By Odunewu Segun
Excess bank charges have become a source of worry by bank customers as banks indulge themselves in excessively charging their customers fees under various guises.
Recent reports say the banks in Nigeria refunded N23 billion to their customers between January and November 2018, against the backdrop of about 2.75 million complaints on illegal deductions through excess charges, frauds and electronic payment errors.
There are different charges/fees approved by the CBN such as interest on deposit as well as interest rates/lending fees.
Interest on deposit includes current account in credit balance, which has a ‘negotiable’ charge. Others are savings deposit account, term deposit account, domiciliary account, current account, savings account and deposits held on collateral.
Charges on virtually all these accounts are classified as ‘negotiable’. Also, how much of negotiations the DMBs carry out with their customers before embarking on what has resulted in outrageous excess charges is better imagined. That the DMBs have also embarked on these excess charges in clear breach of extant provisions leaves much to be desired.
In addition to the outrageous interest on their traditional mainstay of lending money, banks may also earn well over N600bn from the strange mix of these controversial charges annually.
A customer to one of the leading Banks, Femi Agbaje, said Nigerian banks as presently designed, are not part of the drivers of the economy of this country.
“The illegal money deduction is enough for them to make huge profit without giving anybody a loan. N52.50 per transaction for 1 million customers every day within a year comes to N19bn. ATM maintenance fees and POS deduction come to several billions of naira. The CBN Governor, Minister of Finance and the Federal Government (should) perform their duties.”
Another embittered customer, Ahmed Yusuf said every facet of life in Nigeria is susceptible to corruption in which banks are literally and practically engaged in.
According to him, the Point of Sales is the worst. “The banks have so crafted the covert fraud to ensure that the amount charged on the declined POS transaction was never large enough to attract one’s visit to the bank, since the bank would most likely not answer phone calls, the customer often forgoes the hassle of going to waste time pursuing the matter.”
“Furthermore, the banks are not likely to reverse the debit without the customer having to file a claim. The whole system is pure fraud and there ought to be a court injunction against this practice.”
It is important to point out that for several years now, excess and/or illegal bank charges have been a major issue in the Nigerian banking industry.
Despite repeated warnings by the CBN, customer complaints, especially on excess bank charges, trended upwards as banks continued to fleece their innocent customers.
On the other hand, the CBN can’t be an innocent bystander here. It is rather pathetic, therefore that CBN, the licence issuer to banks, has been incapable of stopping its licensees from imposing excessive charges on their customers.
Rather than pursue this course which is achievable by causing banks to comply with laws and regulations and, where necessary, imposition of exceptional penalties on deviant ones, it is comfortable with “recovery of excess charges.”
Aside from the high charges, it does appear banks and CBN ensure customers pay more charges by limiting the amount of cash withdrawals from ATMs in a transaction.
Imperatively, a customer who needs say, N50, 000.00 may need to visit ATM about five times to make withdrawals; and at each visit a fee must be paid. And, if one is unlucky to use the ATM of a bank different from that of one’s bank, a fee as high as N65.00 per transaction must be paid commencing from the fourth visit.
According to a financial expert, Henry Boyo, it is heart-raking that banks in the country are exuberant in disobeying laws and regulations and their officials are happy to annually announce higher revenues and profits, which are certainly unethically achieved.
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