30 November 2012

Nigeria: Banks' ATM Fraud


In continuation of its regulatory objectives, the Central Bank of Nigeria ordered that no bank in Nigeria should from September 13, 2012, charge N100 per withdrawal from its Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), regardless of the bank card a customer holds.

According to the CBN, the Bankers' Committee removed the charges on interbank transactions to minimise the financial burden on bank customers and to make services friendly. It is a follow-up to the apex bank's reform agenda of a cashless economy.

The Bankers Committee, a body of chief executive officers/managing directors of all banks operating in Nigeria, endorsed the decision and promised that the cancellation of inter-bank charges would take immediate effect.

Two weeks after, however, newspapers and the electronic media are awash with tales of customers' complaints about the continuation of the charges on their withdrawals from ATMs not run by their banks. We consider this unwholesome and fraudulent.

According to the reports, when they approached their managers, they were given all manner of excuses. While some bank officials claimed they had not received a formal circular from the CBN, others insisted that the removal was not automatic.

We believe that even if there was to be a timeline, one week should be enough to allow the banks to reconfigure the machines for the transition. We hasten to add that integrity is the bedrock of banking, and if this is not carefully nurtured, it could be counter-productive for the sector.

We call on the CBN to beam its searchlight on erring banks and sanction them appropriately. The banks should also be made to cough out the fraudulent deductions from customers with effect from when the order was given.

Compelling them to make refunds will not only restore customers' confidence, but also convince people about the resolve to maintain integrity in the country's macro-economic policies.

Already, the CBN has introduced other reforms aimed at bolstering investor and customer confidence in the banking sector. With the reported recovery of N6 billion excess bank charges in the past one year, as disclosed by the CBN governor, Mallam Lamido Sanusi, last week, he needs to beef up the drive by retrieving these illegal deductions from helpless customers in the past two weeks.

It is one sure way to strengthen customer protection, achieve financial inclusion and restore credibility to CBN's monetary policies and pronouncements. We hope that this would be done in a timely manner before useless excuses creep in.

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