Lamentation of bank customers – Tribune

In this report, MATTHEW ASABOR, writes that bank customers are fed up with all sorts of charges which are daily drilling holes in their pockets.

MANY Nigerians keep their money in the bank for different reasons. Apart from the fact that it is safe, those who operate savings account have the hope of some money accruing to their capital. For the current account operators even if nothing accrues at the end of the month it is at least safe. However, bank account operators are not just satisfied with their money being safe. They are worried that they are losing money with every transaction.

Unfortunately, especially for account holders, the charges are approved by the apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria. One of these charges is the current account maintenance charge.

The Apex bank recently issued a circular signed by Kelvin Amugo, the Director, Financial Policy and Regulation department obliging banks to charge a negotiable current account maintenance fee not exceeding N1.00 per million on all customer-induced debit transactions.

This implies all debit transactions done by current account holders would attract charges not exceeding N1 per mile (N1 per N1,000). Another one, the N50 Stamp Duty per transaction was initiated in a bid to rake in more non-oil revenue and is being collected on behalf of the federal government.

The Apex bank had also re-introduced a N65 charge on third withdrawal on other banks ATMs.

Just few weeks ago, the CBN scrapped Commission On Transaction (COT) in accordance with the 2016 zero COT regime as jointly agreed during the 311th Bankers’ Committee meeting of February 12, 2013 and replaced by account maintenance/monthly maintenance charge of N1 per N1000.

This has prompted a press statement from the President, Consumer Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria, (CAFON), Mrs. Sola Salako, who urged all consumers to close all non-essential bank accounts. In the press statement she accused the banks of increasing debit card maintenance fee from N100 per annum to N50 per month; excessive account maintenance charges, mandatory SMS service charged at N4/SMS as against actual cost of less than N1 for bulk SMS among others.

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“These excessive charges have provided massive income for the banks from ancillary online platform as against the core banking services, thereby posing a threat to the success of CBN’s cashless policy initiative.

“Banks are now known for deducting multiple charges from every account opened irrespective of whether there was any transaction done in the month or not, even dormant accounts are excepted as they are levied with SMS alert and VAT charges,” CAFON stated.

To this end CAFON has said it is proposing to stage a non-violent protest which will save consumers billions of naira in excessive bank charges as most consumers operate more than one bank account and most times in multiple banks.

“We urge consumers to audit their numerous bank accounts, identify the most essential to their life style, employment or business needs, keep those and initiate the process to close the non essential accounts in their personal and business names immediately. Corporate bodies must also do same to minimize what they lose monthly to excessive bank charges,” CAFON said.

Some bank customers who spoke with Sunday Tribune lamented all manners of charges levied against them by their banks.

Tax expert, Mr. Kamil Lamidi said he is worried “by the unethical and callous practice, sanctioned by the CBN, under Mr. Godwin Emefiele, at the moment.”

He pointed out that Nigeria is the only country charging COT until recently, when it was replaced by the so called Account Maintenance/Monthly Maintenance of N1 per N1,000, card maintenance is now N50 per month as against N100 per annum, which is about N600 per annum now, a scandalous 500% increase.

“Stamp Duty of N50 plus VAT of 5% on every deposit of N1,000 or more is surely another source of soft revenue for the banks.  In a developing economy where banks don’t finance the real sector and the CBN governor is still one of the bankers, that’s what you get.

“We all know how this current CBN governor got there and to expect anything better than he is doing will be a miracle. What I don’t personally understand is why the new government still keeps him in that position. He has a tenured position but there are legal ways of relieving him of this job.

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“VAT is another issue better imagined.  Majority of the banks collect VAT on behalf of the Federal Government but will rather under-report to the government. We just must continue to engage them and do whatever we can to ensure they respect the rules,” Lamidi said.

Another customer who spoke under the condition of anonymity said: “I faced a situation at a bank currently. I abandoned the account since 2010 and they kept debiting with different charges and may have been sending notification to my old address but not to my phone which same number I have been using since 2003!

“Now out of the blue, a debt collector of the bank called me January this year, six years later, that my account is in debit of thousands of naira. I told the person off.”

Another bank customer, who would also not want to be identified said: “Our banks are fraudulent. Maintenance charge, stamp duty charge, COT, notification charge are all we get. No end to stealing. I had a corporate account with a certain bank and left the account in credit at my last transaction in 2010.

“They however, kept debiting my account with different charges without sending me notification either by statement delivered to my office address, phone calls or email. In the last two years, they have been calling that my account is in debit of hundreds of thousands. I have told them to take me to EFCC because I will not be paying them a dime.”

Great Imo Jonathan, a bank customer, while speaking with Sunday Tribune complained of similar treatment at the hands of his bankers.

“Have you noticed the manner in which banks and telecommunications companies are fleecing Nigerians left right and centre, putting hands in their pockets to collect money at will?

“My bank has been deducting from my account for what they term ATM service charge. They also collect annual maintenance fee in addition to what you are charged when you get a new ATM card and when you use other bank’s ATM machine and also send me such messages after deducting from my account.

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“We just have people occupying positions of authority; they don’t observe their duties of care to Nigerians. Citizens are left to their own fate. What manner of society is this?  When will people who seek positions of authority start understanding that leadership is about responsibility? I pity Nigerians, their interests don’t really count,” he said.

Rahaman Biyi, a Computer Scientist, said the CBN is encouraging banks in all these. He believes this is discouraging customers from wanting to save money. “Personal banking should be free and this was what the current Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi proposed when he was the CBN governor,” he said, lamenting that, “since Sanusi left office, CBN has taken ten steps backward and the fact that banks are now allowed to charge their personal customers does not encourage banks to loan cash to where it is needed in the wider economy, instead it encourages them to sit on a fat pile of cash got from depositors.

“Part of Nigeria’s problems is these darned banks are allowed to get away with all manners of sharp practice. I suggest CBN regulatory roles should removed and given to an independent watchdog.