Nigerians have been urged to boycott all banks in the country on Tuesday, March 1 in protest against excessive bank charges. The call was made at a press briefing by Consumer Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria (COFAN), a coalition of Nigerian consumer protection associations and The Market Ombudsman, a public service and industry watchdog.
The groups frowned particularly against the new stamp duty charge of ₦50 on every credit of over ₦1,000 introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Sola Salako, president and founder, CAFCON who described the charges as illegal and excessive urged Nigerians not to visit any Automated Teller Machine (ATM) or any banking hall on that day in protest to press home their demands.
“For many years now, consumers of banking services have endured excessive charges, illegal fees and unfair contracts that only protect the banks but do not protect the consumers,” Salako said, adding that “Banks debit customers’ accounts at will for charges they never agreed to or were not aware of; they charge customers for every little service; we pay for getting our statements; introduction letters; and now, some banks are charging ₦200 for the use of deposit and transfer forms.”
She also observed that, “ATM withdrawals that was free now cost ₦65 on 3rd party withdrawals. We pay ₦1000 for debit card issuance and renewals; we pay ₦105 for every online transfer; and they still charge ₦105 as Annual Debit Card Maintenance.”
The consumer advocates expressed disappointment that the apex bank’s policies hurt rather than protect consumers from exploitation, adding that fees hitherto abolished have been reintroduced by the apex bank under new names. “Commission on Transaction (COT) that was supposed to end finally in 2016 is now being reintroduced as 1% of every withdrawal purportedly as monthly current account maintenance fees,” Salako noted.
According to the advocacy groups, the current account maintenance fees for current accounts and ATM cards as well as the flat levy of ₦50 stamp duty for every transaction from ₦1,000 were not equitable and amounted to robbing the poor to further enrich the wealthy.
“A student who receives an allowance of ₦2,000 pays the same amount as a rich man who receives a deposit of ₦10 million. So, the student is technically paying more taxes than the rich man. That is inequitable and unfair,” said Banwo Ope, founder , The Market Ombudsman.
In a statement signed by Salako, the consumer advocates enumerate their demands:
a. We want bank charges reviewed downwards.
b. Banks must clear fees with consumers before debiting our accounts.
c. Bank forms and contracts must be reviewed to include more protection for consumers.
d. Consumer complaints must be resolved promptly and satisfactorily.
e. CBN must review the new stamp duty charge, account maintenance charge and debit card maintenance fees.