…Recovers N6.2bn excess charges
Stories by Blaise Udunze
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over the weekend disclosed it would penalise erring Deposit Money Banks (DMB) for fleecing bank customers with illegal charges.
Already, the bank said it has recovered about N6.2 billion of excess charges imposed on customers by banks in 2015.
A statement issued by the Director, Corporate Communications Department of CBN, Mua’zu Ibrahim, acknowledged the series of complaints from customers of DMBs alleging excessive and in some cases illegal charges by their respective banks.
He explained that the Revised Guide to Bank Charges issued by the apex bank clearly specifies allowable charges for all banking services, adding, “the CBN does not in any way condone the fleecing of bank customers under any guise.”
Ibrahim hinted that the bank was concerned about the rising number of complaints bordering on excessive bank charges, noting that in 2015 alone, the CBN investigated about 6,000 of such cases.
It said the apex bank would continue to enforce the revised guidelines on bank charges, stating that any customer who has been illegally charged should report to the Consumer Protection Department (CPD) of the CBN.
The statement read in part: “The Central Bank of Nigeria has received series of complaints from customers of Deposit Money Banks alleging excessive and in some cases illegal charges from their respective banks.
“It was in the quest to provide a strong voice to banks’ customers and moderate the arbitrary charges that the CBN in 2012, established its Consumer Protection Department.
“The CBN wishes to reiterate its resolve to continuously enforce the provision of the Revised Guide to Bank Charges and urges members of the public to report cases of infringement to enable it investigate and apply sanctions on any erring Deposit Money Bank.
“Bank customers are reminded to always forward there complaints to: Director, Consumer Protection Department; email: [email protected]
Meanwhile, investigations by Daily Sun showed that in their desperation for higher profit margins, some banks have continued to defy the directive on the cancellation of Cost of Transaction (CoT) by banks.
It was learnt that over 747 complaints against some banks in the country involving the sum of N8.09 billion were received by the CBN between January and June 2015.
In its financial report recently released, CBN stated that this statistics represented a marginal drop of 4.48 per cent from the previous complaints it received in the first half of 2014.
The apex bank also added that during the period, a total of 481 cases, which included some outstanding ones, were resolved.
However, at the last count, no fewer than 10 identifiable charges were associated with banking activities, which are currently raising concerns among customers of banks.
Adeola, Sterling Bank MD receives Banker of the Year Award
The Managing Director and Chief Executive of Sterling Bank Plc, Mr. Yemi Adeola, at the weekend received the Sun Banker of The Year Award for 2015.
The former Nigerian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Sir Arthur Mbanefo, chaired the award presentation, which was held at the Expo Convention Centre, Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in attendance.
The Sun Awards are given to encourage and appreciate people in various sectors of the economy who are doing things right for the development of humanity and the economy as a whole.
In an earlier statement, the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of The Sun Publishing Company Limited, Mr. Eric Osagie, stated that the Sterling Bank boss was chosen for the award based on the transformation he had brought to the bank by increasing its total assets from a mere N110 billion in 2006 to over N800 billion in 2015 and increasing its market share to 3 per cent measured by assets from less than 1 per cent in just 10 years. Sterling Bank has also grown to become one of the 30 most capitalised companies listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).
Adeola started his career in the banking sector at Citibank Nigeria Limited where he worked between August 1988 and June 2003 in various capacities including Chief Legal Counsel and Executive Director, Commercial Banking, Public Sector and Infrastructure.
N400m paid out as cash back
…As 4 banks are sanctioned
Nigerian banks in the past year paid out almost N400 million as cash back on the use of point of sale terminals as four banks were last year sanctioned for non-reversal of dispense error within the specified 48-hour timeframe given by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
This was disclosed yesterday at an event to herald the “2016 Electronic Payment Incentive Scheme Efficiency Awards,” billed for Thursday this week for banks and merchants’ contributions toward driving the cashless programme at the CBN Electronic Payment Incentive Scheme Efficiency Awards.
The award categories include Cashless Driver’s Award for Banks, Cashless Driver’s Award for Partners, Platform Efficiency for Banks, Innovation Award for Other Service Providers and Customer Experience Satisfaction Award.
Speaking at a press conference organised by the Nigeria Inter Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), CBN Assistant Director, Payment Policy and Oversight, Banking and Payment System, Shola Agboola, noted that following the issuance of a circular directing banks to install and automate auto reversal packages in their system, the apex bank had found four banks wanting.
“When we carried out our oversight function on the banks to ensure that they have done what they were asked to do and four banks were penalised last year, he stated. He added that, “a situation where customers will have a problem, they go and complain and the bank fails to attend to them can no longer continue.”
Also speaking at the press conference, NIBSS Executive Director, Business Development, Mrs. Christabel Onyejekwe, noted that the payment of cash back to bank customers has been stopped in December 2015 and will be replaced with the loyalty engine, which will give out points for PoS usage.
The cash back was introduced in 2014 as an incentive for customers to use their cards for payments and to drive the usage of PoS, with customers paid back 40 per cent of the 1.25 per cent that merchants are charged for PoS usage.
Onyejekwe explained that the difference between the cash back and the loyalty engine is that one gives back cash and the other records points that can be redeemed at a later time.
She noted that of the 120,000 PoS terminals in the country, only about 100,000 are connected to the NIBSS platform and only 62,000 are active. She added that NIBSS is talking to stakeholders to withdraw the dormant PoS from circulation.
BDCs get N18.025bn cautionary deposit refund
Following its recent decision to refund the N35 million mandatory cautionary deposits to the Bureau de Change Operators, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said it has paid about N18.025 billion to 500 BDCs operators.
The refund is to be made with about 3 per cent interest on the amount paid to the first batch of some of the moneychangers who submitted applications requesting for the refund.
The CBN had decided to refund the N35 million cautionary deposits it collected from BDCs two weeks after it stopped selling foreign exchange to them. It, however, retained the N1 million licensing fee.
Acting President of the Association of Bureau de Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON), Aminu Gwadabe, confirmed in a telephone conversation that up to 500 members of the association had received the refund from the apex bank.
According to him, the refunds are paid in batches as the first set who applied just received their payments including the 3 per cent interest accrued to the N35 million fee in line with the bi-annual interest being paid by the apex bank to the BDC, the last of which was made in July last year.
Only 2,699 BDCs were confirmed to have complied with the requirements for operations in the country as at December 311, 2015.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, South East Zone of ABCON, Azubike Igbokwe, has explained that members of the association have tendered documents to request for the refund. He, however, noted that BDCs in the country are having a hard time in sourcing foreign exchange.
“It has not been easy sourcing foreign exchange in the autonomous market. The black market operators have been in the business and are founded there but it is a new ground for us and it is not that easy,” he stated.
Noting that the BDCs understand the position the CBN has decided to take in managing the foreign exchange crisis in the country, he said BDCs are yet to access foreign exchange from oil companies and exporters.
This, he said, is because the apex bank is yet to give modalities for accessing foreign exchange from oil companies and exporters.
Naira firms to N375 at parallel market
THE Naira firmed sharply to N375 at the parallel market on Monday after importers started reducing demand for dollars following President Muhammadu Buhari’s insistence that devaluing the currency was out of the way. The naira firmed 4 percent from Friday’s close of N390 to the dollar, while the official interbank rate remained at 199.50 to the dollar at the close of trading on Monday.
Aminu Gwadabe, Acting President of Association of Bureau de Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON), said that retail currency operators were working to introduce a single quote across the parallel market and maintain a bid-ask spread of 3.5 percent for trades.
“We have set up a unit to monitor compliance with the new measures,” he told Reuters, adding that the central bank has been informed of the measures.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday again rejected the idea of devaluing the currency, despite its hammering on the secondary market last week.
Gwadabe said the market was trying to adjust to the reality of no currency devaluation stance of the government.
The Central Bank of Nigeria has resisted the devaluation by imposing hard currency curbs. It suspended dollar sales to retail currency outlets last month, sending the naira to record lows on the parallel market, and later stopped daily sales to the interbank market, in an effort to conserve reserves, now at their lowest in more than 11 years.
Meanwhile, commercial Banks in the country have intensified a downward review of the spending limits on debit cards overseas due to the scarcity of the foreign exchange.
Two of the major banks, Stanbic IBTC and Ecobank, issued fresh notices to their customers, informing them of the reduction in the amount they could withdraw abroad.
The Stanbic IBTC, over the weekend, informed its customers of the new limits. Now, customers with the debit master card can only spend $350 a day online or on a Point of Sale (POS) terminal as against the previous daily limit of $1000 a day.
Cash withdrawal from ATMs outside the country has also been reduced by 50 per cent from $300 a day to $150 a day.
It also said the total amount that could be withdrawn from any ATM abroad on a Stanbic IBTC debit master card is $750, while the total amount that could be spent online and on POS in a month is now $1,750. Total cumulative monthly spending on all the two platforms is now only $2500.
The new lower limits came as the country’s dollar reserves keep dwindling, forcing the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to implement policies aimed at slowing down the dwindling reserves. Other banks are also expected to announce similar cuts.
Also, Ecobank, in a notice issued on Friday, said the daily cash withdrawal had been reduced from $300 to $100 a day, or its equivalent in other foreign currencies when you are abroad.
Ecobank cut down all its cards limit to $100 a day. The standard card from $3000 to $100 a day (on POS/web); Gold Card from $4,000 to $100 a day (on POS/web) and Platinum card from $5,000 to $100 a day (on POS/web) with the cumulative annual spending limit for all cards to $50,000.
The scarcity of the forex shut the value of dollar last week by about 10 per cent at the parallel market. The exchange rate of the naira to the dollar was N380 a dollar in Abuja and Lagos as at last Friday.