By Rose Moses
If there is any set of consumers/customers in the world so roundly exploited and with little or no protection from any agency of government or non-government organisations, it would not be out of place to name Nigerians on the list.
Be it in area of electricity supply or roads, telecommunications, transportation, housing amongst others; ordinary folks are raped, daily, and made to pay for services not or shoddily rendered.
Some Nigerians, as a matter of fact, who may have spent the better part of their productive years working for a company, are sometimes booted out with little or no compensation for their years of service. They are denied their entitlements.
In fact, it is now trendy for some state governments or private companies to negotiate payment of salaries or entitlements to staff members for as low as 25 per cent of what is actually being owed. What a country!
And the banks, yes, the banks will be dealing the people some other ‘hidden’ blows, in addition, such that by the time one realises what may be going on with one’s little deposits, the banks may have shaved one almost clean.
What has come to be known as hidden charges, to me, is simply a way of ‘stealing’ from depositors.
And the banks have perfected this act so well that when you think you have pulled yourself out from one such exploitation, some other deductions are likely being made on your account you may not be aware of.
And so, on this cold, dusty day in the month of December last year, I got a credit alert notifying me of an interest accruing to my Savings Account for the month.
As little as it was, the notification somewhat triggered something in my consciousness. I immediately realized I had not received such alert the past six months, or so. When I contacted the bank as a result, the discovery was as shocking as it was annoying.
The bank actually confirmed that I had not been credited any interest for long not because I didn’t have enough deposit but because I was making more than four withdrawals on a Savings Account per month.
Confused but patient, I asked what withdrawal in this instance meant and was told it included both withdrawals made in the banking hall, at ATM machines or payment of goods and services using POS, no matter the amount involved. It didn’t really matter if one also made any deposits within the period, neither does the amount in the account at the end of the month make any difference, I also gathered.
Now, if this is not corruption, what is? How on earth will a bank that issues one an ATM card for a fee, perhaps also deducting charges for maintenance of the card, as well as encouraging use of it to pay all manner of bills, limits one to four purchases/withdrawals in a month?
Why should a savings account that does not look, nor sound like a fixed deposit, be denied interest rates simply because one made over four withdrawals in a month?
Even if the interest accrued is just N5, 000, or less, simply do the Maths and you will realize the huge amount these banks must be milking from millions of customers, most of who are not even aware of this policy, either by individual banks or as sanctioned by the apex bank, the CBN.
Any wonder why banks would be declaring huge dividends even in a very gloomy economy?
And the Treasury Single Account (TSA), which has pushed most deposit financial institutions towards aggressive retail marketing, has not helped matters.
If banking legislation is to primarily promote prudence and public trust in management of depositor’s funds in a way that maximizes his/her interests, depriving depositors of such benefit would amount to betrayal of trust by the banks as custodians of public deposits.
Interest rates are prices banks or borrowers of funds must pay to motivate surplus economic units to save some of their cash balances, a financial expert, Marius Emeka Adimmadu, who is also a professor in Evolutionary Economics, at the African Centre for Public Policy and Economic Studies (ACEPS), confirmed to me.
Any policy that impedes these returns under any guise obviously dampens the spirit to save surplus cash balances. And that spells some kind of doom for any economy.
Which is why the whole idea of TSA calls for caution. If banks mostly increase their deposit liabilities through an attractive offer of rates of interests or returns of savings, there’s no doubt that introduction of the TSA is affecting this policy negatively for them.
Nonetheless, savings potentials in any economy is largely influenced by ability of the system to adequately compensate savers for sacrificing a proportion of their current earnings in form of savings deposits through positive rate of return or interest on their cash balances.
Anything to the contrary, TSA notwithstanding, has the tendency of triggering considerable long-run damaging consequences on investment and loan volume.
A savings account holder deserves interest on available deposit at the end of the month.
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