The banking system in Nigeria has come under attack after the CBN announced new guidelines for bank charges in April 2017.
Some of the guidelines involve changes in bank charges on financial transactions. Some of the disputed and unpopular charges include a 600% increase in Debit Card Maintenance Fee from N100 per annum to N50 per month; Excessive Account Maintenance Charges; Mandatory SMS service charged at N4/SMS as against actual cost of less than N1 for bulk SMS; N65 per ATM other bank withdrawal after three withdrawals ( with the possibility of consumers exceeding the monthly three free withdrawals and ATM to dispense only N10,000 maximum per transaction for other bank's customers as against N40,000 maximum possible for their own customers), Stamp Duty Charge, Mobile Transfer Charge and many more. Top executives of Nigerian banks have been reported to have said the increase in bank charges is inevitable considering the focusing of banking business models from interest income to non-interest income and the profit margin from electronic would continue to increase. However, customers seem unhappy with the development with many opining that the banks are just trying to profit from the e-services. In the same vein, the organized labour and other consumer advocacy groups have kicked against the increase in bank charges, describing it as it outrageous and unfair. Report has it that top 10 Nigerian banks earned N138 billion as at the end of 2016 for SMS alerts and e-services which was up by over 26 per cent from N109.1 billion profit made in 2015. Furthermore, the total industry figure is expected to be over N160 billion and over 30 per cent year-on-year jump. The organized labour declared the e-transaction charges as not only outrageous, but also a corporate extortion, pleading with the CBN to intervene in the matter. Bank customers and other stakeholders appear unhappy with this latest development as they have accused the banks of profiteering at the expense of customers who should have received the services as part of what the banks are obliged to render at no extra cost. These excessive charges is said to have being providing massive income for the banks from e-services as against the core banking services. It seems there is even no benefit of banking in Nigeria as there is no obvious interest gain on consumers’ savings or current accounts. Banks are now known to always deduct multiple charges from every account opened in their books irrespective of whether there was any transaction done in the month or not. Even dormant accounts are levied with SMS alerts and VAT charges. Consumers have also complained that they are often charged for an unsolicited birthday greeting SMS by most banks. One consumer advocacy group, Consumer Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria, (CAFON) has described the latest development as unacceptable and exploiting. According to the founding president of the NGO, Sola Salako, excessive charges have being providing massive income for the banks from ancillary online platforms as against the core banking services, thus posing a significant threat to the success of CBN's own cashless policy initiative. More also, the not for profit organization would be leading other consumers on a road show tagged #CloseOneMillionBankAccounts to protest the numerous bank charges. According to her, “the consumer action is predicated on the need to drastically reduce the numbers of active or live bank accounts from which these unreasonably excessive charges are regularly deducted. She added, “This is one important campaign that requires costumers to exercise their economic rights in order to minimize the effects of excessive bank charges on their bank accounts, from mandatory sms charge, to stamp duty charge, ATM maintenance charge and so on.” She said it is outrageous for just 10 banks to announce a profit of N138 billion from alerts and e-services alone. Note that deductions from your bank accounts are one of the ways in which these banks declare huge profit margins at the expense of consumers. From the customers’ angle, Nigerians are frustrated at the situation and as such have called on the CBN to reverse the new guidelines.