Why today’s #NoBankingDay boycott may not make a difference after all

A coalition of two groups, Consumer Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria (CAFON) and the Coalition of Nigerian Consumer Protection Associations, yesterday called on Nigerians to boycott any banking activity today, 1st of March. This boycott is to protest the exorbitant fees charged by Nigerian Deposit Banks for various seemingly nefarious services. These services include “maintenance fees charged monthly on current accounts, value added tax on virtually every charge against a customer (SMS), charges for both online and over-the-counter transactions and remote-on-us charges, that is, charges incurred for using another bank’s ATM in withdrawing money more than three times in a month”. These problem seems to affect mostly current account holders.

Today, the movement seems to have progressed online. Many Nigerians are using the #NoBankingDay on Twitter to tell the world how they have been victims of ridiculous charges by Nigerian banks and frankly, these charges do look ridiculous. This topic, which is already the number one trending topic on twitter, is an indication that Nigerians are not happy with the nation’s banking system.

Last week, the Nigerian Central Bank announced that it had created a department, a Customer Protection Department, to look into the complaints of consumers concerning the excessive charges by various deposit banks in the country. It seems the department has not fully begun its operations.

However, looking at today’s boycott, there are concerns about whether this could really work. Nigerians love moving around with cash and are yet to fully accept the whole “cashless policy.”  For instance traders, restaurant owners and entrepreneurs who make profit on a daily basis cannot afford to boycott the bank, not even for a day. They would need to deposit the proceeds at the close of business everyday, or risk being robbed. Likewise, despite calls by the two groups to shun online banking, it is not very likely that any Nigerian with access to the internet will join the boycott. Savings account holders too, who are not really charged exorbitantly like current account holders, will need more convincing to stay away from ATM’s and banking halls today.

While this boycott is a rather significant venture, deposit banks are not the only institutions to be held responsible for day-light robberies. The Central Bank of Nigeria, the body responsible for regulating the activities of deposit banks in Nigeria should also be questioned for somewhat exposing their customers to danger.

The complaints of Nigerians concerning ridiculous and excessive charges did not start this year, and it’s amazing how long it has taken the CBN to do something about it (the new department. CBN needs to borrow a leaf from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which seems to have a better hang of the issues plaguing Nigeria’s telecommunications sector. These protests may not bring change in the long run, but calling out the Central Bank of Nigeria surely would.

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