The announcement last week of a planned re-introduction of N65 charge on Automated Teller Machines, ATMs, by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, is to say the least, a dangerous signal that the new apex bank boss, Godwin Emefiele, may try to reverse all the gains made by Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the ex-CBN governor. It also marks an unfortunate return to the era of banks’ exploitation of already burdened and impoverished depositors in Nigeria.
The Central Bank on 13 August directed commercial banks in Nigeria to re-introduce from 1 September a charge of N65 per transaction on remote-on-us Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) cash withdrawals. Remote-on-us are transactions done by a card holder on another bank’s ATM. In plain language, every time a customer withdraws money from an ATM belonging to a bank other than his, he will pay N65 per transaction.
The little explanation by the CBN that the first three transactions every month will be free does not change anything about the negative policy that would make life harder for the already suffering Nigerian people. We find it deeply troubling that such a consequential decision was taken without consultations with various stakeholders, including members of the National Assembly.
It is sad that the Central Bank just announced the new charge in a circular signed by its Director, Banking and Payment System Department, Dipo Fatokun, and posted on its website on 13 August. The explanation by the CBN that it took the latest decision as a result of the unintended consequences on banks to cover the remuneration of the switches, ATM monitoring and fit-notes processing by acquiring banks, does not hold water.
It was a bad decision that was earlier stopped by the CBN itself after adequate consultations with various stakeholders. It is our humble opinion that Nigeria is a democratic country and not a jungle, and decisions that will affect millions of people on daily basis must be thoroughly debated before it is implemented..
We also find it unfair that the CBN has not stopped commercial banks from compelling every of their customers to use ATM or incur charges. All customers of Nigerian banks, including the blind, the old and the illiterate are forced to use ATM cards or be penalised each time they enter the banking hall for withdrawals.
With the banks compelling customers to use ATM card and the CBN forcing them to pay N65 per transaction, the customer seems to be boxed into a corner. This certainly is not the way to go. We believe that because ATMs have made business easier for banks, by reducing queues at banking halls and by making their operations faster, the banks should be made to pay for their services. The burden should not be passed to the Nigerian people. The policy should be reversed if not it would have negative impact on the cashless policy the CBN is pursuing because most depositors would discard their ATM cards and resort to withdrawing cash directly from banks.
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