The common advisory given to bank customers require that you conduct routine and periodic checks on your bank statements and apart from bank charges dispute, report on transfers, withdrawals and transactions not made/authorised by you; which ordinarily assumes protection under the law.
Once you notify your bank, it generally has a specified number of business days to investigate the issue and correct the error within one business day after determining that an error has occurred.
But what happens when you are dealing with transactions related to an acquired bank where you have to wait for longer periods to obtain your statements; or as in this case, you have personal challenges that turned days and months into years before you access your bank accounts?
This is one of such situation being faced by a customer of a bank acquired by an existing bank, where it was discovered that:
1. The bank had withdrawn sums up to N33.9milion from the customer’s account;
2. The withdrawals were done through a cheque book series not known to the customer;
3. The request for evidence of transactions has not been forthcoming months after such a discovery was submitted to the bank; and
4. Their does not exists any other viable process to seek redress.
The bank in question, in 2011, acquired and merged with one of the banks that failed the stress test carried out by the CBN during the tenure of Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
Given the recent pronouncement by the central bank of Nigeria (CBN) that all banks must resolve all customer complaints in two weeks; it would appear that there is a disconnect between the reality on the ground and what is being reported to the CBN; which would have informed such a pronouncement.
Evidence abounds of complaints that has remained largely unresolved and yet has not gone to the law courts; symptomatic of a trust deficit in both the process of redress and institutional capacity to deliver restitution.
This is both a legacy problem as well as a practice problem that continues to dog the financial system.
In the case under reference, it would appear that the “light fingered’ officials of the legacy bank helped themselves to customer funds for which the problem of records and compliance with extant rules remain a corporate challenge.
Given the quantum of related matters which to the banks credit, it has had to deal with in the last few years; it would require more than just a pronouncement from the CBN to resolve such a case.
The CBN must create a means of actualising its goals of a customer friendly banking environment by allowing for the role of a financial services ombudsman to deal with these type of issues, which are under-reported by the banks.
Up till now, and for those well-heeled and with access, the recourse will be to bring this to the attention of the Bankers’ Committee, a Sub-committee on Ethics and Professionalism of The Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) who can offer no more than a psychological victory as it remains an advisory for conduct.
What the market needs is a punishment/penalty system that makes the cost of such fraudulent actions more expensive than it currently is.
While we have sent an expression of interest in the matter to relevant authorities, we hope that the trauma and loss on this customer is mitigated by a prompt appraisal / investigation of the case and a resolution promptly announced.
This is the least the market deserves; and while at it, we hope that the re-invigorated CBN will share its findings on the 2-week compliance communication it sent out on February 27, 2018.