·CBN compels refund of N6.2bn to customers
Nigerians are crying fraud over the activities of commercial banks which haveresorted to deducting N50 Stamp Duty on every financial transaction, including those they are not authorized to make such deductions on.
Investigations by The AUTHORITY on Sunday revealed that several bank customers across the country are groaning and bitterly complaining against such spurious deductions, under the guise of Stamp Duty charges.
Although the regulatory body, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has ordered defaulting commercial banks to refund a total of N6.2 billion to customers, we gathered that the refund has nothing to do with Stamp Duty complaints.
It would be recalled that as part of recent efforts by the federal government to boost the non-oil revenue base, the CBN via a circular dated 15th January, 2016, directed all deposit money banks (DMBs) and financial institutions to collect N50 on all receipts issued in acknowledgement of bank transactions on electronic transfers and teller deposits from N1,000 and above. The directive took immediate effect.
By the circular, the CBN instructed all DMBs to open an account which will be designated as NIPOST Stamp Duties Account into which all the stamp duties collected from their customers will be paid.
The DMBs will in turn transfer the collected charges on a monthly basis to the CBN. Other financial institutions were directed to remit their stamp duties collected to any DMB of their choice.
However, the CBN circular exempted the imposition of stamp duties on certain receipts: money transfer from self-to-self, whether inter or intra-bank (i.e. transfers between accounts held by the same person); withdrawals or transfers from savings accounts and also, same as it pertains salary account.
The imposition of the stamp duty, according to The AUTHORITY on Sunday findings, was based on section 89(2) of the Stamp Duty Act which makes it mandatory for all receipts to be stamped and evidence of such stamping to be denoted by an adhesive postage stamp.
But, section 5(2) of the SDA stated that where adhesive stamps could not be used to denote the payment of duty, postage stamps may be utilised for that purpose, forming the legal basis for the imposition of the N50 stamp duty on transactions above N1,000 as the Nigerian Postal Service Act empowers NIPOST to prescribe the amount of postage stamps.
However, our findings have revealed that not only do banks impose Stamp Duty on customers arbitrarily, they even tax them on multiple bases and there is no evidence that the banks remit all the deductions they make to the CBN.
Our correspondents discovered that almost all the banks, impose such duty on customers for both deposit and withdrawals, irrespective of the type of account maintained in the bank, including students’ savings accounts, introduced by the banks to encourage savings culture by the young ones while they are in school.
It was also discovered that civil servants are complaining bitterly over the issue because, not only were they charged for their salary deposit, they were also charged each time they withdrew from or deposited money into such account, which was not part of the CBN directive.
“This bank (names withheld) even send messages to their customers several times for a single transaction and none of the affected customers have been able to ascertain why such withdrawals were made or any attempt made to resolve complaints such people raised with their deposit bank branches,” according to Chief Joe Okeke, an Abuja resident.
Adegboye Omolara, one of the bank depositors who use Automated Teller Machine (ATM) card, said customers like her were worse off.
“With banks pegging maximum withdrawal from ATM at N20,000 and in some instances N10,000, we are constrained to pay severally, the N50 Stamp Duty, depending on the number of times customers make withdrawal and at times, the banks even charge us for transactions not made.
“They would also not allow us use the banking halls to withdraw money that is less than N100,000. When they do so, they will charge you N200 and then, add N50 stamp duty on top of it.
“I even want to tell you that some banks back-dated charges collected from my bank deposit, through sms, showing that I was charged for transactions made sometime early in December, last year, before the CBN directive took effect”, she lamented.
Further findings by our correspondents have revealed that the Consumer Protection Commission (CPC) is aware of complaints by bank customers which made the commission to take the CBN to task over the issue.
But at the time of filing this report, there has not been any tangible response from the apex bank nor resolution of any of the complaints.
The Deputy Director, Public Relations at the CPC, Mr. Abiodun Obimuyiwa, acknowledged receipt of complaints on this issue.
He explained that CPC had written to the CBN since January for explanations in order to address the numerous complaints from bank users, but is yet to get a feedback.
“The apex bank is yet to respond to the letter titled ‘Consumer Complaints on Multiple Charges for Electronic Card Usage’”.
•N6.2 billion Refund to Customers
Following complaints of arbitrary multiple illegal charges by DMBs against bank customers, the CBN yesterday announced that it had surcharged banks found guilty of the infraction in 2015, over N6.2 billion.
It explained that the amount surcharged was refunded to bank customers after thorough investigation of over 6,000 of such complaints brought to its notice in 2015 alone.
The apex bank warned that it does not condone any form of fleecing of banking customers under any guise and urged the public to take advantage of its established Customer Protection Department by channeling all forms complaints through the Director.
In a statement yesterday, endorsed by the CBN Director, Corporate Communications, Ibrahim Mu’ azu, the apex bank said it “has received series of complaints from customers of Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) alleging excessive and in some cases illegal charges from their respective banks.
“The Revised Guide to Bank Charges clearly specifies allowable charges for all banking services and the CBN does not in any way condone the fleecing of banking customers under any guise.
“It was in the quest to provide a strong voice to banks’ customers and moderate the arbitrary charges that the CBN in 2012, established its Consumer Protection Department.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the CBN has investigated over 6,000 complaints relating to unauthorized bank charges brought to its notice, following which banks have been compelled to refund the sum of over N6.2 billion to affected customers in 2015 alone.
“The CBN wishes to reiterate its resolve to continuously enforce the provision of the Revised Guide to Bank Charges and urges members of the public to report cases of infringement to enable it investigate and apply sanctions on any erring Deposit Money Bank (DMB).
“Bank customers are reminded to always forward there complaints to: Director, Consumer Protection Department; email: cpd@cbn. gov.ng”.
On its part, the President of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Bobboi Bala Kaigama, also complained that although workers support government to implement revenue-generating policies, they should not be to the detriment of workers.
He said, “yes, as a result of the fall in oil revenue, we have agreed to support them by agreeing with the stamp duty to enable them to deliver their campaign promises. “Nigerians are all out to support them. And we are watching how our money is being spent, and by the end of the year we will evaluate their performance.
“The stamp due was actually the policy and we have to watch and given them the opportunity to prove themselves right or wrong.
“Though there is scarcity of funds and government is highly interested in making money, what we are saying that in as much as they want to collect revenues, it shouldn’t be to the detriment of Nigerians.
“It should be done in such way that the collection must be justified. So we are looking onto government to deliver the dividends of democracy instead of making things harder for the citizens”.