By Adewale Sanyaolu and Blaise Udunze
Today is “No Banking Day”, when Nigerians are expected to shun banking halls and alternative channels across the country in protest against excessive transaction charges.
With this latest development, consumers are expected to boycott banking halls, suspend use of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), online transactions and avoid the use of financial instruments, including issuing of cheques.
“No Banking Day” is an initiative of the Consumer Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria (CAFON) led by its convener, Sola Salako, aimed at sensitising members of the public on why they should boycott all forms of banking activities today to demand fairer transaction cost.
CAFON, in a statement posted on its website, explained that for many years now, consumers of banking services have been subject to series of poor and unsatisfactory transaction and relationship terms.
The statement read in part: ‘‘Dear Nigerian banks consumers. For many years now, consumers of banking services have been subjected to series of poor and unsatisfactory transaction and relationship terms. We have endured excessive charges, illegal fees and unfair contracts that only protect the bank but do not protect the consumers.
“Banks debit our accounts at will for charges we never agreed to or were not aware of; they charge us for every little service; we pay for getting our statements; introduction letters; and now, some banks are charging N200 for the use of deposit and transfer forms. Under the current CBN management, abolished fees are being reintroduced. ATM withdrawals that were free now cost N65 on third withdrawals.
“We pay N1,000 for debit card issuance and renewals; N105 for every online transfer; and they still charge N105 as annual debit card maintenance and now, a new stamp duty charge of N50 on every credit of over N1,000 has just been introduced.
“COT that was supposed to end finally in 2016 is now being reintroduced as 1 per cent of every withdrawal purportedly as monthly current account maintenance fees. This is unacceptable. The fact is, consumers are being exploited by all the banks and CBN is aiding and encouraging these exploitations,” the statement said.
And to address what CAFON termed an anomaly, the consumer rights group has demanded a downward review of bank charges, while requesting that banks must clear fees with consumers before their accounts are debited.
It also wants the CBN to review the new stamp duty charge, account maintenance charge and debit card maintenance fees.
Meanwhile, the Executive Director, Finance at BGL Capital, Femi Ademola, affirmed that if the conveners succeed in disrupting banking services, across the country financial institutions will have to sit up in addressing the issues as they stand to lose huge sum of money.
He said it is good for consumers to come together to protest their rights, especially as there seems to be no active voice for consumers in Nigeria.
Ademola expressed pessimism that the plan would work given the level of awareness and the nature of banking relationship with their customers.
The Head of Investment Research at Afrinvest Securities Limited, Ayodeji Eboh, noted that unregulated charges are more pronounced in the country, which is still a function of regulatory oversight, with the moral burden to help the consumers.
“I don’t think the protest call has gathered any momentum. Protests are more effective before implementation than when it has taken off. Even as it is now, businesses will look at what they stand to lose than what they will gain and that will dampen the morale to comply,” he said.
The two bodies had called on bank customers across the country not to enter banking halls, make transfers, deposits or make use of their cards for any transaction during the “No Banking Day” slated for today. If Nigerians heed the call, banking halls are expected to be empty.
Messages had been sent via the social media and shared on Whatsapp calling for the boycott. The cry against excessive bank charges had increased after banks were directed by the Central Bank of Nigeria to deduct the N50 stamp duty collected on behalf of the Nigeria Postal Service (NIPOST).
Founder of CAFON, Sola Salako in a statement said “for many years now, customers of banking services have endured excessive charges, unexplainable fees and unfair contracts that only protect the banks but do not protect the consumers.
“Banks debit customers’ accounts at will for charges we never agreed to or were not aware of; they charge us for everything; some banks are charging N210 for the use of deposit and transfer forms in their branches.”
Salako noted further that thousands of customers had fallen victims of ATM fraud because the “banking industry failed in its duty of educating and informing consumers of the inherent dangers in online banking at commencement.
“These incessant multiple charges are even more prevalent on loan accounts, while many banks have also taken advantage of the CBN’s fluctuating forex policy to charge customers exchange rates that far exceed the CBN rates without even notifying the customers of the rates before the transactions.”
The group also frowned at the practise where the CBN changes policies, without notifying Nigerians