News Column

ATM Fees Re-Introduction - Matters Arising

August 18, 2014

Sunday Michael Ogwu and Haruna Gimba Yaya

Reactions have continued to trail the reintroduction by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) of payment for any remote-on-us withdrawal on the Automatic Teller Machines (ATM).

The CBN had in November 2012 abolished the N100 charges for any remote-on-us withdrawal by a banking customer in the country. The remote-on-us is when you, as a card holder, go to the ATM of a bank other than your bank to withdraw cash.

But the apex bank, last week, reintroduced a scaled down fees of N65 for remote-on-us withdrawal.

Speaking, Mr Vincent Dauda regretted the policy summersault of the CBN, saying: "I used to have very high regards for the CBN but recently I have had reasons to suspect that they are no longer thorough with their fiscal policy responsibility.

"Firstly, they asked banks to withdraw ATM from public locations and they complied, shortly after, they said the banks can now deploy, then they stopped what we felt was an exorbitant charge, then it is reintroduced. What does this suggest? Failure of feasibility study by the CBN, period."

Mr Ken Okoaha, President of National Association of Nigeria Traders, in his reaction, said: "As far as traders are concerned, this is a reverse gear on the cashless drive of the CBN. We though the current situation should prevail until such a time when we generally embrace cashless policy."

An aggregate of the people who spoke to Daily Trust felt that the fees charged for the ATM remote-on-us usage should be further reduced to between N35 to N50 while others argue that the fees should be disproportionate in line with the amount withdrawn by the customer.

In Kano, many customers of money deposit banks were infuriated by the reintroduction of the withdrawal fee.

The apex bank had in a circular to the banks stated that the reintroduction of remote-on-us ATM cash withdrawal would now be N65 per transaction, against the former N100 per transaction, suspended in December 2012.

Some customers who spoke to Daily Trust condemned the policy, describing it as anti-people and shows lack of foresight.

A lecturer with the Department of Mass Communication, Malam Muhammad Ibrahim Danja, said the reintroduction of the charges was a policy summersault by the government.

"This will show you that there is policy inconsistencies in the country, the same set of people that sat down and agreed that the policy should be suspended are now reintroducing it just because the head of the organisation was changed.

"We cannot make progress if there is no continuity in our programmes and policies. For instance, not long ago, they launched the cashless policy nationwide, now they are introducing other charges on ATM, this is to show you these people don't have foresight when introducing such policies."

Aisar Salihu Musa, a customer with one of the commercial banks said: "It is not a welcome development to the masses. I think it is only in Nigeria this kind of zigzag policy is happening. How on earth will a government introduce a policy to protect and reduce the sufferings of its people and then later, after a change of one person in the CBN, the same set of people that agreed on that policy will now reverse the policy?

"What benefit will they get in making the people to suffer, why are our leaders not analysing situations before they introduce harsh economic policies that always make people lose confidence in them and how can the reintroduction of that policy strengthen our economy?"

For Abeedu Yunusa, a public affairs analyst, the policy is draconian and unpopular.

"The restoration of the ATM charges by the CBN though reduced to N65 is quite draconian. It is the second unpopular policy introduced by Godwin Emefiele-led CBN after the so-called reforms in the Bureau de Change which was described by a number of public commentators as discriminatory. Both policies were greeted with nationwide disapproval and condemnation but the apex bank doesn't seem to care."

In a frantic effort to defend the policy somersault, the Director, Banking and Payments System Department of CBN, Mr. Dipo Fatokun, said: "You have to agree with me that when the amendment was made in November 2012, it used to be a N100 for any remote-on-us withdrawal that you did. But the truth is that as we said in the circular on the Introduction of Fees on Remote-On-Us ATM Withdrawal Transactions recently, that N100 included the N35 that goes to the issuing bank, which has now been completely waived.

"The issuing bank does not make any thing, but in going to other ATMs to make withdrawal, your bank, that is, the acquirer bank, incurs cost of N65 which they pay to the switches and the owner of the ATM that you are using. It was removed then so that people would be encouraged to go to other ATMs without paying for it."

A senior banking executive who also spoke to our reporter on the condition of anonymity said: "What the CBN action connotes is a failure of consultation with the banks they are supposed to regulate. If there were consultations, they would have known that outright removal was suicidal. As a bank, you would provide for a safe house for the ATM, support with a power generating machine, run cash management expense, provide staff support for these ATM as well as service and keep the machine functional at no benefit to the service provider? That is not practicable."

Fatokun argued: "Between 2012 and recently when the review was done, it was discovered that people have actually turned ATMs into their personal purses because nothing is charged. Somebody needs N500 or N1, 000, he will go to ATM and withdraw, he needs N2, 000, he will go to ATM and withdraw, so that in a day some people can patronise ATM for up to 4 or ten times. That has created a huge cost burden for the banks that issue the cards and it was becoming discouraging to them.

"So that is why we said, you can go to an ATM other than your bank's ATM to withdraw up to three times and no charges would be imposed on you, but it is when you make the fourth withdrawal that you will pay the N65 that ordinarily your bank would have paid on your behalf. But, of course, if you go to your bank's ATM, the issuer, for withdrawal you can withdraw as many times as you like without being charged. So, it does not discourage financial inclusion."

The fee re-introduced, according to CBN, was meant to cover remuneration of switches, ATM monitoring and fit-notes processing.

The commencement of the charge will discourage customers from transacting with another bank's ATM port which can have negative impact on the business.

"With the introduction of the cashless policy, the ATM terminal has the highest number of usage compared with other terminals which makes it easier for a customer to transact business due to the low level of literacy in the country.

But the review of the fee will bring about stiff financial system in the banking industry which can pose a threat to the economy.

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Source: AllAfrica

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