The Senate has asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to suspend the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) card maintenance charges being deducted from customers’ account pending the outcome of its investigation into all spurious charges by banks.
It particularly mandated the Senate Joint Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, and Finance to invite the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, to explain why the official charges approved by the apex bank are skewed in favour of the banks as against the their customers.
The Upper House charged the committees to specifically investigate the propriety of ATM card maintenance charges in comparison with international best practices.
The apex legislative chamber further 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 take up the plight of ordinary Nigerians by looking into the complaints of excess and unnecessary charges by the commercial banks.
The Senate made these resolutions based on a motion moved by Senator Gbenga Ashafa (APC, Lagos East), titled: “Illicit and Excessive Charges by Nigerian Banks on Customers’ Account with particular focus on Automated Teller Machine (ATM) Maintenance and Withdrawal Charges.”
Senator Ashafa noted with concern that there had been several complaints by Nigerians and on the social media on the illicit and excessive charges by the commercial banks on customers’ account with particular reference to ATM maintenance 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 pointed out that in a viral campaign which began on the social media on Monday, September 3, 2018, many Nigerians called for reforms of the banks.
According to him, a campaign tagged #Reform9jabanks began on twitter when a United Kingdom (UK)-based Nigerian medical doctor, Harvey Olufunmilayo, lamented about the state of banks in Nigeria compared to those abroad.
Ashafa said that Olufunmilayo, in his comment, stated that since his time in the UK he had never been charged any sum of money either for bank-to-bank transfer, which in Nigeria a sum of N52 is usually deducted nor had he ever been charged any sum of money for ATM card maintenance.
The lawmaker also hinted that another Nigerian, Eniola, who lives in Qatar stated that banks in Qatar do not charge customers for the use of ATM in any bank.
He noted that card users are charged N65 per withdrawal from the ATM, after the third monthly withdrawal, outside that of the domicile bank of the said ATM user.
Ashafa expressed worries that most banks had deliberately manipulated their ATMs not to dispense more that N10,000 per withdrawal in some cases and in most cases not more than N20,000.00 per withdrawal at the ATM;
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.
Majority of the senators, who contributed to the motion, commended the sponsor for bringing up the issue at the moment it was very critical to the operations of the banks and their relationships with customers.
Consequently, all the prayers were supported and approved when put to a voice vote by the Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki.