By Kazeem Ugbodaga

The Nigerian Senate on Wednesday moved against illicit and excessive charges by Nigerian banks on customers accounts with particular focus on Automated Teller Machine (ATM) maintenance and withdrawal charges, passing a resolution calling on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to suspend the excessive ATM card maintenance charges being deducted from customers.

This sequel to a motion raised on the floor of the Senate during Plenary session by Senator Gbenga Ashafa, representing Lagos East Senatorial District and the motion was seconded by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.

Ashafa had raised the issue of concern over illicit and excessive charges by Nigerian banks in customers accounts with particular focus on Automated Teller Machine (ATM) maintenance and withdrawal charges and wanted the senators to intervene in the matter.

In seconding the motion, Ekweremadu said the ATM charge was not the only charge “we get from the bank, there are VAT charges and so on; this is unacceptable. We have the Customer Protection Agency in Nigeria, but they are not living up to expectations.

“If we have Institutions in Nigeria, they should make sure to do their jobs to protect Nigerians. Banks should have recognizable charges to let customers know what they are up against.”

Contributing to the motion, Senator Bala Na’allah said “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.”

But Senator Gbolahan Dada had a contrary view, saying that “There’s no bank that makes profit on these ATM charges because the maintenance and breakdown of ATMs are so expensive, the payment for security also attracts these charges.”

“The monetary policy guidelines are not being adhered to and as such, the Committee on Banking and Finance should take charge of that,” Senator Philip Gyunka cut in.

Senator Adeola Solomon, Lagos West Senatorial District added that these banks should stop ripping Nigerians off their hard earned money.

According to Senator Ibrahim Gobi, “People do not understand that the cost of technology is high. If there is a problem with the ATM, you have to pay for someone to fix it. We cannot force it on the banks to reduce costs.”

But Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, in countering Gobi’s submission, said “the common man is also a victim. Banks declare profit and you wonder where it is coming from; it’s from the sweat of the common man. I want to add that we come up with a law that puts banks on their toes.”

Backing Bwacha’s argument, Senator Kabiru Gaya said “the Senate must take serious stand on this issue. Nigerians are really suffering. The bank system is not encouraging. I had an issue, took it to the bank and was refunded but how many Nigerians can do this? The issue needs to be addressed.”

Senator Barnabas Gemade stated that “banks have come up with other ways to make money and are declaring large profits. Because of certain limits, you make 10 transactions and you are charged for each. It is illegal. CBN should be called upon to review its actions on resolving these issues.”

In his submission, Senate President, Bukola Saraki said “this is a motion that touches on the lives of every Nigerian irrespective of what part you belong to or political affiliation you might have and that is why we are here, to always defend and protect the interest of our people.”