In September 2003, the National Association of Telecommunication Subscribers (NATCOM) and the Consumer Rights Project (CRP) spearheaded a campaign for Nigerians to switch off their mobile telephones in protest of the high tariffs charged by the two dominant networks back then – MTN and ECONET.
The protest was as a result of the delay in court processes and a failure of the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) to address the anomaly. It was believed that the Telcos would lose millions of naira on that day. As communication is essential to the everyday activities of man, Nigerians still used their mobile phones. In fact, on a TV show to monitor compliance, some callers called in with their GSM phones.
In October 2014, as part of the Lagos State Government’s move to address the noise pollution in the state, October 15 was declared ‘No Horn Day’. OF course, the commercial bus drivers and private car owners alike made use of their car horns that day even though some of them when interviewed claimed to be unaware of the day’s event.
In some citizens’ subconscious, they would have used the car horns but refused to do so in solidarity of the movement. For others, it was unavoidable and impracticable, they just had to use the horn to avoid accidents.
This year, March 1 was declared as ‘No Banking Day’ by the Consumer Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria (CAFON) and the coalition of Nigerian consumer protection associations. CAFON stated that under the current CBN management, abolished fees such as N65 on 3rd ATM withdrawals and COT charges that were supposed to terminate in 2016 had been reintroduced while bank customers also bore the costs of N1000 for debit card issuance and renewals, N105 for every online transfer, N105 as Annual Debit Card Maintenance and a recently introduced Stamp Duty charge of N50 on every credit of over N1000.
Recently, the concern for some Nigerians is the arbitrariness of some banks in applying the stamp duty charge. It has been reported that transactions not eligible for the stamp duty charge have fallen under the category contrary to the CBN directive. For example, some customers have complained of being charged for receiving credits above N1000 on a savings account!
Among other demands, CAFON called for consumer complaints to be treated quickly and for CBN to review the new Stamp Duty Charge, Account Maintenance Charge AND Debit Card Maintenance Fees. Consequently, Nigerian bank consumers were urged to boycott ALL banking services in protest of these excessive charges and policies by not visiting any bank or branches to transact any business, using ATMs or online banking platforms and issuing any banking instruments dated March 1, 2016.
So what was the result? While speaking to a representative of CAFON in the news, the NGO claimed the No Banking Day was a success as some of the banks’ branches which used to have high influx of customers witnessed a reduction on March 1. However, news media outlets had different statistics – Nigerians ignored the No Banking Day. Essentially, the banks banked on the financial necessities of customers on the day.
Reality is, on such occasions, it is definitely impossible to achieve total compliance. Nonetheless, the essence of such protests is to make a STATEMENT – the higher the number of people who comply, the louder the unwritten statement is to the recipients. Aside providing a platform for the voices of minorities whose voices would ordinarily not be projected, such movements assist in educating citizens about specific issues affecting them. Once there is the awareness, it is expected that such movement as achieved considerable success in executing its objectives.
In a recent tweet by Femi Anikulapo-Kuti when a neighbour complained to him about a faulty transformer in their neighbourhood, he wrote, “why are you always waiting for someone to fight for you?” Nigerians cannot keep expecting someone else to seek remediation on their behalf if it affects them. They need to seek knowledge about issues affecting them, know where or who to report to and how to seek redress when their rights are denied.
The Central Bank needs to take ACTIVE cognizance of Nigerians’ concerns if it intends to achieve two of its aims; the cashless society and the drive to increase the Nigerian banking population. Should customers’ concerns be inadequately addressed, these aims will become a mirage. The result of regulators responding to attending to these inadequacies pave way for days like No Banking Day and No Phone Day. Consequently, this rubs off on the government of the day whose responsibility through the regulators is to provide services and protect the interest of her citizens.
Mustafa Yusuf-Adebola writes from Surulere and can be reached via [email protected]
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija