CBN, banks face probe over ATM charges, others

Senate summons Emefiele

Lawmakers approve $2.78bn Eurobond

The Senate, yesterday, mandated its joint Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions and Finance to invite the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, to come and explain why the official charges as approved by the CBN are skewed in favour of the banking institutions as against the ordinary customers of the banks.

The Senate also directed its Committees on Banking Insurance and other Financial Institutions, and Finance to conduct an investigation into the pro  priety of Automated Teller Machine (ATM) card maintenance charges in comparison with international best practices and report back to the Senate.

It further urged the CBN to suspend the ATM card maintenance charges being deducted from customers’ account pending the outcome of the investigation by the committees.

The apex legislative chamber also asked commercial banks to reconfigure their ATM machines to allow customers withdraw up to N40,000 at once because the current withdrawal limit is N10,000, upon which the bank makes charges per withdrawal.

Moreover, it urged the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) to be up and doing in taking up the plight of ordinary Nigerians by looking into the various complaints of excess and unnecessary charges by Nigerian banks.

The Senate made these resolutions following a motion by Senator Gbenga Ashafa (APC, Lagos East), entitled: “Illicit and Excessive Charges by Nigerian Banks on customers’ account with particular focus on ATM maintenance and withdrawal charges.”

Leading debate on the motion, Ashafa noted with concern that there had been several complaints from Nigerians concerning illicit and excessive charges by banks on customers’ account with particular focus on ATM maintenance charges and withdrawal charges.

He observed that the CBN, in 2017, increased the maintenance fees charged by banks on debit and credit card maintenance from N100 a year to N50 per month (N600 a year) as contained in its Guide to Charges by Banks and other Financial Institutions.

Ashafa expressed worries that most banks had deliberately manipulated their ATM machines not to dispense more that N10,000 per withdrawal in some cases and in most cases not more than N20,000 per withdrawal at the ATM.

He stressed that this was a deliberate ploy to manipulate the ATM machines which are ordinarily manufactured to dispense as much as N40,000 per transaction, in order to attract more bank charges from customers who are forced to carry out more transactions due to the manipulated machines.

The legislator lamented that it appeared that the CBN was becoming insensitive to the plight of Nigerians, who had been complaining of excessive charges by commercial banks.

He wondered why the CBN was making it more difficult and expensive for Nigerians to do transactions, if it was trying to encourage a cashless Nigeria.

Speaking on the motion, the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, commended Ashafa, noting that all Nigerians were affected by the issues being addressed by the motion.

“This is a motion that affects the lives of every Nigerian – irrespective of what part of the country you come from or whatever political affiliation you might have. This is why we are here – to always defend and protect the interests of our people.

“For me, this is a major step that we are taking. This is because I introduced the first ATM machine that came into Nigeria over 25 years ago.

“Now, after 25-years, we should have grown out of these excessive charges and moved on. So, I believe that this is something that we must address to create an environment that protects all Nigerians, because these kind of charges in this economy affects everyone,” Saraki told his colleagues.

He urged the chamber to ensure that the Senate’s resolutions on the excessive bank charges went beyond the debate, so that the decision of the chamber on the matter would be implemented.

Other senators, who contributed to the debate, called on banks to review their charges.

“The common man is also a victim,” said Senator Emmanuel Bwacha. “Banks declare profits and you wonder where these profits are coming from – it’s from the sweat of the common man. Let us come up with a law that puts banks on their toes.”

On his part, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah said: “It won’t be out of place to institute a committee that will call on the CBN to tell us what these charges are about. The Senate by fiat should abolish charges if they can’t be verified.”
Accordingly, all the prayers were supported and approved when put to voice vote by Saraki.

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