Bank customers have expressed gratitude to the Senate for its directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria to suspend the monthly Automated Teller Machine card maintenance fee imposed on users by commercial banks.
The President, Bank Customers Association of Nigeria, Dr Uju Ogubunka, described the directive as a good development for the industry and bank customers using the facility.
He said the development had long been awaited as people had been complaining about the maintenance fee.
According to him, though the bank customers are happy, those benefitting from the charges will not be happy because an avenue for revenue inflow will be blocked.
Ogubunka stated, “People have been suffering and now I am happy that their suffering will be reduced, if not eliminated. I know the CBN is a responsible organisation and if the National Assembly conveys a directive to them, it is only logical that they obey, though I cannot speak for them.
He added that there were several other charges being imposed on customers by banks that also needed to be reviewed.
He said the calculation of the maintenance fee was the same as that of Commission on Turnover that was scrapped years ago.
According to him, the ATM maintenance charge can be described as a new name for the CoT, which he described as unfair to customers.
“If you are removing the CoT, remove it and do not replace it with maintenance fees. That way, it will be fair enough on customers. When we talk about credit failures, some of them are as a result of high charges on customers,” Ogubunka added.
A bank customer, Eniola Tunwashe, described the ATM card maintenance fee as extortion.
According to her, the maintenance fee is unfair, considering the fact that she is unemployed and is just managing to save part of the little revenue she makes from menial jobs.
Tunwashe said, “The new directive is very good, and if you ask most people, they are happy about it too. How can the banks be charging me for card maintenance when my card is with me? Are they the ones helping to maintain it?
A professor of Economics at the University of Lagos, Olufemi Saibu, described all bank charges, save replacement of cards, as extortion of the customers.
He said, “Even the renewal of the ATM cards is wrong. The ATM cards should not expire, what is expiring in them? Many of the banks today have left their intermediation services and are looking for other ways of revenue not tied to their productivity.
Saibu, however, added that the Senate was going about the directive the wrong way.
He stated that the National Assembly, coming on board, was overstepping its legislative roles.
“What they should have done is to set up a committee to work with the CBN and banks to see what can be done on the issue. The approach the Senate is taking may not necessarily bring desired results,” Saibu added.
He noted that if the CBN ended up not obeying the directive, the Senate would appear as a toothless dog and an object of ridicule.
The President/Chairman of Council, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, Dr Uche Olowu, buttressed the fact that the Senate was overstepping its boundaries.
He said members of the upper legislative chamber ought to focus on legislation that would improve infrastructure in the country to bring the cost of doing business down.
He stated that the ATM maintenance charges were as a result of the cost of buying the machines, installing inverters, maintaining them, and so on.
According to him, a critical analysis of banks’ financial statements will reveal that they make their revenue from treasury bills and not necessarily charges.
Olowu said, “I do not blame the Senate because they are representatives of the people and the people are complaining; but they are complaining without knowledge of how the system works.”