CBN Goes One More Mile To Lure The Unbanked

ABUJA: There are about 167 million in the country. At least the number of adults will be well over 80 million. But very few Nigerians have bank accounts, particularly in the rural areas.

Many Nigerians see banking as an elitist thing, while others with very low income are discouraged by bank charges.

A new survey has revealed that 56.3 million adults, representing 64.1 per cent of the adult population, do not have bank accounts.

The survey carried out by Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access, an independent financial sector development organisation, showed that only 28.6 million people, representing 32.5 per cent of adult population have bank accounts.

CBN Goes One More Mile To Lure The UnbankedThe 2012 report, titled, ‘EFInA Access to Financial Services in Nigeria 2012 Survey,’ made available to our correspondent on Friday, showed that “62.6 per cent of adult males are unbanked while 72.8 per cent of adult females are unbanked.”

It also said 76.2 per cent of the rural population had no bank accounts.

According to the Chief Executive Officer, EfINA, Ms. Modupe Ladipo, the banked group refers to people that currently have access to or use a deposit money bank, in addition to having any of these products – ATM card, credit card, savings account, current account, fixed deposit account, mortgage, overdraft, loan, and Islamic banking product.

Of the total adult population, 4.6 million adults, representing 5.2 per cent of the adult population, have a microfinance bank account.

Unknown to many people, it was perhaps for the purpose of inclusion that made the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to come out with the idea of reducing the burden banks have put on hapless Nigerians.

The central bank was somehow however able to convince the leadership of the banks – Bankers Committee to agree with it on reducing charges heaped on banks’ customers. The apex bank asked banks to reduce the Cost of Transactions (COT) from N5 per N1,000 to N3 per N1,000 and remove the N100 charge on every ATM transactions.

Grudgingly, the banks have accepted to forget the illicit N100 charged on the use of ATMs. But they are yet to comply with the reduction on COT, it is hoped that the central bank will still find a way of whipping the ‘naughty’ banks into line.

Toyin, a driver with one of the companies in Lagos wondered why the banks will not consider a poor man like himself who sometimes wish to collect N1,000 through the ATM and not charge him N100.

But today, Toyin is very appreciative of what the apex bank has convinced the Bankers’ Committee to adopt.

Bose, a house cleaner who is paid between N2,000 and N3,000 per compound a month said, sometimes, before the central bank intervention on ATM charges, she just wish to collect N500 with her ATM, but whenever she thought about the N100 charges, she just wish she never kept her little money in a bank.

Much more people will be relieved if the banks agree with the apex bank on the need to reduce COT.

The central bank had ordered banks to remove the N100 ATM charge when users of other banks use their ATMs in order to encourage the use of ATMs.

The decision was taken at the end of a meeting in Abuja between the CBN and the Bankers Committee. The Group Managing Director, First Bank Plc, Mr. Bisi Onasanya had told newsmen that the charge as well as others associated with the use of ATMs would be scrapped soon.

But then it took weeks before they reluctantly agreed.

As a follow up, the central bank said it is considering adopting a template of fines and other sanctions against any bank found to have made illegal deductions or charges on customers’ accounts without evidence of commensurate justification in service quality.

The apex bank is not happy, saying it has been inundated with complaints by customers over diverse charges not related to services rendered.

According to the apex bank, it had already set up a Consumer Protection Department to deal with issues relating to customers’ complaints from their dealings with banks.

The Chief Operating Officer of Sterling Bank, Yemi Adeola, at the end of the Bankers Committee meeting, had said that the special department which is to take care of consumer protection is a demonstration of the committee’s commitment to ensure that the consumer derives the maximum benefit from banks.

Noting that the incidences of multiple charges by banks have become a great source of concern to the apex bank, Mr. Adeola urged consumers to lodge their complaints to the Consumer Protection Department for thorough investigations and punishment of any bank found culpable.

“The CBN will not take lightly to issues of overcharging of customers by banks and that is why we have issued several exposure drafts and one of them is the guide to banking charges. This is a contract between banks and their customers,” he said.

“It will detail the charges the bank intends to make on the customers so that they will be aware before hand and also to avoid unnecessary charges that are not in the contract.”

Because of high charges and other sundry reasons, a report said, many adult Nigerians keep their monies at home, a big lure to the ever increasing armed robbers.

No fewer than 23.8 million Nigerian adults currently keep their money at home because they don’t have bank accounts.

A survey by Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access, a Nigeria-based financial sector development organisation, revealed that 52.8 million out of the country’s adult population saved money regularly. But the survey showed that only 20.5 million of the 52.8 million were doing so in banks.

This confirms experts’ opinion that there are about 22 million bank accounts in the country.

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