6th July, 2011
The recent move by the United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA), to peg the cash limit for its customers at N25,000 will meet a brick wall if the threat by some members of the Lagos State House of Assembly is anything to go by.
Lawmakers who spoke on the policy, condemned it with some threatening to mobilise their constituents who are customers of the bank to withdraw their money and close their accounts for other banks that are reasonable in their policies.
On 1 July, the bank had planned to begin the implementation of the policy which would make it mandatory for its customers to leave a minimum balance of N25,000 in their accounts at any point in time, but had to shift the commencement date to September when its customers would have been duly enlightened.
Nigerians have also criticised such policy in the face of the countryâ€™s harsh economic conditions.
A lawmaker, Wahab Alawiye-King, while reacting to the introduction of the policy, said â€œI donâ€™t know why people would have to leave so much amount in their accounts in order to maintain them. The Central Bank of Nigeria has the power to regulate the activities of the banking industry, so why should the bank decide to increase the minimum balance in the accounts of individuals when it is not part of CBN’s policies?â€
He said he was sure the bank has a lot of customers and it is trying to get rid of some of them.
â€œThere are banks which place the minimum amount you can leave at any point in time in some accounts at N100,000, but there are many benefits which come with such accounts. I think the bank should be able to make the people understand why it is embarking on it and the benefit to their customers,â€ he said, while advising the customers to patronise other banks if they are not happy.
Another lawmaker, Mufutau Egberongbe, who condemned the move by the bank, described it as anti-people, adding that it does not speak well of the bank and other financial institutions who are planning to follow suit.
According to Egberongbe, who represents the people of Apapa in the House, â€œif as at today people are clamouring for N18,000 minimum wage while some of the state governors are saying they cannot afford it and a bank is saying you should leave almost two times that amount in your account, that is not good for the country and its people.
â€œIt means civil servants and petty business people who have money in individual accounts would not be able to access their money any time they wish.
â€œEven with the N18,000 minimum wage, the saving capacity of the average Nigerian is very low because after spending money on other important issues of life, the amount left to be saved will be small. Most of them do not even have up to N25,000 in their accounts.
â€œSo if you are saying that amount is the ceiling of what one can withdraw, then you are not thinking about the development of the society as you claim and this should be condemned wholeheartedly.â€
Egberongbe advised customers of the bank to withdraw their money, close their accounts and go to other banks they can be comfortable with as a mark of protest.
To Dayo Fafunmi, who represents Ifako/Ijaye Constituency in the Assembly, â€œwhat the bank is saying is that when you pay your minimum wage into your individual account, it would not even be enough as the minimum amount you must leave in your account. It is ill-timed and a policy meant for the rich.â€
He said although there are banks that set standards to lay off people who do not have much money, UBA had always been a bank for the people and has been responsible for the regular banking of the ordinary man.
He reminded the bank that each customer pays COT and VAT on their money.
â€œI donâ€™t support it. They should have a rethink. Part of what the banks are doing is to imbibe a saving culture and that is what they are supposed to do. Are they now saying those who earn about N10,000 should not do banking again?â€ he asked.
He implored the bank to see itself as a contributor to the improvement and the well being of the average Nigerian, especially now that the community banks are no more in existence and the micro finance banks are not doing too well.
â€œI want to condemn it in its totality and remind them of the banks that have folded up because they were not client-based. They should maintain people-friendliness,â€ he added.
Another lawmaker, who did not want his name in print, told Assembly Matters that if the bank continues with the planned policy, he would mobilise as many Nigerians as he can against the it.
According to him, â€œthe people would not need to carry placards or protest publicly, all they need to do is ensure that they donâ€™t have a kobo with the bank and that they too can mobilise their friends and family members against the bank.â€
He explained further that people may not have realised that the amount would indirectly belong to the bank and that it would begin to transact business with it and make profit to the detriment of those who toil to save their money.
â€œI know the bank has more than five million customers, but imagine each of the five million leaving N25,000 in their accounts. It amounts to N125 billion of free money for the bank to play with, while the owners wallow in lamentation,â€ he lamented.