Our banks are pen robbers

Posted by News Express | 11 July 2020 | 2,277 times

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Daddy NaetoChukwu! Knowing the familiar lovely voice to be from my wife, I responded. And she narrated her ordeals with the banks and how they gradually fleece and incrementally rob her of her deposits in the name of different charges once a transaction, no matter how insignificant, is conducted in these banks. The banks operate like organised criminal gangs. 

My wife, Ugo, was obviously not happy at the exploitative nature of the commercial banks in Nigeria and strongly canvassed a reformation of this awkward banking formula. I stood speechless and looked at her with consolation. I was lost of words at first, but rapidly regained my balance and control of my faculties before my emotions get the better part of me.

Not knowing how to comprehensively console her, I then delivered to her my own version of similar experiences with the banks and we then expressed collective grief that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) under the current  administration has been turned into a tax collector, charged with the harsh mandate of stealing from the poor to enrich the few elites and those in political offices who are the set of privileged Nigerians that corner the substantial amount of the nation's wealth for doing next to nothing but collude with their fronts in the organised private sector to collectively deal with the citizens.

These banks robbing us are the same that go cap-in-hand begging newly-elected national legislators to collect loans from their vaults so as to settle down in the expensive Federal Capital Territory (FCT), ruled by incompetent bunch of ministers.

But they collude with the politically tainted administrators of the Central Bank of Nigeria to consistently device dubious means to steal from depositors.

We were actually in the middle of this debate when I got a message from the Daily Trust Foundation and I opened the mail, only to discover to my amazement that it was an article expressing strong disapproval of the same topic of exploitation of the citizens by the banks.

There is a widespread disenchantment among Nigerians that these criminal taxations by commercial banks in Nigeria, with the backing of the ruthlessly inefficient Central Bank of Nigeria, is a scheme to impoverish the people and expose them to the vicissitudes of economic adversity.

The scholarly and analytical report stated that the few banks in Nigeria have raked in N22 billion just as the depositors are groaning over different types of charges from these banks.

The Daily Trust Foundation stated that customers of different commercial banks are groaning over excessive charges from their accounts.

The financial institutions known as Deposit Money Banks (DMBs), says the Daily Trust Foundation in corporate parlance, have reportedly introduced different deductions to increase their incomes, a development that does not go down well with customers.

While some customers reluctantly accept stamp duty deduction, others spoken to said that additional charges for maintaining a bank account were unbearable.

A recent attempt by one of the commercial banks (Access Bank) to recover three months of stamp duty from its customers sparked an outrage, which eventually forced the bank to jettison the effort and reverse the deductions already made.

Apart from stamp duty, bank customers also pay Value Added Tax (VAT) charges applicable to all VATable transactions in their accounts. The VAT rate stands at “7.5 per cent in compliance with the Finance Act.”

This report, brief as it is, clearly offered a bird's eye-view of the ordeals that Nigerians go through in the hands of these banks by way of multiple charges just as the Central Bank of Nigeria and the President, Major-General Muhammadu (as he then was) are colluding and actually doing nothing to ameliorate this grave economic exploitation of the people of Nigeria.

Then there is this other side to these acts of exploitation by these finance institutions which brings us to the inquiry on the functions and responsibilities of the Central Bank of Nigeria. My search proved successful.

Here are the fundamental functions of CBN as recorded by NigerianInfoPedia.

The 10 major functions of the Central Bank of Nigeria reported by  Ibukun Italoye on September 28, 2019 are: (1) CBN prints money; the writer said the first main function of the bank is the printing of Nigerian currency. Not only to print, but to also ensure that the money is evenly distributed throughout the country, the writer explained.

They ensure that the country must, at least, have printed currency at any time. Once this key responsibility is met, it gives room for the CBN to perform other functions

Secondly, the writer says that another function of the Central Bank is to ensure that there’s a normal value of the country’s currency when compared to foreign currencies. This can be achieved by making sure that the policies, environment and business or monetary atmosphere are favourable.

The third function is that the Central Bank of Nigeria makes rules that guide commercial banks in the country just as it’s the duty of central bank to ensure that there is normality when it comes to banking system in Nigeria.

That the CBN also makes sure that citizens have total trust in the country’s banking system by creating rules and regulations to guide the activities of all commercial banks in the country.

The fourth function of the CBN: It serves as government’s bank because the analyst says it’s impossible for any government to partner with other commercial banks according to the country’s Constitution.

The constitutional obstacles that inhibits direct relationship between government and commercial banks, the writer concluded, has therefore made it imperative that government has no option than to partner with CBN. Also, the government of the day does this by depositing all it realised from taxes collected from citizens and every other income realised from businesses it engaged itself in the bank.

Fifthly, the CBN formulates monetary policies to regulate the country’s economy even as the primary function of the CBN with respect to monetary policy making guides the influx of money into the country. This requires a very high level of concentration from the management and decision-making segment of the bank, affirms the writer, adding:  Because too much of money in circulation is not the best for any economy as it leads to deflation while shortage of money leads to inflation; that officials in charge of policy-making must be aware of the country’s economic situation. They have to be intelligent to make brilliant decisions.

Sixthly, the CBN supports government in budget preparation, recalling that once the government makes budget for a year it looks up to the Central Bank for help and for advice on what may be the outcome of its budget.

Before we continue, let us therefore ask: Why the Central Bank of Nigeria under the current administration involved in this dubious scheme of over-taxing and burdening Nigerians with charges by commercial banks? What are the functions of the CBN as a regulatory body or is it created to kill off the citizens through illegal taxes? This is because so far the functions of the CBN as expounded above and in the following lines ought to be the best regulator of the financial sector in such a balanced way that the wellbeing and welfare of bank customers are taken into consideration. 

Now, let us proceed and see what this interesting analyst calls the seventh function of the CBN, which is to provide loan to government. And the eighth function is that CBN sets interest rates. Ninth function is that the CBN serves as apex bank to other commercial banks and, lastly, CBN ensures great relationship with foreign banks.

The CBN, according to the writer, ensures that there is a cordial relationship between itself and foreign banks of other countries. Should there be any unwanted situation financially the bank will feel free to borrow money from the foreign banks without any hitch.

These are the 10 most important functions of the Central Bank of Nigeria, but there are other roles that haven’t been mentioned, the writer noted.

It is regrettable that the CBN under Mr Godwin Emefiele's watch is not bothered about the series of theft of depositors’ money by banks; but is in the same bandwagon with these lawless and wicked banks to under-develop Nigerians doing businesses with the commercial banks.

Sometime in January, the CBN published guidelines on these exploitative charges by commercial banks in Nigeria, thus giving these commercial banks the authorisation to go on robbing their depositors.  

In a memorandum from the CBN, Nigerians were told that a set of new CBN regime of banking charges against customers for services rendered is expected to start on January 1, 2020.

Under the new Central Bank of Nigeria's guidelines, the regulator of banks in Nigeria had reportedly instructed banks to slash withdrawal fees usually charged after the third withdrawal from Automated Teller Machines (ATM) within the same month. This semantic gymnastics mean nothing because the charges are still very outrageous. 

In the new directive contained in the new Guide to Bank Charges, the CBN stated that the withdrawal fee charged for the use of other banks’ ATM has been reduced from N65 to N35.

Card maintenance fee has been reviewed to N50 every three month (quarterly), from the initial monthly period. The guide released by the CBN contains major changes on electronic transaction charges in Nigeria.

A graduated fee scale for electronic transfers to replace the current flat fee of N50 will begin, as transfers below N10,000 will attract a maximum charge of N10; and transfers above N50,000, N50.

Card maintenance fee on the current account has been removed as the accounts already attract maintenance fees.

Savings accounts will now attract a card maintenance fee of N50 per quarter (three months) from N50 per month. Yearly card maintenance fee on foreign currency denominated cards is reduced to $10 from $20.

The charge for hardware token will be on a cost-recovery basis subject to a maximum of N2,500 from previous maximum charge of N3,500, while the fee for SMS mandatory alert will be on cost recovery from previous maximum charge of N4.

Bill payment via e-channels will attract a maximum charge of N500 from 0.75 per cent of the transaction value subject to a maximum of N1,200.

Report in January said that Fidelity, Union Bank, Wema were some of the commercial banks that  had immediately  complied, as they have sent messages to their depositors in preparedness for January 1, 2020, commencement of the new charges, which cut nearly all applicable fees by the lenders significantly.

Meanwhile, CBN had said that the revision of the Guide to Charges and strengthening of the Consumer Protection Regulation was necessitated by continued evolution in the financial industry over the past few years, which has spurred innovation and the introduction of new products, channels and/or participants.

As far as customers of these banks are concerned, the commercial banks are just pen robbers.

Sadly, the National Assembly is almost dead and not concerned about issues of the welfare of citizens. How, then, can we have a constitutional democracy to be administered seamlessly if the vital organ of legislation and the institution to carry out oversight responsibility over other agencies and entities being the National Assembly is effectively bought over and bribed by these same institutions that the legislators should watch over and ensure equity and law-based operations of their businesses?

This makes it imperative that Nigerians should ask the National Assembly to wake up, stop the collusion and save Nigerians from these exploitations. 

I recommend that citizens should begin to demand for redress using their people's power and civil protests. The social media is a veritable tool to be deployed to reject some of these criminal charges by banks in Nigeria. Nigerians should also learn to file cases in court to challenge this daylight robbery.

  • RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist (www.huriwanigeria.com, www.emmanuelonwubiko.com), is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).

Source: News Express

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