Stakeholders Call for Regulator’s Intervention As Consumer Complaints Rise | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Stakeholders Call for Regulator’s Intervention As Consumer Complaints Rise

Posted: Mar 23, 2016 at 8:09 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Ikechi Nzeako and Olamide Bakare, Lagos

The World Consumers’ Right Day has come and gone but the recently held consumer forum in Lagos offered an opportunity to discuss various issues which every consumer is daily confronted with while doing business with the banks in the country.

Speaker after speaker, who took turn to comment on how banks have been ripping innocent customers off their hard earned money, expressed their frustration and disapproval of the situation.

At the forum which was the fourth edition in a series being held by the Brand Journalists Association of Nigeria (BJAN), president of the association, Goddie Ofose, while giving his welcome remark, noted that the choice of the theme, “Banking in Nigeria: Developments Customers’ Challenges,” was relevant, apt and timely in view of the numerous complaints emanating from consumers both in the country and abroad.

Ofose noted that the essence of the forum was to draw the attention of stakeholders to the plight of consumers, stressing that there was need to address the problems. While calling the Central Bank of Nigeria to act, he emphasised the need for the regulatory body to act in the interest of consumers.

On his part, the guest speaker on the occasion, who also doubles as managing director of a leading public relations firm, Tokunbo Modupe, while taking the gathering down memory lane on what constituted a major impediment to modern banking in Nigeria, said the fact that the system was largely dominated by foreigners at inception led to difficulties encountered by Nigerians in securing loans, stressing that the situation forced many consumers to own stake in the banks. He said that even though the indigenously owned banks could not survive due to mismanagement, lack of regulation, Modupe, noted that the problem associated with loss of confidence on the part of consumers with banks emanated from that failure.

While commending the effort of some Nigerians who came to rescue the situation at that time, Modupe stated that the introduction of regulation as espoused by CBN contributed significantly to stabilize the system.

Speaking further on the challenges which the banking system had to confront with, Modupe explained that the decision by government at both state and federal levels to own and run banks impeded growth as activities in the system fell short of professionalism as obtained elsewhere.

According to him, many of the banks are subject to a lot of political considerations which led to erosion of confidence. Modupe who admitted that the reform which took place in the banking system helped a great deal in stabilizing the economy particularly when the economy was in distress, however, pointed out that bank customers were made to bear the brunt with many of them expressing dissatisfaction with the banking industry. According to him, it was a period when all sort of charges were introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria, a development many consumers consider as violation of their right.

Modupe, who bemoaned the excessive charges that include management fees, processing fees, interest charges, commission on turnover, card maintenance fees, account maintenance fees, deposit, withdrawal and transfer telephone alert fees, and ATM fees being slammed on Nigerians, said the CBN needs to step in and provide proper explanation on some of the charges to prevent a reversal of fortune for the banking industry

Modupe was of the opinion that if the excessive charges were not addressed, it might in the long run hamper the gains recorded in various reforms embarked upon by banks

 Speaking on the issue of price fixing cartel in the banking industry, which she called the Bankers, Committee, Sola Salako, president, Consumer Advocacy Forum of Nigeria, stated that the absence of competition law had allowed so many issues affecting the consumer to fester..

“It is because Nigeria does not have a competition law. We are on the verge of pushing for one after passing four assemblies. If we have a competition law, it would not allow the banking committee to exist. There are many banks who can give services to you at cheaper rates but they are not allowed to pass that cheaper rate to their consumers because CBN already put a benchmark on what they should charge for that thing”.

Speaking on the issue of multiple charges by banks, managing director, 141 Worldwide, Bunmi Oke, said consumers must understand that they need to be open minded in their approach to solving issues with their banks. She explained that having problems with banks must not be seen as an avenue to engage in any ‘confrontation’ with the banks. She reminded the audience that the essence of the consumer right day was to enlighten consumers on their rights, stating that they also have an obligation to fulfil to the banks. According to her, consumers should understand their rights while at the same time be prepared to fulfil their own side of the obligation to the banks.