Bankers’ Committee to investigate excess bank charges
The Bankers Committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria on Tuesday said it would investigate alleged excessive charges imposed on customers by Deposit Money Banks.
The committee pointed out that by the recent directives of the central bank, which was meant to streamline bank charges, customers were supposed to enjoy banking services at a reduced cost.
The planned investigation is in reaction to series of complaints about excessive charges made by bank customers in the country.
The Group Managing Director, Diamond Bank Plc, Dr. Alex Otti, disclosed this while addressing journalists shortly after the committee’s meeting held at the CBN headquarters in Abuja.
He addressed journalists in company with the GMD, Citibank Nigeria Limited, Mr. Omar Hafeez; GMD, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, Mr. Emeka Emuwa; Director, Banking Supervision Department, CBN, Mrs. Tokunbo Martins; and Director, Corporate Communications Department, CBN, Mr. Ugochukwu Okoroafor.
Otti said, “A decision was taken to remove the ATM charges, and as far as I know, banks have removed that. But its news to me when you say banks are now introducing new charges. We will confirm that.
“Even without a formal report, we will investigate it and every bank was supposed to actually comply and if there is any bank that has not complied, I don’t think it is acceptable to the Bankers’ Committee. So, we are going to look into it.
“What we are trying to do is to streamline bank charges so that you know the maximum amount you are charged. The only thing that can happen is that you can be charged less and not more. Since you brought it up, we will investigate it.”
Also commenting on the issue, Emuwa added “We all agreed that there would be no ATM charge and I think that has been taken away.
“It may well be that what you are talking about are other charges that banks are applying, and I think what is important for us to do is to check whether any bank is actually applying a different charge in place of that because that is not what is intended to happen. It was not supposed to be taken away with one hand and replaced with the other hand.”
Bank customers, who had envisaged low cost of running accounts following the various cost-cutting measures carried out by the banks and the reforms initiated by the CBN, have been complaining about the introduction of fresh and arbitrary charges.
Although only few banks have announced publicly their plans to introduce new charges, investigation by our correspondent had revealed that others had introduced the charges secretly.
For instance, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Skye Bank Plc and Keystone Bank Limited recently introduced monthly maintenance fee on Automated Teller Machine cards, a move customers said was an indirect replacement of the scrapped N100 charge on third-party ATM withdrawals.
Some banks were also said to be charging as high as N50 for SMS to alert their customers of transactions on their accounts, far above the N4 that all GSM networks were charging for text messages.
Other arbitrary charges include N500 monthly maintenance fee for every current account, depending on the bank; and N5 inter-state commission on every N1,000 transferred into or withdrawn from savings accounts in a state different from where the accounts are opened or domiciled.
In some banks, customers forfeit their monthly interest when they withdraw more than three times in a month from their savings accounts.
But Otti said, “It is unfortunate that you are still being charged on ATMs. We have taken a decision on it and if any bank charges you, it is wrong and we are going to take it up at the Bankers’ Committee.
“I think it is important you realise that as banks, we can decide to give part of our profit back and that’s what we have done as regards our contribution to the flood relief fund and that’s what we have done in other places where we operate.”
The committee also agreed to increase lending to Micro, Small and Medium-scale Enterprises to enable it contribute significantly to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.
“We discussed how to reduce interest rate to this sector to make lending cheaper for the industry and enable it generate employment and improve productivity,” Otti said.
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