, mandating the committee on banking and currency of the honorable Liberian Senate to probe the matter.
“Once again honorable colleagues, we are convinced that these problems cannot be solved by the EcoBank management, but we will recommend that the civil servants return to the previous check system through the CBL in order to alleviate the stress and embarrassment the civil servants are faced with on monthly basis especially the teachers who leave classes for almost two weeks before receiving pay, thereby leaving the classrooms empty,” Senator Tengbeh stated through his communication dated February 3, 2015.
As it stands, many fear that the closure of the bank will hamper the already struggling local economy of the county.