February 13, 2013/ BY IFEANYI ONUBA / Punch
The Bankers Committee has said Deposit Money Banks in the country have agreed to reduce all bank charges in order to enhance financial inclusion.
As a first step, the committee has already endorsed the downward review of the Commission on Turnover charged current account holders from N5 on every N1,000 withdrawn to N3.
The approval of the reduction was announced after the committee’s meeting, which was held at the headquarters of the Central Bank of Nigeria on Tuesday in Abuja.
The meeting, which lasted for about five hours, was attended by the CBN Governor, Mr. Lamido Sanusi; top executives of Deposit Money Banks as well as other senior officials of the CBN.
The Director, Banking Supervision, CBN, Mrs. Tokunbo Martins, addressed journalists on the outcome of the meeting.
She was accompanied by the Managing Directors, Access Bank Plc, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede; Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Godwin Emefiele; Stanbic IBTC, Mr. Yinka Sanni; and Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Mr. Ugochukwu Okoroafor.
Aig-Imoukhuede said working with the CBN; the committee was working on unveiling soon the guidelines for the review of other bank charges.
He said the reduction became imperative since many people now used banking services owing to the financial inclusion strategy of the CBN.
He said, “With financial inclusion, more and more people are using bank services and, therefore, more and more people are becoming used to the concept of bank charges and so on, which hitherto perhaps, did not use this service.
“So, working with the central bank, we are also going to come up with a new guide, but of course; bank charges cannot stop, especially when you are providing value, but they will come down.
“One of them, for example, is that in 2013, we are going to move from N5 per mill to N3 per mill on Commission on Turnover, and gradually that will continue to reduce.”
Aig-Imoukhuede said the economy had begun to feel the benefits of the shared services initiative of the DMBs.
For instance, he said that in terms of earnings, total operating income of Nigerian banks decreased from N1.6tn in 2011 to N1.4tn in 2012.
He also said the total operating expenses for the industry fell from N1.6tn to N1tn within the same period.
Based on this, the Access Bank boss said, “The profits you see are not profits made by increasing charges, but profits made from a reduced cost of operations.”
Aig-Imoukhuede also said the committee had chosen Borno State for the pilot project of the financial inclusion strategy.
He said the state was chosen for a number of reasons.
Some of them are the high number of women that have been financially excluded from banking services, the high poverty rate and insecurity situation in the state.
He pointed out that the banking industry would create the much needed infrastructure to drive the electronic banking programme in the state, adding that this was the only viable means of increasing access to banking services to the people.
Aig-Imoukhuede also revealed plans to make available cheap credit to the people to boost agriculture in the state, adding that once the initiative succeeded in the state, it would be replicated in other parts of the country.
On the customer biometric project, Emefiele said the committee had fixed a take-off date of July for its commencement.
He said, “We discussed the customer identity management project at this meeting. We set up a committee last year comprising nine financial institutions on how to boost consumer credit to Nigerians.
“We do not have a databank where we can access the information of bank customers and we say setting up this committee will help build a database through a biometric project.”
According to him, the project will enable all bank customers to have a unique biometric identification number that will allow all the banks to see the information of the customer regardless of whether he has an account with them or not.
“Once you have that unique number and you go to bank ‘B’ from ‘A’ to open an account, once you just show that number, an account will automatically be opened for you,” Emefiele said.
He said owing to the unique number, it would be easy for banks to do businesses with their customers.
The Zenith Bank boss also said the cash-less policy, which was piloted in Lagos, would soon be extended to major cities in the country.