Bank Charges & Recent Regulatory Guidelines

Introduction
Allegations of arbitrary, unauthorised and unfair trade practices in the financial services industry continue to be a matter of much contention and acrimony. Also rife are reports of the imposition of charges that are not transparent and communicated in advance to customers. These incidents and the hedged perception of the formal financial services industry have increased the number of people who avoid this industry wherever possible.

To bring some clarity regarding the applicable banking terms, increase transparency and competition, and align the financial services charges with the current economic realities, the Central Bank of Nigeria (“CBN”) in furtherance of its powers under the CBN Act (as amended) and the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act (as amended) (“BOFIA”), recently on 21 April 2017, published a Circular which serves to guide all Banks and Other Financial Institutions (“BOFI”) on the permissible parameters for imposing charges for the Services that these Institutions render to their customers.

Licenced BOFI that the above Circular applies to include Banks, Micro-finance Banks, Primary Mortgage Institutions, Finance Companies, Mobile Phone Operators, etc.

2017 CBN Guide on Financial Charges
The effective take-off date of the 2017 CBN Guide on Financial Charges is 1st May 2017. The 2017 CBN Guide on the charges approved for financial services rendered is however not exhaustive as all new products and services not covered in the Guide, require the prior written approval of the CBN, before such new charges are introduced and implemented.

Interest rates on deposits – Current Accounts, Term Deposits, Domiciliary Accounts, and Collateral Deposits – and lending rates are now mostly negotiable between the BOFI and their Customers. For Savings Accounts balances, the minimum CBN approved interest rate is 30 M.P.R (Monetary Policy Rate) per annum subject to the Customer not making more than four (4) withdrawals in each month.

For foreign exchange (“Forex”) transaction commissions and charges, regular CBN communication on the applicable rates or charges are to apply. Domiciliary Accounts withdrawals now attract a charge of 0.05% of the transaction value or $10 or whichever of the latter two is lower.

Financial Institutions are also now mandatorily required to notify their Customers, at least ten (10) working days in advance, of any changes to any pre-agreed or existing interest rate and charges. This requirement compliments the existing BOFI display of their daily interest and foreign exchange rates, at all their offices and branches.

Current Account Maintenance Fees (“CAMF”) now only apply to Customers induced debit transactions on current accounts. CAMF does not apply to Savings Account transactions. CAMF are negotiable subject to a maximum of N1 per mille.

Monthly Statements of Account are also now required to be delivered to all Customers of Financial Services, at no charge. Where a Customer however makes a special request for a bank statement, outside of the free mandatory monthly statement, the charge shall not exceed N20 (Twenty Naira) for each page of such Statement of Account.

Monthly Card Maintenance Fee for Naira Denominated Cards is N50 (Fifty Naira). N65 is charged for all ATM withdraws from third party ATMs that are not managed by the Customer’s financial institution.

CBN Consumer Protection Protocol
The CBN has a Consumer Complaints Department where complaints against licenced Financial Institutions, regulated by the CBN, can be lodged. The first line to lodging a formal written complaint against any Financial Institution is with the Financial Institution itself. Most Financial Institutions are required to have a Help Desk for the speedy resolution of all Customers’ complaints.

Where a Customer’s Complaint’s is not resolved after two (2) weeks of the lodgment of such a complaint with the Financial Institution concerned, the Customer can escalate the complaint to the CBN Consumer Protection Department for resolution.

Contractual Relationship – Customers & BOFI
The underlying basis for any Banker/Customer relationship is always contractual in nature. Where any charge or interest rate however contravenes the existing CBN Circular regulating interest rates and or charges, the Courts have consistently held that the CBN Guidelines regulating interest rates and charges shall prevail and be applied.

Where a dispute over charges or interest rates results in a litigation, the onus is always on the Customer to prove that the charge or interest rate imposed on the Customer by the Financial Institution is in contravention of the existing CBN Guideline Circular, applicable at the time the charge or interest rate was imposed. This is especially as charges and interest rates are not static.

N50 Stamp Duty Charge on Deposits
Based on a 2009 Gazette on Financial Regulations, and Circulars issued subsequently by the CBN, Financial Institutions now charge a N50 (Fifty Naira) stamp duties charge on all deposits made to current and savings accounts. This is despite a 2016 Court of Appeal decision in the matter of Standard Chartered Bank Limited v. Kasmal International Services Limited where it was held that based on the provisions of the Stamp Duties Act, there is no provision authorising the deduction and remittance of this N50 stamp duty on deposits. This appeal against the decision of the Federal High Court on the same subject was upheld.

We do not currently have any information about a stay of execution of the above mentioned decision of the Court of Appeal; or of a further appeal to the Supreme Court.

Conclusion
Concerns over Financial Services Charges and Interest Rates, especially those charged by Banks, will remain a global problem for a long time. Customers will need to increase their financial education by ensuring that they diligently review all transaction documents, especially before executing such documents; and ask questions when in doubt from as many qualified sources as possible. Regularly reviewing monthly financial statements, emails and text messages; and contacting your Financial Institution when in doubt is a more proactive preventative measure.

Financial Institutions must also respect and elevate the quality of the Customer Service that they provide to Customers by among other things, training their front-end employees to be more courteous and knowledgeable about the offerings or services rendered by the Financial Institutions.

Compulsory Regulatory financial education of the members of the public, about the benefits of using Financial Institutions, needs to be a continuous exercise. Infractions and fines should be more prominently published to serve as a deterrent to the offending BOFI, and to protecting the general economy.

Senate seeks CBN’s intervention to curb soaring lending rate

By Adewale Sanyaolu

The Senate on Tuesday urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to intervene to save the economy from rising borrowing costs that are not compatible with the Federal Government’s effort to enhance business transactions.
The advice comes as the CBN, the regulatory authority, has continued to insist it cannot reduce interest rate in the country, currently at between 25 and 30 per cent, to avoid worsening the inflationary pressure on the economy.
The banking sector regulator had reenforced its position at the last Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting in Abuja where it left the benchmark lending rate, Monetary Policy Rate (MPR), unchanged for the 7th successive time at 14 per cent.
But at the round-table between the Senate and interest groups in the country’s financial and business sectors in Abuja on Tuesday, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, frowned at the decision to keep lending rate unchanged, saying it was stifling businesses.
“The economy will not grow despite the current efforts by the Federal Government to revive it, if interest rates charged by banks remained high,” the Senate President said.
In attendance at the meeting held behind closed doors after the opening session were representatives of the CBN, Deposit Money Banks (DMBs), development finance institutions, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME), Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), among others.
During the opening of the forum, Saraki said despite government’s new initiatives to boost growth in the economy, Nigerians were still concerned about the impossible interest rate regime businesses were facing to survive.
Meanwhile, despite the recent injection of millions of intervention funds into the foreign exchange market by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), manufacturers early this week raised the alarm over the increasing liquidity constraints in the financial system, saying the development was taking a toll on businesses.
Director General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr. Muda Yusuf, in a communiqué of the council meeting of LCCI, lamented that some companies are not able to draw from facilities to fund their forex requirements.
‘‘This is taking a toll on the business of these companies as some of them cannot provide the cash backing for forex demands.  The liquidity problem is a consequence of the mopping of liquidity in the financial system, the tight monetary policy stance and the increasing crowding-out effect on the private sector by government borrowing in the financial system,’’ he said.
On ease of doing business, he said the council commended the various policy measures put in place to improve the business environment while equally applauding the Executive Orders and the acts on the movable collateral and credit registry.
Yusuf noted that the initiatives would create the right environment for business and boost investors’ confidence.
‘‘The LCCI council also applauded the National Assembly on the efforts at providing enabling legislations to boost the inflow of private sector capital to complement the capital budget spending of the government, especially on infrastructure.
“Council noted the recent Business Environment forum between the National Assembly and the private sector on legislations would boost private investment in the economy.”

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has signed the 2017 appropriation bill into law.

Mr. Osinbajo signed the budget at about 4:40 p.m. on Monday inside his conference room in the presence of the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Abba Kyari; Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, Ministers and other top government officials.

The total budget figure signed is put at N 7.44 trillion.

Mr. Osinbajo said his signing of the budget was a milestone in the implementation of the economic and growth plan programme put in place by Mr. Buhari in April.

He said the processes of putting the budget in place had been smoother than that of 2016 with no allegations of errors.

“There were far few cases of acrimony unlike in the past. There is no doubt at all that our democracy is maturing very well,” he said.

The National Assembly passed the 2017 Appropriations Bill on May 10 after raising from the N7.28 trillion earlier proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari in December last year, to N7.44 trillion.

President Buhari is away in the United Kingdom for medical treatment.

It is the first time in recent years that an acting president would sign the budget into law.

UNCLAIMED E-DIVIDEND REGISTER SEARCH

You can now search to know if you have not mandate your Registrars for E-Dividend Crediting into your Bank account HERE

Note: all investors whose name(s) appear, are advised to URGENTLY download and fill their respective Registrar’s E-MANDATE FORM and submit same at the nearest branch of their Bank or Registrar to register for the collection of their unclaimed dividends and subsequent dividends electronically; as well as for the proceeds from their secondary market transactions, to be credited to their preferred Bank Account (Direct Cash Settlement).

The Commission also wishes to remind the investing public on the deadline of 30th June, 2017, which will mark the end of issuance of physical dividend warrant, with a view to mitigating the risks associated with physical dividend warrants and improving investors experience.

Furthermore, the 30th June, 2017 deadline will see the end of free registration of e-dividend, being bank-rolled by the Commission since the inception of the exercise in November, 2015. Hence, members of the investing public are encouraged to urgently key into the on-going free registration.

REMINDER: All investors in the Nigerian Capital Market are please advised to take advantage of the on-going free registration and register by approaching the nearest branch of their Bank or Registrars for enrollment before the deadline

UNCLAIMED E-DIVIDEND REGISTER SEARCH

You can now search to know if you have not mandate your Registrars for E-Dividend Crediting into your Bank account HERE

Note: all investors whose name(s) appear, are advised to URGENTLY download and fill their respective Registrar’s e-mandate form and submit same at the nearest branch of their Bank or Registrar to register for the collection of their unclaimed dividends and subsequent dividends electronically; as well as for the proceeds from their secondary market transactions, to be credited to their preferred Bank Account (Direct Cash Settlement).

The Commission also wishes to remind the investing public on the deadline of 31st December, 2017, which will mark the end of issuance of physical dividend warrant, with a view to mitigating the risks associated with physical dividend warrants and improving investors experience.

Furthermore, the 31st December, 2017 deadline will see the end of free registration of e-dividend, being bank-rolled by the Commission since the inception of the exercise in November, 2015. Hence, members of the investing public are encouraged to urgently key into the on-going free registration.

REMINDER: All investors in the Nigerian Capital Market are please advised to take advantage of the on-going free registration and register by approaching the nearest branch of their Bank or Registrars for enrolment before the deadline.