’We have endured series of unsatisfactory services, excessive charges, unexplainable fees and unfair contracts”
Tuesday, March 1, 2016, has been set aside as #NoBankingDay by the Consumer Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria (CAFON) and the Coalition of Nigerian Consumer Protection Associations (CONCA) led by Sola Salako and Barr. Ope Banwo respectively.
Since the declaration was made last week by the bodies, a lot of Nigerians have been thrown into confusion about how to carry out banking transactions that day, and what will become of them if they don’t access their accounts.
As some of the basic things to observe that day include shunning banking halls outrightly or any electronic transaction, or ATM withdrawals, ENCOMIUM Weekly contacted the campaigners on the cause of their agitation, and what they are actually pressing for.
According to a statement made available to ENCOMIUM Weekly on Monday, February 22 by Barr. Ope Banwo, the groups said the protest is to remind the banks that they are in business because customers patronize them, and that customers deserve good, fair and equitable services and charges.
He said, “For many years now, consumers of banking services have been subject to series of unsatisfactory services, transactions and contractual terms. We have endured excessive charges, unexplainable fees and unfair contracts that only protect the banks but do not protect the consumers. Banks debit consumers’ accounts at will for charges we never agreed to or were not aware of; they charge us for EVERYTHING; we pay to get our statements; introduction letters; debit cards, and now, some banks are charging N210 for the use of deposit and transfer forms in their branches!”
Giving the stance statistical backing, he added: “In 2015 alone, estimated total banks profit after tax is N878.67billion while total assets hit N47.17trillion, according to BusinessDay Banking Sector Outlook published on February 12, 2016. We must ask the question “How much of these profits did they make from excessive and multiple charges daily?”
On what their demands are, he added:
“We want the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and banks to: Review all charges to ensure they are justifiable, clear and communicated to consumers. Banks must state all fees and charges payable before every service. Fees not stated must not be chargeable.
“Eliminate all multiple charges e.g. online transactions should not attract both N105 and N1/Mille. That is multiple charging.
“Include better protection for consumers in the forms, contracts and documents consumers sign. Generic clauses that give banks unlimited access to consumer funds without further consent should be abolished.
“Review the Stamp Duty levy to be more equitable and just. A deposit transaction of N1000 attracts the same duty of N50 as a transaction of N100,000,000. The poor is paying more in ratio than the rich.
“Revert to the original plan of 2016 zero COT policy on current accounts and cancel fees on debit card ‘maintenance’.
“Create a platform for regular dialogue with consumers to provide an opportunity to negotiate terms and conditions of contracts and services. Consumers should be included in the policy deliberations of the CBN and banks to ensure better consumer friendly decisions.
When asked of the expected compliance level from the public, he concluded: “That depends on the public, but it does not stop us from moving forward with our demands”.
ENCOMIUM Weekly also spoke with Sola Salako on the protest, and she bore her heart:
“We can’t say we’re going to achieve 100 per cent compliance from the public. But we’re sure of larger percentage of Nigerians aligning with us in our agitation because the cause we’re fighting affects every Nigerian. Already, we know a lot of Nigerians are angry with all the fraudulent practices going on in the banking sector, it’s only that they don’t know how to push forward their demand, and that’s what we’re trying to do.
“The CBN has only been reactive all this while, we want the CBN to be proactive by calling for an audit of all the charges by all these banks. All of us can’t complain to the CBN. And if we do, how many of such complaints will be handled by CBN? That’s why we all need to work together and deliver ourselves from perpetual slavery by the Nigerian banking sector.
“We’re not going to stop until we achieve our aim. If after March 1, 2016 we’re not satisfied with the compliance, we will still declare another day as no banking day. It may even be every Thursday of the week until we save ourselves from the mess.”
-TADE ASFIAT and MICHAEL NWOKIKE