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Bank customers’ movement towards ideal banking 

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Digital banking PHOTO: apichon_tee; iStock / Getty Images

Ordinarily, it should be a surprise to learn that bank customers are winning cases they filed against their banks as a result of transactions that took place in their bank accounts. The surprise will always arise from the fact that banks are known to, or are expected to, be meticulous and careful in handling banking transactions.

However, evidences arising from the Sub-Committee on Ethics and Professionalism (the Nigerian banking industry’s Ombudsman), set up by the Bankers Committee to intervene on bank customers’ petitions against banks for unethical and/ or unprofessional practices, show that customers of banks have actually been petitioning against their banks and receiving attention from the Sub-Committee.

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It is interesting that results from the Sub-Committee, as published in the two publications – Ethics and Professionalism in the Nigerian Banking Sector: A Review of Decided Cases and Ethics and Professionalism in the Nigerian Banking Sector: Decided Cases – by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), (the umbrella Professional Body for Banks and Bankers in Nigeria), indicate that, of the numerous bank customers’ petitions involving hundreds of millions of funds so far decided on, from 2001 when the Sub-Committee was established, 85.5% of them were won by bank customers, leaving only 14.5% to banks.

The banking issues reported to have been the sources of bank customers’ petitions were diverse and several, including incidences of: forgeries, imposition of excess bank charges, breaches of contracts, mishandling of Letters of Credits, improper handling of Negotiable Instruments like cheques, wrongful dishonour of transaction instruments like drafts, and armed robbery, among others.

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By banks losing as high as 85.5% of their customers’ petitions that involved huge amount of money that ran into hundreds of millions of Naira, the customers will not only be grateful to the Bankers Committee and the Sub-Committee on Ethics and Professionalism in the Nigerian Banking Industry but they can also beat their chests and claim superior knowledge of banking and its practices than their banks’ staff; and they may not be wrong.

Bank Customers, we must appreciate, did not simply wake up and start filing and winning petitions against their banks. Until Bank Customers Association of Nigeria (BCAN) started creating awareness on bank customers’ rights and obligations, most of the customers never believed they could stand up successfully against their banks in any case. The Association, through its various enlightenment and awareness programmes such as the Annual Bank Customers’ Summits and Conferences, is succeeding in building the capacity of bank customers, who are its members, to question unclear or suspicious transactions in their bank accounts. Where they are not satisfied with responses/explanations from their banks, they should seek the intervention of the Sub-Committee on Ethics and Professionalism in the Nigerian Banking Industry or any of the following that are also involved in the protection and promotion of consumers, viz: Consumer Protection Department (CPD) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Consumer Protection Council (CPC) of the Federal Government and Bank Examination Department of the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC). The successful customers benefited enormously from members of BCAN that served as well-informed Consultants to them.

The fruits are beginning to ripe in the interest of the banking industry, especially given the need for public and consumer unwavering confidence in the Nigerian banking industry that is very necessary and important for the achievement of the objectives of the on-going National Financial Inclusion Programme initiated and being promoted by the CBN.

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There is no doubt that, with the above development, a wake up call has been served on banks against all forms of unethical and unprofessional practices. Thus, banks will need to become professional and more careful in the ways and manners they attend to their customers’ banking transactions. This is very germane as it is most likely and justifiable that bank customers will continue to build capacity following the successes they have made by disposing and exposing themselves to programmes of BCAN, CPD and CPD, among relevant others.

It will be heart-warming if, within the short term, incidences of petitions based on unethical and unprofessional practices of those who manage banks in this country, become a thing of the past. This will however, only be achieved by deliberate efforts that will cause staff of banks to build their capacities via professional education, training courses, workshops and conferences. Most importantly, zero tolerance of unethical and unprofessional practices by banks’ owners, Boards and Executive Management, supported by the regulators in the system, will play a major decisive role towards bringing to an end the issues that cause bank customers to venture into petitioning against their banks and even successfully putting the reputation of banks at stake.

In the meantime, it is fitting to encourage and support BCAN, CPD, CPC, etc to scale up their activities and programmes towards ensuring that Nigeria attains the ideal banking practices and conducts that are desired by all well-meaning stakeholders in the banking industry and the larger Nigerian economy.

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