.Queues return to notable banks machines
By Udeme Clement
The re-introduction of service charge for withdrawals from other banks Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), now pegged at N65 as against the previous N100, and which took effect on September 1, is unsettling for many Nigerians.
Few days after the take off of the new policy, queues have returned to some ATM points, as customers dump the use of other banks’ ATM in a bid to escape the charge. Many customers who spoke with our correspondent frowned at the new directive from Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in collaboration with the Bankers Committee, on the return of ATM fee, saying the new policy must be abolished in the interest of low income earners. About 85 percent of customers on queue at First Bank branch, Isolo, along Oshodi-Apapa Express Way called on the authorities to reverse the policy, while some others said that the charge should be paid to enable the banks maintain the machines well.
When Sunday Vanguard visited notable commercial banks across Lagos metropolis, it was observed that some banks had long queues of customers waiting to use the ATMs, while ATM points of other banks were scanty or completely empty. At the First Bank branch, Ojodu Berger, the queues of customers waiting to use ATM were up to three, building right from the bank premises almost to the major road. Also, banks like Guaranty Trust, Zenith, Diamond, Fidelity, Access, UBA and Ecobank had so many customers on queues, while Wema, Keystone, Main-street and First City Monument Bank (FCMB) had few customers.
In a chat with Sunday Vanguard, the Chairman, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, Lagos State branch, Mr. Bolade Agbola, said, “The CBN is right in taking this decision”. “For me, the re-introduction of the ATN service charge by the current governor of CBN, is a good initiative and a welcome development. Nigeria is not the only country where customers pay ATM fee, it is done in advanced countries. The reason being that, the deposit banks need money to stead afloat in business and to improve their margin”, he said.
He went on, “Also, the amount CBN is telling the customers to pay is very small. The banking public should be able to pay N65 for using other banks ATM for transactions. The charge only applies after three withdrawals in a month. So, it is quite affordable for every customer, irrespective of his financial level in the society. Also, if you look at the situation critically, you will fine out that paying N65 for ATM service charge is not a big financial burden, as some people are saying, compared to going to the banking hall always for little transactions.
“What about when people were going to banks to sign documents to collect their salaries. So, it is not a difficult situation and I believe the apex bank is right in taking this decision. Aside from that, it is also a way of helping people to be discipline about the way they spend their money”.
CBN should state the exact amount of money a customer can withdraw to pay the charge –Madu
Mrs. S. A. Madu, a young woman, who spoke with Sunday Vanguard, at Access Bank premises University of Lagos, said: “The apex bank should stake a specific amount of money that a customer can withdraw at a particular transaction to pay the N65 charge.
This is because CBN is saying after three withdrawals in a month, but the reality is that you can even exhaust the three times transactions at one instance. For example, if you slot your ATM card for a withdrawal of N20,000, by the time you withdraw N60, 000, it means you have exhausted everything in one transaction.
“Before the re-introduction of this charge, we have been facing challenges doing transactions with ATMs even when the cashless economy is still on course. I also noticed that whenever I tried to withdraw from the Ecobank ATM, they just refused to pay. At a point, it became clear to me that Ecobank hardly pays with another bank ATM card. So, I think there are other challenges that the regulatory authority should address, rather then bringing back ATM charge, which was suspended over a year ago.”
CBN is playing politics with the re-introduction of ATM fee – Peter
Mr. Chuks Peter, a business man in Lagos, had this to say: “It is quite clear that the current CBN boss is introducing the policies of Zenith Bank where he came from in the whole country. To me, the re-introduction of the ATM fee is against the nation-wide cashless monetary policy already on-going. He is playing politics with Nigerians. The same politics those in authority often play the moment they get to any position of authority. They are not always sensitive to the needs of the people. They will say one thing, and do another.
“I could recall vividly that when the current CBN governor took over from Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the first thing he said was a promise to tackle the alarming increase in interest rate, and people, especially operators of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), were very happy. But suddenly, he came up with this arbitrary charge in the name of ATM fee.
Those in authority, especially in a place like the CBN should study the environment carefully to fully understand what the people want before formulating any economic policy. This monetary policy on the return of ATM fee, jettisoned by the former CBN governor, is anti-people. Zenith is a bank for rich people, the current CBN management should not bring the policy of Zenith to the apex bank.”
CBN is losing focus on what the people want – Daye Obong
Madam Obong Daye-Obong, a customer on queue at Guaranty Trust Bank ATM point, similarly faulted the CBN on the return of the ATM fee. She said: ‘’In the first instance, why should I pay ATM service charge when I can simply withdraw from my own bank without charge? I think the CBN governor is losing focus on what the banking public and entrepreneurs really want, which is reduction in interest rate for industries to thrive and create jobs for the masses.
The re-introduction of ATM charge constitutes policy inconsistency in the banking industry, because the former CBN governor openly abolished the same policy, his successor is bringing back now.
“There are other bank charges that people are paying continually and I do not think the ATM fee is necessary at this point. The commercial banks charge money for issuance of Cards as well as renewal of those Cards. Sometimes they even charge customers for renewal of the Cards before informing them.
For instance, you would just receive alert telling you that your account has been debited with N1.000 for renewal of your transaction Cards. Infact, customers are paying so many hidden charges, so this ATM fee should be removed. CBN should think carefully about this policy because it is capable of discouraging people from using other banks’ ATM”.
The position of CBN:
However, the monetary authority explained that the re-introduction of ATM charge became necessary to relieve the deposit banks of the financial burden of maintaining the ATMs.
In that capacity, the CBN, in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, had on August 13, 2014, announced the return of the ATM fee for withdrawals from other banks ATMs.
The circular signed by the Director of Banking and Payment Systems Department, CBN, Mr. Dipo Fatokun, stated, “The CBN agreed to re-introduce ATM charge because the cost of transaction was becoming too burden some for the banks to bear. The circular from September 1, 2014 shall be effective date for the implementation of the new charge. The banks are expected to conduct adequate sensitisation to the customers on the introduction of the new fee. All ATM cash withdrawals on the ATM of issuing banks shall be at no cost to the card holder.
“However, as a result of the un-intended consequences of the decision, which has resulted in substantial cost burden incurred by banks in defraying the cost of the service, the payment structure for card carrying bank customers is hereby reviewed in line with the present realities”.
It could be recalled that in December, 2012, the apex bank in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, transferred the payment of N100 fee to the issuing banks. The fee was split between the acquiring bank, issuing bank and switch companies. But now, the new management of the CBN has reversed the policy by re-introducing the ATM charge to be paid by customers.