Lagos — Indications are rife that the Central Bank of Nigeria may have concluded arrangement to re-introduce cash handling fees for both deposits and withdrawals as its board of governors approve the full implementation of the cashless policy nationwide.
The CBN Deputy Governor, Operations, Adebayo Adelabu, gave the hint while addressing the annual dinner of the Nigerian Electronic Fraud Forum ( NeFF) in Lagos over the weekend.
Adelabu said: "The committee of governors has approved the implementation of the full cashless policy yesterday and the CBN will release a circular which will detail out the process of re-adoption of the policy by next week (this week)."
It would be recalled that the apex bank had on April 22, 2017, suspended indefinitely, the nationwide implementation of the policy following massive outcry that greeted the reviewed cash handling fees.
In a circular signed by Dipo Fatokun, Director, Banking and Payments System Department of CBN, the bank instructed banks to revert to old charges and refund customers who had been debited.
CBN had earlier announced new charges on deposits and withdrawals above a threshold of N500,000 for individuals and N3 million for corporate bodies.
The apex bank had directed banks to charge 1.5 percent and 2 percent for deposits and withdrawals ranging from N500,000 and N1 million in the individual category; 2 percent and 3 percent for amount above N1 million to N5 million; and 3 percent and 7.5 percent for amount above N5 million.
For corporate organisations, CBN fixed 2 percent and 5 percent for deposits and withdrawals between N3 million and N10 million respectively; 3 percent and 7.5 percent for above N10 million to N40 million; and 5 percent and 10 percent for amount above N40 million.
But the new circular said the existing policy before the announcement of the new policy shall remain in place in Lagos, Ogun, Kano, Abia, Anambra, Rivers and Abuja.
The circular further stated that the old charges to be reverted to are: 3 percent processing fee for withdrawals above N500,000 in the individual category and 5 percent for withdrawals above N3 million for corporate category, while no fees are charged for lodgments.
Cashless policy is a policy established in 2012 by the CBN to curb excesses in the handling of cash in Nigeria. It prescribed cash handling charges on daily withdrawals above N500,000 for individuals and N3,000,000 for corporate bodies. The policy was enforced not to eliminate the use of cash but to reduce the volume of cash in circulation.
The pilot run of the policy started on January 1, 2012 in Lagos State. The service charges were withheld till 30 March of the same year to allow for seamless migration from the manual to electronic devices.
The second stage of the pilot run started in Rivers, Anambra, Abia, Kano, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory on July 1, 2013 while the programme nationwide started exactly a year after; on 31 July 2014.
Reacting to the announcement, Dr. Uju Ogubunka, President, Bank Customers Association of Nigeria (BCAN) said: "The truth of the matter is that, there were reasons why the full implementation was suspended. The question therefore is, whether those reasons have been resolved.
"We all appreciate that we do not need to be carrying cash up and down, with its attendant cost of recycling.
"We also need to know if the policy will come under a new guideline or merely bringing back what they suspended before, we can then make informed decisions."
Barrister Ken Ukaoha, President, National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) commended the CBN for its laudable intervention in the economy but expressed worry that placing charges on deposits may encourage businesses keeping money outside the bank.
Ukaoha said: "The CBN needs to do more on the domestic end. They need to reflect the views of the domestic trading environment."
Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said Nigeria could save as much as $9 billion (N3.24 trillion) by shifting government payments from cash to digital systems.
Speaking in Ethiopia recently, Lagarde said 1.7 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) could be saved via the digitisation of the country's payment systems.
She said "the potential to help reduce corruption, increase revenues, and generate investments in health and education means digital tools could be a decisive factor in meeting the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals."