By Maria Famakinwa
Saving money is one of the essential aspects of building wealth and having a secure financial future. Saving money gives you a way out of the uncertainties of life and provides you with an opportunity to enjoy a quality life. Putting aside a sum of money in a systematic manner can help you steer out of many hurdles and obstacles in life. It can support you in your hour of need and ensure that your family has something to fall back on in case of an unfortunate event. The many advantages of saving resonates well with most Nigerians and keep their money in different commercial banks for unforeseen circumstances. However, things are taking another turn as most bank customers in Nigeria are accusing the banks of illegal deductions.
Of recent, a growing number of bank customers in Nigeria are lamenting over what they described as excessive charges on their transactions. Their concerns range from excessive deduction of bank charges for card maintenance and electronic payments to SMS alert charges and VAT, among others. They complained that even when they didn’t use the account for months, they still charged them for SMS and other frivolities. The bank customers are raising eyebrows over the indiscriminate and unexplained deductions from their accounts by various banks as they called on the apex bank to wade into the exploitative tendency of commercial banks. Some of them who spoke with The Hope relayed their experienced.
A bank customer Mrs Juliana Omolebi, who described the idea of deducting from customers’ accounts as exploitative said that she could not fathom why customers had to lose their money for choosing to save in banks. “From SMS alert charges to charges on automated teller machine and online transfers, to account maintenance charge and other charges that I don’t understand, all to make abnormal profits from customers’ accounts.
“Saving gives one a way out of the uncertainties of life and provides you with an opportunity to enjoy a quality life. But this is being defeated by continuous deductions of customers’ money kept in the bank. At times, one is charged for unsolicited messages received. I discovered last year that my bank was deducting N150 aside other deductions from my account every month. I went there to complain and I was told that I subscribed to a particular caller tune which I never did. I told them that I was not interested in the caller tune. Instead of finding a way to solve the problem, I was directed to my network provider. Even after assuring me that they would not deduct my money again, they still continued until I threatened to report them to the Central Bank. All these unreasonable charges should stop. Every customer by right should know why any amount is being deducted from his/her accounts. The new administration in the country should please look into this.”
Another bank customer, a student, Mr Joe Idenu, said that it was frustrating that his bank deducted from his monthly pocket money and added that he could not fathom why he had to lose his money for choosing to save in banks. From SMS alert charges, to charges on automated teller machine and online transfers, to account maintenance charge, and VAT on account maintenance charge, commercial banks in the country have developed “multiple streams of income” in ripping off their customers.
“Why should banks who encourage people to save money be deducting the money saved? For me, as a student, these unreasonable charges are insane. How do you want me to survive? I’m considering closing my account and God help them they put me through trouble when I want to close it, that is when they will know the agony they have been putting me through. Some of my friends are having similar experiences and are also ready to close down their accounts. We keep money in banks for safety but I don’t think it is secure any longer,” he said.
A tiler, Mr Olusola Lasisi, said, “The risk of keeping money in the shop or in the house is the reason I go to the bank. Otherwise, there is nothing they offer that is spectacular. I get monthly deductions by way of account maintenance charge. Then, they send another notification that they have deducted VAT on account maintenance charge.
“Please, what is it that they are maintaining in my account? Does my money require any maintenance? I just don’t understand. I used to ignore the amounts deducted, but I have recently developed interest in knowing what happens to my account. Apart from the maintenance charges, they also deduct SMS alert charges and others that I can’t remember very well. When I confronted them recently, they said it was because I was withdrawing more than three times from my account. I was mad. I felt like, ‘Is it not my money? Who are you to dictate how I spend my money?’ I was so mad that day that I felt I should close my bank account, but where else would I keep it? My experience as a bank customer is discouraging me from saving. I wish I had an alternative.”
The experience of Mrs, Bosede Babalola, a trader, was not different from others. The woman who said that they sent money to her during the naira redesign policy without receiving the money disclosed that it took her up to a month before the issue could be resolved.
Her words: “My experience with my bank during the naira redesign policy was very bad and stressful. Someone sent money to me in February and I was not alerted, neither did my bank send a message to that effect. I went there to complain and was told that the problem was from the person who sent it to me. The person went to his bank and was directed to tell me to go to my bank. I went to my bank the second time and they said that there was nothing they could do. I didn’t get the money until a month after. It was so frustrating and agonizing that I concluded to close my bank account which I will do anytime soon.
“Regarding bank deductions, I usually notice unexplained deductions from my savings account whenever I carry out a transaction. Sometimes, when I recharge my phone through the bank app, I notice certain charges which were not explained. At times, they debit you and fail to credit your phone with the airtime purchased, and they hardly ever refund your money until you call their customer service desk or even visit the bank to resolve the transaction. A lot of bank customers don’t bother to go to their banks to find out about some deductions because they are busy. This is what commercial banks are capitalizing upon. Though the money may be small, by the time they deduct N50 from each customer on a daily basis, multiply it with the number of customers, you will realize that they are making huge profits from their customers. We are appealing to President Bola Tinubu to make a law against illegal deductions from customers’ bank accounts,” she said.
Meanwhile, a banker who spoke on the condition of anonymity advised customers who are not clear about any deduction in their accounts to approach their banks for better clarification. “It is normal for customers to complain, but they should understand that they are to pay for any service the bank renders. However, it is advisable for any aggrieved customer to visit the bank for better explanation.”