Nigeria remains more than 40,000 short of the number of ATM installations needed to serve its 180 million citizens, but has “come a long way,” according to a spokeswoman from the Nigerian Interbank Settlement System.

A report by All Africa quoted Lilian Phido of NIBSS as saying, “I can tell you that we will get there; it can only be better.”

Certainly, some Nigerians believe it couldn’t get worse. According to All Africa, “glitches” including fraud, network outages and failed transactions have been a constant frustration, particularly through the holiday season.

Various media reports have said large numbers of Nigerians have stood for hours in deep queues at ATMs, waiting for their turn to get cash.

But even with this inefficiency to contend with, consumers did manage to withdraw 3.5 trillion naira ($11.13 billion) from Nigeria’s approximately 17,253 ATMs from January through September, according to numbers from NIBSS.

With its 2011 cash-less initiative, the Nigerian government set out to persuade citizens to bank their money, rather than carrying large amounts on their person or hiding it in their homes.

ATMs were to have provided a means for consumers to hold only the cash they need day to day, but the shortage of installations has hampered the cash-less effort.

However, it has given a boost to the check printing industry. NIBSS statistics show an increase in check transactions — attributable to reliability issues plaguing the Nigerian payments network.

Shortage of ATMs hobbles Nigeria’s cash-less initiative