Tuesday, March 1, 2016 has been set aside by the Consumer Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria and the Coalition of Nigerian Consumer Protection Associations as “no banking day” on which customers are to avoid all forms of banking services nationwide.
Disclosing this at a press briefing on Monday, the President and Founder, CAFON, Sola Salako; and Founder, Market Ombudsman, Dr. Ope Banwo, said the plan was to persuade bank customers to avoid all banking transactions for one day.
“There should be no visit to the Automated Teller Machines or the banking halls that day,” Salako said.
The groups are leading consumers in protest against recent bank charges introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria and Deposit Money Banks, which they consider to be excessive and illegal.
The CAFON founder said, “For many years now, customers of banking services have endured excessive charges, unexplainable fees and unfair contracts that only protect the banks but do not protect the consumers.
“Banks debit customers’ accounts at will for charges we never agreed to or were not aware of; they charge us for everything; some banks are charging N210 for the use of deposit and transfer forms in their branches!”
Salako added, “Thousands of customers have been victims of ATM fraud because the banking industry failed in its duty of educating and informing consumers of the inherent dangers in online banking at commencement.
“These incessant multiple charges are even more prevalent on loan accounts, while many banks have also taken advantage of the CBN’s fluctuating forex policy to charge customers exchange rates that far exceed the CBN rates without even notifying the customers of the rates before the transactions.”
The groups further decried the role of the CBN in constantly changing policies without notice instead of carrying out its responsibility of regulating the sector as well as protecting customers from exploitation, adding that under the current management of the central bank, abolished fees were being reintroduced.
According to them, the CBN appears to be more sympathetic to the banks to the detriment of the vulnerable customers in view of its recent policies on bank charges.
Salako said, “It appears that the banking sector is operating a price fixing cartel called the Bankers’ Committee superintended by the CBN where they determine how much to charge for what.
“When consumers challenge any questionable fee, the banks are quick to say it is as approved by the CBN. Whose interest should the CBN be protecting, the banks making profit or the consumers trying to make a living? How can consumers choose between banks when prices are already fixed by the regulator’s fiat?
The groups also faulted the recently introduced maintenance fees for current accounts and ATM cards as well as the N50 Stamp Duty, maintaining that the flat levy of N50 for every transaction from N1,000 was not equitable and amounted to taking from the poor to enrich the wealthy.
“A student who receives an allowance of N2,000 pays the same amount as a rich man who receives a deposit of N10m! So, the student is technically paying more taxes than the rich man. That is inequitable and unfair,” Banwo added.