Hey, the Banks Are Robbing Us

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PLSCOPE BY Eddy Odivwri    Eddy.Odivwri@thisdaylive.com

PLSCOPE BY Eddy Odivwri    Eddy.Odivwri@thisdaylive.com

With the benefit of hindsight, I would not now blame Alhaji Bakin Zuwo, former governor of Kano State in the second republic in whose home was found N3.4m stacked in bags, after the December 31 1983 coup led by then Gen Mohamadu Buhari (our sitting President). When the military men who searched his house asked him why he kept all that money in the house instead of the bank, Bakin Zuwo (who had no formal education) retorted and said: “Me, I no trust Bank”. That was 37 years ago. If Bakin Zuwo did not trust the banking system 37 years ago, I wonder what he would have said now, if he was yet alive. He died in 1989, at 54. But truth is that many Nigerians, including myself, are losing the trust in banks. But because we have very limited options, we still retain their services, choicelessly.

In the name of technology and global network, the banking system has been as vicious as road-side scammers.

Everyday, the customer base of the banks is burgeoning. More and more people are being banked.

The joke was shared sometime ago that if one deposits N100,000 in Nigerian banks, rather than the money increasing in five years, the customer could indeed land at zero balance, because of a myriad of inexplicable charges which the banks devise every now and then.

Last month, just before the New Year, one of my Banks (UBA) sent a debit notice on sms saying that my account had been debited N1,630 between November 30 and December 30 (one month), with a scant narration: Account Maintenance Charge. The Account does not have /use an ATM card.

Other accounts with ATM cards (which they force on you sometimes, like in Access Bank), they also debit you quarterly for Card Maintenance Charge.

So what are they really maintaining in the account to warrant a charge of N1,630 per customer? Imagine doing same for, say, 3 million customers. In one lonely month, the bank would have raked in N4.89 billion, for “maintaining” what is neither spoilt nor serviceable.

Add to that another debit of N122.25 as VAT on the charge. So in one month, I have lost N1,752.25.

Or how do we explain the quarterly charge on Card Maintenance? The card is in the hand of the customer. So how is the bank maintaining it as to warrant monthly charge of N53.25? Calculate that in say, 5 million customers, and see what the bank extorts from customers! This is the same card that was actually sold to the customer. A card costs minimum of N1000. If you lose it, you pay for another. If the ATM machine seizes it, it is condemned and you have to pay for another. Just anyhow, “any which way”, the bank is baying for extortion opportunities.

Yes, electronic banking has made financial transactions a lot easier, but it comes with its own pack of charges. For every inter-bank transfer, there is a Stamp Duty charge of N50.00. Imagine the millions of such transactions everyday. In little-little ways the bank is ripping us off unnoticed, essentially because we feel the “small-small deductions” cannot really harm our credit balances. But hey, pause and think the cumulative effects of such deductions from the millions of people who throng the banks and their services everyday.

In the same UBA, there is yet another charge they call VT PASS. Even the counter staff do not understand what it means, but they are charges programmed into the system and are deducted automatically.

What about POS charges? Pause and check, and you’d discover that the bank is literally robbing us without arms.

These are the same banks that have literally wiped off the little .03% interest they used to pay on savings accounts. Today, all that is gone. Not even the erstwhile attractive Fixed Deposit Accounts or Treasury Bill attracts any significant interest anymore.

Would you talk about the Domiciliary Account? There the bank collects your hard currency, charges you for deposits, withdrawals and even transfer, yet they pay not even a dime as interest.

But try and ask for a loan. Beside asking you to bring (possibly your grandmother’s nails), you are requested to service the loan at between 21 and 25 % interest. You can see how wicked the Nigerian banks are. Those are customers’ monies they are literally paying nothing for, but they would charge you BP-inducing interest when you come to borrow them.

This newspaper reported , a week ago, that despite the COVID-19 troubles, the banks still received total deposit of N37 trillion last year. How much of that was given out as loans? And at what interest rate?

Is anybody still wondering why the Nigerian economy is stifled? The banks are literally the only entities that are selfishly breathing at the collective expense of the other sectors of the economy.

Perhaps I will not complain much with these ungodly charges, since banks are not Red Cross, as they are in

business to make profit; and huge are those profits, as they declare billions of Naira every year. But alas, the banks also rob their own staff. The staff also pay these many silly charges, complained about .

Nigerian bankers are among the worst treated in the world: long stressful work hours—including most weekends; scant remunerative package (some banks prefer to keep using contract staff); very slow growth, as promotions are hugely denied and deferred; burden of very unrealistic targets which leads many of the female staffers into “executive/corporate prostitution”. The bosses don’t give a hoot. “Just bring the money”, is the running mantra!

But the Executive Directors and other “Big Men at the top” of these banks practically feast on the funds of the banks to the detriment of the junior staff down the line.

But the bank staff all manage to put up bright and shining appearances in the banking halls—what with their colourful ties and boutique-flavoured dresses of the female staff. Many of them are in huge debts to be able to sustain such “packaged” appearances.

Some of the banks have long cancelled the 13th month remuneration or even profit-sharing privileges which the staff used to enjoy.

So, the question is, if the banks earn so much money every day, every year, why don’t they spare a human though for their staff who actually do the work?

Is it not a shame that despite all the decked premium appearances of some of the banks, some of them (among the Big Four) are still paying 60 % of the salary because of COVID restrictions. And they dare those who complain to resign. What else can be a better definition of unkind capitalism!

Perhaps what is most dismal in all of these is that there appears to be no one cautioning the banks. It is a wonder the CBN approved many of these weird charges. The National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFE), has long been muscled up and silenced. The Bankers’ Committee is all silent in the face of these milking of the Nigerians customers. The CBN, as the major regulators of the banks, should wake up and flog these banks into line, That is why they are called the Bankers’ bank.

Buhari’s Spectre of Hope: Real or Mere Sooth?

Eddy Odivwri

I am so happy this will be a better year. It will be a great consolation and relief from the philistinic Year 2020.

What is informing this hope? The year is just eight days old and we are already getting assailed with so much troubles: spike in COVID-19 infection, threat of another lock down, high inflation, American democracy highly threatened by President Trump and his wild election rascals.

Didn’t you listen to the New Year Broadcast of Mr President? It was a speech laced with unusual hope and soothing pronouncements. He raised the hope that the troublesome issue of insecurity will be re-energised and re-organised” for greater effect. He promised to be more deliberate on the welfare of the youths since they are the greatest resource of the nation, not the Crude oil in the Niger Delta.

It was re-assuring to hear the President declare that “if the country must be secured, the future of the youths must be secured”. This is a complete turn-around from the tag of “Lazy youths” which Mr President had used in describing the youths of this country.

It rekindles…

(placing the index finger across his lips) Shhhhhhh. It rekindles what? Tell me, what is being rekindled?

My friend, can you just keep quiet. I have listened to your rantings and your naivety which had been on over-drive. You mean you got carried away by the niceties of Mr President’s speech? You do not know all that you heard are the handiwork of the speech writers? Ok, just pause and think: what is it that Mr President had said on New Year Day that is truly new to you? Is he not a politician? Is the flying of kites of hope not their stock in trade? I thought you’d have grown up and be more critical all these years. You are still this naïve and gullible? So you believe all that the President has said?

I have no reason to doubt Mr President. If the same man who had been talking tough and sounding unconnected to us all these years, suddenly changes and calls the former “lazy youths” the greatest assets of the country, and promises to tackle insecurity and the dwindling economy in more practical ways, why should I doubt him?

How many times has he promised to deal with the security issue without doing anything? Go back and read his speeches on such subjects. . It’s all the same thing! Why do you think he’d be different this time?

How many times has the Nigerian people demanded the sack of the tired Service Chiefs and he wont listen.

Look, let me tell you, unless and until Mr President lays off these present Service Chiefs, nothing is going to change on the security situation in Nigeria. More and more people will be killed, kidnapped, harassed, robbed etc. And…

(cuts in) Stop this pessimism. He has promised to re-energise and re-organise the security apparatus. So why don’t you believe him and give him time to do what he has promised?

That is my problem with you. You are too trusting. Look, take the words of Mr President and indeed, every politician, with a pinch of salt. This is a man who had promised, on New Year day, to make life better this year by introducing policies that will cushion the harsh economic hits. And just four days, yes, four days after, the government introduces 100 percent hike in electricity tariff. Is that the government you want to invest your trust on? On one hand he claims that he’d continue to listen to our voices, and on the other hand, he does exactly what the people do not want. Or didn’t the people kick against increase in the price of petrol? Did he not increase it? Did the people not kick against the increase in electricity tariff? Has he not just increased it? See why I said you should take the words of politicians with a pinch of salt?

Have you forgotten the energy sector has been deregulated and privatized? Didn’t you hear the Minister of State for Labour, Festus keyamo, say that the NERC does not have the approval of the federal government to increase the electricity tariff? . Learn to trust the people in government. I am sure they mean well

God forbid that I will trust politicians, especially those in government. Look, let me tell you, they may mean well, but are they doing well? Do they suffer what the ordinary man suffers? Do you really think they care about you? If you need any other evidence of their indifference about how their policies hit you, see the issue of the National Identification Number (NIN). Does Pantami care whether people are scrambling or getting into a stampede in order to get their NIN within two weeks? Does anybody care?

Did you not hear the DG of Culture and Tourism, Otunba Runsewe applaud the demolition of the hotel in Kaduna allegedly involved in a sex party saga, even when nothing has been established against the owners of the hotel? There was no investigation before the destruction of the hotel, only to suddenly claim that the building has no approved plan? Working from answer to question! See wickedness in high places? How many buildings in Kaduna truly have approved plan? How many such others have been pulled down by Gov Nasir El-Rufai? Are those the people you say mean well?

My brother, you are dragging in too many issues

All i am trying to tell you is that Mr President’s speech is just what it is, a speech. It is a sooth, merely meant to calm frayed nerves of Nigerians. Period!