…lawmakers seek repatriation of $458m from US
John Ameh, Abuja
The House of Representatives on Thursday directed the Central Bank of Nigeria to immediately stop the “abuse” of the Automated Teller Machine withdrawal charges by commercial banks.
It also condemned their “other increasing arbitrary charges”, which the House said had placed huge financial losses on depositors.
The House blamed such “fraudulent practices” by commercial banks on the failure of the CBN to perform its regulatory duties.
A member from Kogi State, Mr. Tajudeen Yusuf, moved a motion on how banks had abused the N65 ATM charge customers paid after the third withdrawal from platforms other than those of their banks.
He informed the House that many banks were charging customers for every withdrawal as against the CBN’s rule that the N65 should apply after the third withdrawal.
He argued that banks were “defrauding Nigerians through these illegal and indiscriminate charges”.
Yusuf said, “This is happening and the CBN, the regulator, is looking the other way, while customers are losing money. The N65 may look small, but when you multiply it by the millions of bank customers we have in this country, then, you will understand what they are losing to the banks.
“There are 80 million bank customers in Nigeria and about half of them use the ATM. The CBN must enforce its regulation.”
A member from Kano State, Mr. Aminu Suleiman, asked the CBN to investigate the matter and ensure that fraudulent deductions were returned to customers.
“The N65 deduction seems to be ordinary, but when you make frequent withdrawals, you will realise that it is no longer ordinary. The worry is that the CBN is not doing anything about it. Banks must be made to refund every fraudulent deduction,” Suleiman added.
Another member, Mr. Israel Ajibola told the House that the aim of deploying the ATMs for ease of withdrawals had been defeated by the actions of some banks.
He cited a case of banks that programmed their ATMs not to dispense more than N10,000.
“This means that for a customer who wants to withdraw N50,000, for instance, he must withdraw N10,000 in five places. He pays N65 in multiple charges, which is a clear breach of regulation,” Ajibola stated.
One member, Mr. Uzoma Nkem-Abonta urged the House to summon the Governor of the CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, to explain why it was difficult for the central bank to regulate the banks.
“Lack of monitoring by the CBN is the problem. Let us summon the CBN governor,” he said.
Mr. Nnana Igbokwe noted that there were “several other fraudulent charges” the banks placed on depositors, which the CBN condoned, adding that “the undue ATM deductions and other related charges must stop.”
The House, which was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, directed its Committee on Banking and Currency to submit a report on the matter within one week.
The House also passed a resolution seeking the repatriation of $458m said to have been “looted” from Nigeria and held in forfeited assets in the United States.
One other member, Mr. Johnson Agbonayinma, who moved a motion on the subject, recalled how the US State Department began an asset recovery initiative in 2013 to confiscate “$550m that had been corruptly obtained”.
He said, “A portion of that loot, valued at $458m, which belongs to the people of Nigeria, has now been forfeited to the US by a judgment of the District Court for the District of Columbia.”
However, some members called for caution, saying that the issue should first be properly investigated.
The House directed its Committee on Justice to meet with the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation to discuss the matter and seek ways of opening discussions with the US authorities