James Emejo in Abuja, Obinna Chima and Nume Ekeghe in Lagos
The call by the Consumer Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria (CAFON), a non-profit making organisation for bank customers, to shun banking services Tuesday in order to protest the implementation of the stamp duty charge and other charges by commercial banks was completely ignored by residents in Lagos and Abuja, the federal capital territory, findings by THISDAY revealed.
It was business as usual in all the banking halls visited as well as banking transaction channels including Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), point of sale (PoS) and online services were duly engaged by customers.
The exercise tagged ‘No Banking Day,’ according to the founder of CAFON, Sola Salako, was aimed at expressing Nigerians’ anger over outrageous charges on deposits, transfers and withdrawals.
Salako had asked Nigerians to stay away from the banks yesterday and to shun any transactions either on the counter or online with any bank.
But findings by THIDAY in Lagos showed that the level of awareness on the exercise was poor, which affected compliance. Also, some customers who were aware of the ‘No Banking Day’ said they decided not to comply because they knew it would not be effective.
THISDAY checks at the Gbagada area of Lagos yesterday morning revealed that Access Bank Plc, FirstBank Nigeria Limited, Diamond Bank Plc and Fidelity Bank had normal banking transactions with customers in their banking halls. Also, at a UBA branch situated on Marina road, there were customers.
Similarly, in the afternoon, it was observed that it was business as usual at all the banks located on Oba Akran road, Ikeja. The banks visited were UBA, Unity Bank, First City Monument Bank, GTBank, Wema, Zenith Bank, Fidelity Bank, Stanbic, Union Bank and Ecobank.
Furthermore, at Apapa, Lagos, THISDAY also monitored GTBank and Diamond Bank branches on Burma Road, while Access Bank branch on Ijesha road, Lagos, had normal banking transactions as their banking halls were filled with customers conducting all sorts of banking transactions. In fact, some customers at Access Bank, Ijesha had to leave the banking hall in annoyance after waiting for long on the queue.
Speaking in a chat with THISDAY, a customer at Diamond Bank branch, Burma Road, Apapa, who simply identified himself as Mr. Victor, said: “Who came up with this no banking day? I was not aware and also if I had known, I wouldn’t have come to the bank today because the charges I am getting are sickening.”
Also Mr. Chukuma at GTbank, also on Burma Road said: “I heard about the boycott but it is important I do this transaction for my business. After all those planning the protest are not putting food on my table.”
Similarly in Abuja, it was business as usual in all the banking halls visited as all the banking transaction channels including ATMs, Point of Sale (PoS) and online services were duly engaged by customers.
However, most of the customers interviewed by THISDAY at various bank premises also showed lack of awareness of the directive to shun the banks and other payment channels yesterday.
Other customers showed disinterest in taking part in any protest of such nature, preferring rather that the advocacy group channel such grievances to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which regulates the financial institutions.
Meanwhile, the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has said it was in support of efforts by non-governmental organisations and civil society targeted at seeking redress for consumer rights abuse.
In a telephone chat with THISDAY, CPC spokesman, Mr. Abiodun Obimuyiwa, said the council on its part, had already had meetings with the apex bank over increasing complaints of unapproved deductions by banks, adding that the CBN had assured it that it was looking into the matter.
The CBN recently urged bank customers to report illegal and excessive charges by their banks to it (CBN).
According to the central bank, it had received series of complaints from bank customers alleging excessive and, in some cases, illegal charges from their respective banks. It pointed out that the Revised Guide to Bank Charges clearly specifies allowable charges for all banking services and the CBN does not in any way condone the fleecing of banking customers under any guise.
“It was in the quest to provide a strong voice to banks’ customers and moderate the arbitrary charges that the CBN in 2012, established its Consumer Protection Department. For the avoidance of doubt, the CBN has investigated over 6,000 complaints relating to unauthorised bank charges brought to its notice, following which banks have been compelled to refund the sum of over N6.2 billion to affected customers in 2015 alone.
“The CBN wishes to reiterate its resolve to continuously enforce the provision of the Revised Guide to Bank Charges and urges members of the public to report cases of infringement to enable it investigate and apply sanctions on any erring deposit money bank,” it added.