The Nigerian Senate on Wednesday urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to suspend of the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) maintenance charges being collected by banks.
This followed a motion on “illicit and excessive charges by Nigerian banks in customers accounts” raised by Senator Gbenga Ashafa and seconded by Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu.
“The ATM charge is not the only charge we get from the bank, there are VAT charges and so on; this is unacceptable” Ekweremadu said. “We have the Customer Protection Agency in Nigeria, but they are not living up to expectations.”
The Senate also called on commercial banks operating in the country to configure their machines to dispense up to N40,000 per withdrawal pending the outcome of the investigation by the Senate committees tasked with investigating the excessive and illicit bank charges.
Speaking on the motion, Senate President Bukola Saraki stated that the Senate must work to ensure that the its resolutions on the excessive bank charges goes beyond the debate stage, so that whatever action the Upper Legislative Chamber takes, would come into effect.
“This Senate has done this many times before; when there was a hike in the mobile telecommunication data charges, we intervened and put an end to that. When there were discrepancies and increases in electricity prices, we also took action. We have done this on a number of similar cases. Therefore, on this, I want us to take effective resolutions,” Saraki said.
Other Senators who contributed to the debate, called on banks to review their charges.
“It won’t be out of place to institute a committee that will call on the CBN to tell us what these charges are about. The Senate by fiat should abolish charges if they can’t be verified,” said Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah.
“For me, this is a major step that we are taking. This is because I introduced the first ATM machine that came into Nigeria over 25-years ago,” Saraki told his colleagues, “Now, after 25-years, we should have grown out of these excessive charges and moved on. So, I believe that this is something that we must address to create an environment that protects all Nigerians, because these kind of charges in this economy affects everyone.”
After a long debate, the Senate directed the committees on banking insurance and other financial institutions and finance to conduct an investigation into the propriety of ATM card maintenance charges in comparison with international best practices and report back to the Senate.
It also mandated the committees on banking, insurance and other financial institutions and finance to invite the CBN Governor to appear before the body in order to explain why the official charges as approved by the CBN are skewed in favour of the banking institutions as against the ordinary customers of the banks.
The lawmakers urged CBN to suspend the ATM card maintenance charges being deducted from customers accounts.
The Consumer Protection Council was called upon to be up and doing in taking up the plight of ordinary Nigerians by looking into the various complaints of excess and unnecessary charges by Nigerian banks.