Group faults CBN’s reintroduction of ATM charges

The Centre for Social Justice has faulted the decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria to reintroduce charges for the use of Automated Teller Machines by bank customers.

The central bank had last week issued a new directive for the re-introduction of the charge two years after it abolished the N100 fee per withdrawal on third-party ATMs.

It, however, noted that instead of the N100 fee, customers using other banks’ ATMs would now pay N65 for the fourth of such transactions within a month with effect from September 1.

But the CSJ, in a statement on Sunday condemned the reintroduction of the fee, stating that there was no justification for it.

The group’s statement was signed by its Lead Director, Mr. Eze Onyekpere.

It argued that since the charges were stopped in 2012, banks had been declaring huge profits.

It added that there was no credible evidence that banks’ balance sheets had been unduly impaired by their bearing of the charges.

The group, therefore, described the reintroduction of the ATM charge as a retrogressive step that would unduly burden bank customers, discourage the unbanked from using the banking system and also negate the cashless policy.

It stressed that a reversal of the policy should have addressed the premises and the rationale for the removal of the charges in the first place.

It, therefore, urged the CBN to consider the interest of all the parties that would be affected by this new directive and balance any conflicts by apportioning obligations to those best positioned to bear them.

The group also noted that the reintroduction of the ATM charge negated Nigeria’s international and domestic economic and social rights obligations as provided in Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution and the obligations under article 2 (1) of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

It said. “This new policy is an apparent evidence of regulatory capture. Essentially, the regulator has been captured by the core institutions it is supposed to regulate.

“It is regrettable that the banks, which collect deposits from customers with little or no interest on savings, charge double digit interest rates on lending, will come around to force the arms of the CBN into ensuring extra charges from ATM withdrawals alongside the bank charges and commissions placed on customers, such as the ATM issuance and maintenance fees; N50 charges on SMS alerts, emails and printing of account statements.

“It will, therefore, not be out of place to ask: what services do the banks specifically render to customers aside the safe keeping of customers’ cash?”

The group added, “In the light of the foregoing, the CSJ calls for the urgent reconsideration of the new policy to allow the status quo to remain by removing the newly introduced ATM charges.

“This will give a good signal to the Nigerian banking public of the sincerity of the new CBN governor to walk the talk, thereby achieving credibility through policy consistency.”

It stated that if the CBN could not use its policy to facilitate the improvement of living conditions, it should not increase the burden of the people.

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