N50 stamp duty threatens government’s cashless, financial inclusion drive
• Nigerians opt for cash transactions
• Merchants, agents express frustration
More Nigerians are now shunning transactions via Point of Sales (PoS) terminals; owing to the implementation of a ₦50 additional charge by merchants, as imposed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in collaboration with the Nigeria Inter- Bank Settlement System (NIBSS). The CBN described the new service levy as Stamp Duty Charge.
The Guardian investigations showed that customers now avoid ePayment platform in preference for cash deals, thereby throwing a big spanner in the Federal Government’s financial inclusion drive and in particular, the CBN’s cashless policy.
Customers, who previously cheered CBN’s decision to infuse the policy, saying it would eliminate the risk of carrying cash and reduce the cost of printing Naira notes, have criticised the move to collect stamp duty charges on PoS transactions.
It must also be mentioned that other payment channels, including the automated teller machines (ATMs), Instant Transfers, Online Banking, and Mobile Banking are still seriously challenged. Already, financial transactions are replete with all manners of excess charges by the banks and merchants, even when services are not delivered as and when due.
According to the CBN 2017 to 2019 Banking Guide, Nigerians, especially bank customers are made to face several charges by the financial institutions. These include N52.50k monthly card maintenance fee; N65 after third withdrawal in ATM interbank fees. Most times, banks remove the N65 at the first and subsequent withdrawals.
The banks still deduct N4 for SMS alerts, including unsolicited ones for birthday wishes, national and international day celebrations and operational updates. There is also N52 deduction in electronic transfer service. Banks also collect as much as N4,000 as fee for hardware token and N4 for one-time pin (OTP) SMS charge as well as N20 per page of a Statement of Account, among others.
While all these are imposed, then comes the N50 Stamp Duty Charge on Nigerians, who use the PoS terminals.
According to customers, the new N50 charge, which has been implemented by many fuel stations and supermarkets in Lagos, has become a burden and a source of worry to them and merchants as well.
A visit to Ikeja shopping mall in Lagos showed that more customers made cash payments instead of transaction via PoS terminals.
The same situation played out at Hubmart, also at Ikeja. One of the officials, who preferred anonymity, said: “most people today (yesterday) made payments via cash. They said they can’t part with additional ₦50 charge.”
Also, some petrol stations, especially the independent marketers, pasted a notice on the ₦50 additional charge on their walls for customers to see.
An attendant at Petrocam, Oke -Afa, Lagos, who simply gave his name as Adetunji, said:” most people that have visited our station today to refill their tanks opted to pay with cash, even those that have been using cards before now. Some because of the ₦50 charge refused to refill their tanks.”
Indeed, while the interaction with Adetunji was on-going, a customer, Chinedu Okeke, entered to refill his tank via PoS, but immediately he saw the ₦50 notice, he opted to do cash. “I would rather pay with cash than pay N50 for a service that should be free of charge. What has this CBN or government done for the masses that they will impose this charge on us? The welfare of common citizens was not put into consideration while taking this devilish decision.”
Another customer who spoke to The Guardian after paying the ₦50 charge at Oando fuel station, Berger, Lagos reiterates that the process would only sabotage the cashless policy drive by CBN, as many customers would prefer paying with cash to evade the stamp duty levy.
According to the entrepreneur who identified herself as Adamma Nwachukwu, the apex bank is already frustrating its own policy cashless economy and financial inclusion through the N50 charge, saying: “it should be abolished forthwith as Nigerians already over-burdened with too many taxes, levies and charges without corresponding value for money.”
Confirming the drop in PoS transactions in a telephone chat with The Guardian, the Managing Director, ITEX Integrated Services, a CBN licensed Super-Agent, Ernest Uduje, while commending the apex bank in the drive to improve financial inclusion in the country, insisted that “this ₦50 charge is ill-timed.”
According to him, transactions through PoS have dropped within the last few weeks.
“In a nutshell, I think it is affecting transactions negatively, because now most businesses like filling stations, if you go there now, they will show you their prices, and they will say they will charge you ₦50 extra. Then, in some places they will tell you go and bring cash, they are not interested because they don’t know other charges that will follow.
“I don’t know why government is focusing on PoS alone because there are other platforms, the ATMs, and others. If they are looking at driving cashless, this is not a time to add additional fees. Already, merchants are suffering lots of other taxes directly and indirectly, then another ₦50. The merchant would just abandon the process and collect cash.
“I still mentioned it to them at a function that government has reduced what we can charge. In other countries, they charge two to five per cent per transaction, depending on what you are doing. On our own, we came together and said we should do 1.75 per cent to encourage the market. But when CBN got into the entire process, they said go and start at 2.75; we will allow you to increase later on. Rather than increase it, they reduced it, and now charging ₦50.
“This means that on one hand you say you are encouraging people, you bring down to .5, to drive the numbers, but again you have added ₦50 as bank duty, so nobody is coming. We have seen a decline in our transaction volumes. I think there should be a rethink to stimulate the entire ePayment process. It looks like small money, but ₦50 is something to the merchant, and also to the end user,” Uduje stressed.
Meanwhile, the NIBSS data showed the total volumes of PoS transactions for 2017 stood at 146.3 million which was worth N1.4 trillion; 285.9 million transactions in 2018 valued at N2.3 trillion, and 187.7 million for six months- January to June 2019 worth N1.4 trillion.
According to the President, Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola, there should be an urgent stakeholders meeting that will include the CPC, CBN, legislators, civic society, NCC, and Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy. Also to attend the meeting are other wider stakeholders – banks, telecom and service providers, and consumers to address the charges being applied by the banks and ratify the best approach to addressing the infrastructural deficit vis-a-vis the cashless policy objectives.
While the Stamp Duty charges controversy rages, some top Nigerian lenders like GTBank and Access Bank, have begun to offer palliativies.
GTBank has removed all bank charges for young undergraduates on its GTCRea8 account product. This is specifically for undergraduates between the ages of 16 to 25.
GTBank said it will cover all charges on transfers, USSD transactions, and bank alerts for the account holders.
Commenting on the Bank’s removal of charges for young undergraduates, the Chief Executive Officer of GTB, Segun Agbaje, said: “Empowering young people in every way we can is the most valuable investment that we can make for the future. That is why we have taken this bold step to cover the cost of all their banking charges, not just to allow them to bank for free, but also to inspire them to imagine a world free of all limits to their ambitions, and in which they can achieve their greatest dreams.”
Similarly, Access Bank is offering its customers one week free instant transfers (NIP) to any bank.
The bank in an advertorial said, “Instant transfers are free for the entire week for all our customers, and you can perform as many transactions as you want, its that simple. All you need to do is use your mobile app, internet banking or dial *426# or *901# for the transfers.”
The development follows the completion of the upgrade of its banking platforms in line with global best practice.
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