The Senate has urged the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN), to suspend the Automated Teller Machine(ATM) card maintenance charges pending outcome of investigation into alleged sharp practices by banks.

The senate also resolved to invite the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele, to appear before the committees on Banking Insurance and other Financial Institutions to offer explanations.

The resolution followed a motion by Sen. Olugbenga Ashafa(APC-Lagos) at plenary on Wednesday.

The Upper Chamber further directed the committees to carry out a thorough investigation into the propriety of the ATM card maintenance charges in comparison with the international best practices.

Ashafa in his motion, said card users were charged N65 per withdrawal from the ATM, after the third withdrawal from an ATM outside that of the domiciled bank of the ATM users.

He further alleged that most banks deliberately manipulated their ATM machines not to dispense more than N10,000 per withdrawal

He added that it was to attract more bank charges from customers who were forced to carry out more transactions due to the manipulated machines.

“There have been several complaints from Nigerians generally and on social media concerning illicit and excessive charges by Nigerian commercial banks on customers accounts.

“This is with particular focus on ATM maintenance charges and ATM withdrawal charges

“It is worthy to note that the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2017 increased the maintenance fees charged by banks on debit and credit card maintenance.

“It was increased from N100 a year to N50 per month (N600 a year) as contained in its Guide to Charges by Banks and other Financial Institutions

“This has led to a viral campaign that began on social media on Monday, Sept. 3, by many Nigerians, calling for reforms of the banks.

“And a campaign tagged #Reform9jabanks began on twitter when a UK Based Nigerian medical doctor, Harvey Olufunmilayo, lamented about the state of banks in Nigeria compared to those abroad,” he said.

The lawmaker further noted that,”another Nigerian, Eniola who lives in Qatar, stated that banks in Qatar do not charge customers for the use of ATM.

“It is worrisome that most banks have deliberately manipulated their ATM Machines not to dispense more that N10,000 per withdrawal in some cases and in most cases not more than N20,000.00 per withdrawal.

“This is a deliberate ploy to manipulate the ATM machines which are ordinarily manufactured to dispense as much as N40,000 per transaction, in order to attract more bank charges from customers.

“Unfortunately, it appears that the CBN is becoming insensitive to the plight of Nigerians who are already complaining of excessive charges by commercial banks.

“If the CBN is trying to encourage a cashless Nigeria, why should they be making it more difficult and expensive for Nigerians to do transactions.”

Ashafa called on the senate to direct committees on Banking Insurance and other Financial Institutions, and Finance, to conduct investigation into propriety of ATM Card maintenance charges in comparison with international best practices and report back to Senate.

He also asked the senate to mandate the committees to invite the Governor of CBN to explain why the official charges as approved were skewed in favour of the banking institutions as against customers.

He further urged the CBN, “to suspend the ATM Card Maintenance Charges being deducted from customers’ accounts pending the outcome of the investigation by the committees.

“The Consumer Protection Council should be up and doing in taking up the plight of ordinary Nigerians by looking into the various complaints of excess and unnecessary charges.”

Contributing, several lawmakers frowned at the bank charges.

They urged the senate to urgently intervene in the interest of Nigerians.

The President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, directed the committee to do a thorough job in view of the pains ordinary Nigerians were going through due to the charges.

He commended the sponsor of the motion, saying it was timely.

The Bridge News