By Dipo Olowookere
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been told to direct all Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) operating in the country to suspend the monthly N50 they charge their customers for the maintenance of Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards.
This was the resolution of the Senate on Wednesday after a lawmaker in the red chamber moved a motion on the illicit and excessive bank charges on customers’ accounts.
Mr Olugbenga Ashafa, who sponsored the motion, said it was becoming the norm for banks in Nigeria to come up with difference charges to rip off customers.
In his contribution, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha said “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.”
“The Senate must take a serious stand on this issue. Nigerians are really suffering. The banking system is not encouraging. I had an issue, took it to the bank and was refunded but how many Nigerians can do this? The issue needs to be addressed,” stated Senator Kabiru Gaya.
“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,” the Senate President, Dr. Saraki told his colleagues, “Now, after 25-years, we should have grown out of these excessive charges and moved on. So, I believe that this something that we must address to create an environment that protects all Nigerians, because these kinds of charges in this economy affect everyone.”
The Senate also called on commercial banks operating in the country to configure their machines to dispense up to N40,000 per withdrawal pending the outcome of the investigation by the Senate committees tasked with investigating the excessive and illicit bank charges.
“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 the Nigerian people,” Mr Saraki stated.
The Senate President stated that the Senate must work to ensure that the Senate’s resolutions on the excessive bank charges goes beyond the debate stage, so that whatever action the Upper Legislative Chamber takes, would come into effect.
“This Senate has done this many times before; when there was a hike in the mobile telecommunication data charges, we intervened and put an end to that. When there were discrepancies and increases in electricity prices, we also took action. We have done this on a number of similar cases. Therefore, on this, I want us to take effective resolutions,” Mr Saraki said.
The Senate further directed its Committees on Banking, Insurance & other Financial Institutions and Finance to conduct an investigation into the propriety of ATM card maintenance charges in comparison with international best practices and report back to the Senate.
The Senate also directed the aforementioned committees to invite the Governor of the CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele, to appear before it to 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.
Finally, the Senate called on the Consumer Protection Council to look into the various complaints of excess and unnecessary charges by Nigerian Banks.
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