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Customers outraged over excessive bank charges

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Hidden and arbitrary charges are now the norm with Nigerian banks, which is giving them a not-so-pleasant reputation. These endless charges have almost become a necessary evil as customers now live with them; having been left without options.

Bank customers in Abuja and other states who spoke with Daily Trust expressed frustration over the numerous non-transactional debits they receive from their various banks without explanations.

While “big-time customers” that transact businesses running into millions of naira rarely complain of deductions by the banks, petty traders whose profit margin is small told our correspondents that they were being exploited.

Some students also said they rather kept their upkeep money in their wallets than in their bank accounts.

“All the new generation and old generation banks are fond of perpetrating illegal deductions,” said Zainab Musa Baba, a housewife and petty trader in Nyanya, Abuja.

“You will always see at least two alerts after every transaction, even if it is for just N1,000, and at the end of the month, you see multiple deductions,” she added.

Nwachukwu Samuel who banks with Access Bank, said he usually saw debit alerts on his account, and that most times, he would not go to the bank to complain.

“Sometimes I would not even do a transaction and I would see N50 charge. I see all manner of debit alerts, and because the money is usually small, and considering the stress one has to go through by visiting a branch to complain, I just let go,” he said.

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Samuel further said he was aware that the bank would be making a lot of money from the charges, looking at the volume.

A customer with Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) who simply identified herself as Agnes, called on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to intensify surveillance on the banks, saying they were feeding fat on vulnerable customers.

She said although the charges were small, they were illegal and therefore advised CBN to punish erring banks.

Mukhtar Aliyu who spoke with one of our reporters from Kano on phone, said the needless and arbitrary deductions had discouraged customers from embracing the cashless banking policy.

“Whenever I sell a carton of spaghetti, my profit margin is not more than N100, but the banks have a way of getting something from this transaction, somehow,” he said.

“There was a day a customer told me that if he paid me for the bag of rice he bought through bank transfer, his bank would also charge him for that simple transaction,” he added.

Another bank customer, Chukwurah U. Paul said, “It is very pathetic, to say the least. The banks are always devising avenues to put holes in people’s pockets.

“We are charged for depositing cash, withdrawing and text messages. We will soon be charged for breathing the air and receiving sunshine,” he said.

Govt aware of infractions

The CBN recently disclosed that it had so far recovered N89.2bn excess and illegal charges slammed on customers by banks.

The Governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele, represented by the acting Director, Corporate Communication, Osita Nwanisobi, at a public enlightenment fair in Calabar, Cross River State, said the figure was recovered in June, 2021, based on 23,526 complaints they received from customers bordering on charges and other related matters.

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In April this year, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, expressed concern over the way banks charge customers indiscriminately during transactions, saying that apart from known charges, there appeared to be “hidden” charges the banks impose on their customers.

Speaking when he hosted the board and management of the Standard Chartered Bank led by its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr Lamin Manjang, Gbajabiamila said the house was concerned that such practice was making customers helpless; hence that Nigerian banks should come up with ways to address high charges on loans and other facilities they offered.

Some customers who spoke with one of our reporters said there was the need for the CBN to scrutinise all bank charges from time to time.

Some of them called for a forensic audit of the charges rather than waiting for customers’ complaints.

Approved bank charges

According to records from the CBN, the approved bank charges for various transactions include stamp duty, SMS alert (N4/SMS), using another bank’s ATM (N35/transaction), account maintenance fee/commission on turnover, which is N1/mille (an acronym commonly used in the banking sector. It means per thousand. Thus, in the COT explained above, banks are allowed to charge N1 per N1,000 debit transaction on current accounts).

Others are ATM card maintenance charge (N52.50 monthly), in-branch statement printing (N21.50/page), cash withdrawals/deposits; while users of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services pay N6.98 per transaction.

While these deductions have been approved by the CBN, several others are not categorised. Daily Trust found out that banks now charge 7.5 per cent as Value Added Tax (VAT) per money transfer made on the NIBBS instant transfer platform. There is also a commission by banks for such transfers, among others.

There are also cases of the approved charges being slammed on account holders multiple times on a single transaction, or even when there is no transaction at all. For instance, a transaction could attract several text messages, with each attracting a charge for the customer. The same scenario could apply for commission on turnover charges, account maintenance fees and stamp duty charges.

It is worthy to note that some of these charges are avoidable. For instance, using an ATM that is not your bank’s and opting not to receive text message alert but only email notification on transactions.

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When Daily Trust contacted the CBN to speak on these constant complaints, its spokesman, Mr Nwanisobi, said, “What we do is that whenever we get these complaints, they are thoroughly investigated. If they are found to be true, the CBN makes sure that these customers are properly refunded. And we have so far recovered N89bn.”

The recently recovered figure indicates that the apex bank has the will to punish commercial banks for bad behaviour.

However, as Nwanisobi stated, except when customers make formal complaints, the CBN sees no evil.

It’s extortion – Experts

Munir Aliyu, a financial expert who worked with both old and new generation banks, attributed multiple deductions by banks to “laziness to think out of the box to get big money.”

According to him, “Most of the banks are looking for small money from vulnerable customers because they don’t want to give loans to serious investors.

“Instead, they tax their customers dry because if you know the money they make in a month from these needless deductions, you will not take it lightly.

“Many banks don’t want to give loans to farmers or manufacturers; instead they prefer to tax petty customers.”

The arbitrary charges are on top of issues of growing customer dissatisfaction with commercial banks in Nigeria. For instance, a previous poll established that as far back as 2013, “customers have become more intelligent on the range of bank services.”

The poll sought the opinions of banking customers on their relations and service delivery of Nigerian banks. It established that the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) had received a large number of complaints from bank customers over alleged hidden and unexplained charges.

In March, 2010, FCCPC organised a consumer interactive forum, where the CBN directed commercial banks to fully disclose all rates and charges associated with their products and services to stem all forms of sharp practices. Up till now, the charges keep coming and no bank has been punished.

The survey established that, overall, the majority (61 per cent) agreed that customers were being exploited by banks through “hidden” charges. This was followed by 19 per cent of the respondents, who disagreed, and 16 per cent that neither agreed nor disagreed. 11 per cent strongly agreed that bank customers were being exploited, while a meagre four per cent strongly disagreed.

Daily Trust

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Oil price falls to $95 a barrel over plans to restore Iran nuclear deal

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Oil prices plunged on Tuesday amid a considerable progression in restoring Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Brent crude futures, the global oil benchmark, fell $1.3 percent to $95.31 a barrel.  

US West Texas Intermediate, on the other hand, fell $1.2 percent to $89.51. 

The agreement is expected to clear the way for Iran to boost its crude exports in a tight market.

The Iran nuclear agreement, formally known as the joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA), is a landmark accord reached between Iran and a group of world powers known as the P5+1 – the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany, in July 2015. 

Under its terms, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities and open its facilities to more extensive international inspections in return for the relaxing of economic sanctions. 

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In 2018, Donald Trump, former US president, pulled out of the nuclear agreement but recently efforts were renewed to restore the deal.

On Monday, the European Union put forward a “final” text to revive the deal. 

“What can be negotiated has been negotiated, and it’s now in a final text,” Josep Borrell, the bloc’s foreign policy chief, said in a tweet on Monday after the talks concluded and negotiators headed back to their nations’ capitals for consultations.

“I’m not sure traders are particularly hopeful considering how long it’s taken to get to this point and with there still reportedly being points of contention,” Craig Erlam of brokerage OANDA told Reuters. 

In Nigeria, an embattled oil sector has continued to experience dwindled crude oil production, which steadily dropped in July to an average of 1.08 million barrels per day (bpd). 

Oil theft and diminishing investments are issues the sector has to contend with. 

On Monday, Mele Kyari, group chief executive officer (GCEO), NNPC Limited, said Nigeria loses $1.9 billion monthly to crude oil theft.

The Cable

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FG moves to stop $1.9bn monthly loss to oil theft

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The Federal Government has stepped up moves to halt oil theft, costing Nigeria a monthly loss of $1.9bn, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, has said.

He said Nigeria was not meeting its production quota at the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, due to oil theft.

Sylva, who led a Federal Government delegation on anti-oil theft to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, said the team was in Asaba to seek the support and buy-in of the state government on measures to be adopted to check oil-theft in the country.

He said, “As a country, we cannot sustain this kind of theft perpetually, oil theft has become a national emergency, especially as the nation has not been able to meet its OPEC production quota.

“Our production has dropped drastically to very unsustainable levels. So, we have decided to take the bull by the horn by putting some structures in place and those structures cannot function effectively without the collaboration of the state government.”

On his part, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, who is coordinating the security intervention against oil theft, said security agencies had been dealing with issues of illegal refineries and oil bunkering across the Niger Delta in the last five months.

Irabor advocated the engagement of indigenes and host communities in the fight against the criminal activity.

Mele Kyari, who was also part of the delegation, lamented that Nigeria was currently losing about $2 billion monthly to the activities of oil vandals, with its attendant effect on environmental degradation.

Kyari said, “As a country, we hardly meet our OPEC production quantum of 1.99 million barrels per day with our current production level of 1.4 million barrels per day, which is currently being threatened by the activities of these economic saboteurs.

“This has done extensive damage to the environment and losing 1.9 billion dollars every month is colossal, considering the nature of the global economy at the moment.”

He held that the team needed the support and buy-in of Delta State government “because stopping this oil theft requires the concerted efforts of the Federal, State Governments, oil companies and security agencies”.

In his remarks, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa advocated a review of surveillance contracts on oil facilities to involve host communities in order to check the high rate of oil theft in the country.

Okowa insisted that reviewing oil surveillance contracts based on performance of the contractors and engagement of host communities would ensure effectiveness in securing the nation’s oil and gas assets.

While admitting that the challenge of oil-theft was huge, given the level it had assumed, the governor expressed joy with the steps being taken by the authorities to curb the menace.

He said: “I am glad that we are discussing this hydra-headed issue which impacts directly on our economy and the environment.

“It impacts on the health of the people and sustainability of the environment and I am glad that we are taking some steps because there are so many issues that led us to this.

“We went through situations where gaps where created between host communities and oil companies, and unfortunately criminality set in.

“It has gone so bad but we are doing our best as a state. I am also glad about this collaboration,’’ pointing out that it was often difficult to secure the facilities, especially when the persons given the contracts did not have adequate information on the environment or not have the buy-in of host communities.

“We know that the impact of the nefarious activities on the health of the people cannot be immediately ascertained, and this collaboration is, therefore, very imperative.

“Any measure that will deliberately reduce the level of oil thefts is definitely worth supporting, and as a state government, we pledge our continued support.

“Why investment of the communities is needed is because there are some parts of the creeks that cannot be accessed by the surveillance contractor. Therefore, surveillance contracts should not be such that communities are not involved.

“The surveillance contracts should be tied to performance such that when there are oil thefts you terminate the contract and it is always good that communities are involved because they know the environment better”.

The governor berated oil companies for not keeping faith with their Memorandum of Understanding, MOUs, thereby making the stakeholders to lose confidence in the system.

He explained that when oil companies failed to sign or implement MoUs, “it becomes very difficult for the state government to mediate when there are issues.

“The security agencies must heighten their operations and they need to be resourced to enable them to also increase their level of surveillance and for this to succeed, there must be sincerity on the part of all stakeholders.

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We are not auctioning 7,000 cars – Customs

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The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has dismissed a report that it is planning a special auction of over 7,000 cars.

The Public Relations Officer of Customs, Deputy Comptroller Timi Bomodi, made this known in a statement signed on behalf of the Comptroller General of Customs in Abuja.

He urged Nigerians to always refer to the electronic auction (e-auction) platform (https://app.trade.gov.ng/eauction/) for authentic information concerning auction.

According to him, the e-auction remains the only authentic means of auctioning goods to members of the public.

“Auctions are periodic and advertised in advance on our website to avail the public the opportunity of selecting and bidding for items of their choice.

“It will be recalled that the service deployed the e-auction platform in July 2017 to improve efficiency in revenue generation to the federal government.

“It was also deployed to provide equal opportunities to all Nigerians in the seamless disposal of seized and condemned, and overtime and abandoned cargoes.

“Since its implementation, the e-auction has lived up to expectations by guaranteeing transparency and integrity in the auctioning process,” Bomodi said.

The spokesperson said that the requirements to take part in the e-auction bidding process by interested members of the public were clear.

He said that applicants must process valid Tax Identification Number (TIN), issued by Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), with an active e-mail account.

Bomodi added that the conditions and terms of auction must be carefully considered by an interested person before acceptance.

Bomodi further said an applicant must have an authentic and nationally accepted means of identification.

He explained that those means of identification include international passport, driver’s licence, national identity card or voter card.

He referred the public to the service’s e-auction portal at https://app.trade.gov.ng/eauction/ for further guidelines.

Bomodi used the opportunity to call on owners of vehicles at the various ports to avail themselves of the VIN-Valuation protocols to clear them.

He said the clearance procedure had been simplified, automated and made more user-friendly.

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