As part of its financial inclusion strategy, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has mandated banks across the country to open accounts for customers with zero balance. This move is to promote easy access to banking services for the unbanked public.
This means that, without having any money to use in opening an account, a customer can walk into any bank and have an account opened for him or her.
The Financial Inclusion Strategy was formulated in 2011 to enhance access to formal financial services by adult Nigerians hitherto excluded.
The CBN in its Monetary, Credit, Foreign Trade and Exchange Policy Guidelines for Fiscal Years 2012/2013 said, "In line with the financial inclusion initiative, banks shall be required to demand zero balances for opening new bank accounts so as to make banking services accessible to the unbanked public."
However, LEADERSHIP checks indicate that many banks in the FCT are not complying with this mandate. All the bank branches visited by our correspondent demanded between N1,000 and N2,000 to open a savings account.
A customer service officer in one of the banks visited, who did not want to be named maintained that if they opened accounts with zero balances, such accounts can be left unused for a long time and also create room for fraudulent activities by unscrupulous bank staff.
Nonetheless, the CBN said it shall continue to encourage banks to improve their deposit mobilization efforts and encouraged them to develop new products that would improve access to credit.
"Banks are, therefore, required to simplify their account opening processes, without necessarily compromising the Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements stipulated by the apex bank in its guidelines.
The Financial Inclusion strategy would focus on institutional structures and arrangements, infrastructure and technological solutions to provide timely and adequate financial services such as loans/credits, savings, insurance, leasing, hire purchase, overdraft, payment/remittance services and financial advisory services, amongst others.
Accordingly, the strategy would synthesize the schemes and programmes of stakeholders in the area of financial access; establish and address weaknesses and causes of failure of these programmes; promote workable models for fostering financial inclusion as well as establish special funds for promoting and developing a financial inclusion agenda for Nigeria.