BY UDEME CLEMENT
Apparently, the banking public in the country is not benefiting fully from the initiative by the Bankers Committee in the last quarter of 2012 fiscal year on the abolition of N100 charge per Automated Teller Machine (ATM) transaction.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that while the deposit banks are now fully complying with the new directive restricting them from inter-bank ATM charge, customers are yet to key into the new dispensation. For instance, when Sunday Vanguard visited some commercial banks in Lagos, customers were seen in long queues waiting to use ATMs in the more popular banks, while other banks had no customers.
It was also observed that most depositors found on queues at the more popular banks were not willing to visit other banks for fear of paying the N100 charge, notwithstanding the fact that the ATM charge had been abolished since last year. At First Bank branches located in Ojodu Berger, Acme Road Ogba, Olowo Street Ikeja, Egbeda and University of Lagos , Akoka, customers were seen in long queues waiting to use the ATMs. The same thing applied at Zenith Bank branches, Guaranty Trust Bank, Skye Bank, Access Bank, Eco Bank, Fidelity Bank Nigeria, Diamond Bank and United Bank for Africa at various locations in Lagos.
Citibank, Enterprise Bank Limited (formerly Spring Bank), First City Monument Bank, Keystone Bank Limited (formerly Bank PHB), Mainstreet Bank Limited (formerly Afribank), Stanbic IBTC and Union Bank of Nigeria (now owned by African Capital Alliance Consortium) had just few ATM using customers.
Some experts, who spoke with our correspondent, explained that about 70 per cent of depositors in the country are not using the services of inter-bank ATM despite the fact banks are no longer charging N100 for transactions. Others attributed the attitude of customers to lack of adequate enlightenment, calling on the CBN and the Bankers Committee to create awareness and encourage depositors on inter-bank ATM services, in order to strike a balance in the system to ease pressure on the more popular banks.
Mrs. Arit Umoh Ibok, a lawyer with one of the law firms in Lagos, who spoke with Sunday Vanguard at Keystone Bank branch at Adeola Odeku, said, “The major problem now is lack of awareness because the people are not well informed about this development. The reason is that when the new policy on the removal of N100 ATM charge was introduced, banks did not implement it immediately. For instance, the same week the announcement was made, I did a transaction at the Zenith Bank ATM located at Murtala Mohammed Airport , Terminal 2 (MMA2), and N100 was removed from my account. So, now that banks are beginning to comply with this directive, there is the need for the appropriate authorities to enlighten the masses”.
Some financial analysts stressed the need for the apex bank to ensure a balance in the financial system, saying that, before the reforms, over 60 per cent deposits were concentrated in few banks, while most banks had nothing doing.
The CBN and Bankers Committee had, in November 2012, agreed to abolish all charges associated with the use of ATMs in the country. The initiative was to increase patronage of ATMs, thus deepening the financial inclusion strategy of the apex bank.
The policy was introduced after a meeting between the Committee, made up of chief executive officers of commercial banks, directors and top officials of the CBN. At the end of the meeting, the Director, Banking Supervision Department, CBN, Mrs. Agnes Martins, in company of the Group Managing Director, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, Mr. Emeka Emuwa, Group Managing Director, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Mr. Bisi Onasanya and Managing Director, Keystone Bank Limited, Dr. Shehu Muhammed, explained that the decision came in the nick of time for banks to give something back to their customers.
Onasanya said, “We have decided to stop charges for usage of ATMs. Currently, when you use the ATM for a bank other than your bank, there is a charge of N100, which is borne by the account holder. We will work out the modalities to ensure that with immediate effect, we will pass on these costs to the respective banks. We will bear the cost of providing these services, so that no matter where you are withdrawing your money from, you will not be subjected to any charge for using the ATMs.”