nigeria ban on twitter

OGBUAGU outlines the many ways that government, in cahoots with service providers, systematically robs citizens and targets their hard-earned savings.

It is no longer an abstract matter. My family and I are feeling the pinch. So are millions of other families in Nigeria. I therefore raise a lone voice against the desperation I see as government encourages pinching of citizens’ hard-earned income.

Nigerian citizens are systematically robbed by its own government in two major ways. Firstly, Government looks the other way as service providers slap all manner of fees and charges on utilities. Secondly, it served notice to commence raiding of banks vaults for hard-earned savings of workers and investors.

Check out the recent news headlines. Government to borrow from pension funds. Government targets dormant accounts, unclaimed dividends. Government hikes fuel, electricity tariffs.

I would have described those headlines as fake news or the machination of 419 folks. But 419ers operate with a different MO; they sweet-talk their victims into parting with their hard-earned cash. Our government wants to forcibly break into bank vaults and scoop up “idle” funds that belong to citizens.

It is no longer an abstract matter. My family and I are feeling the pinch. So are millions of other families in Nigeria. I am therefore raising a voice against the desperation I see as government encourages pinching of citizens’ hard-earned saved income.

How did we get here? As at six months ago, my country was (and still is) indebted to the tune of 31 trillion Naira ($89 billion). Last year, government relied on budget support of $3.36billion from IMF, and heavy domestic borrowing to fund her 2020 budget. We are not only a heavily indebted nation but also sadly very delinquent in paying back. Today, for every One Naira loan we pay back, only 25 kobo counts as principal amount. The balance of 75 kobo is regarded as interest and penalties for payment defaults.

Despite this pitiable state Nigeria finds herself, our country has been desperately borrowing from wherever it can find willing lenders. As those who know will tell us, the problem is not with borrowing but the willingness and ability to repay. Ability to repay depends on investing the loans in human capital and infrastructure development to boost productivity.

Unfortunately, what we see now does not look anything like rising productivity. Rather, we witness consistent increases in prices of goods and services, with bank vaults filled with money and credits that citizens cannot access to buy goods and services that have also become scarce. This is what economists call inflation.

One expects that this situation will bring sobriety in policy decision-making. We did not expect, for example, that loans will be applied to construct rail lines to a desert country, for instance. One expects that this situation will ginger policy makers to think of ways to ameliorate the hardships that citizens face. But no. Government looks the other way as commercial banks and telecom companies outdo each other slapping fees and levies on business and individual transactions.

Let me break it down. Making simple transactions today has become a nightmare, thanks to a battery of levies and fees sanctioned by the authorities.

Telecom and banks systematically rob

Yesterday, I used my Glo app to buy 1.3GB data for two days. After receiving payment, all I saw from Glo was 800MB. To make matters worse, Glo ignored the data bundle I bought and has been charging the airtime credit for data use! This was the third time that I bought a Glo advertised bundle, only to be shortchange after purchasing them. I turned to Glo because MTN was fond of forcibly transferring my line to funny products I did not request for. It would thereafter systematically apply daily withdrawals of airtime credit, until what I bought was exhausted.

Again, my bank, which is Access, unilaterally transferred two of my business accounts to a product that I did not request for and began to slap N8,000 monthly charges on both of them. This is in addition to other withdrawals the bank routinely makes as it raids the account, actively encouraged by the Central Bank. Among the other withdrawals: “SMS alert fee,” “debit tax deduction at source,” “debit interest capitalisation,” “account maintenance fee,” “value added tax deduction,” “FGN Stamp Duty,” and so on. It used to fascinate me that each time I made a deposit, the money automatically reduces as the bank applies a CBN-sanctioned fee.

I quickly withdrew everything I had and stopped further deposits to both accounts but this did not deter the bank. Today, my company “owes” Access Bank N84,744.02 from the N8,000 a month that it was pinching from the accounts. I had a good laugh until I read that CBN is asking for legislation that enables banks grab money from funded accounts to pay debts owed in other accounts.

Citizens have been snookered. Rather than intervene to save citizens from this multisector assaults on hard earned incomes, government dives in to grab a bite.

I used to suffer in silence before now because writing about these criminal policies would make me out as poor! Now, thanks Coronavirus pandemic that has rendered majority of Nigerians poor and destitute, the chicken has come home to roost.

We all are paying for our silence as government continues aiding and abetting daylight robbery of citizen incomes. Our family members and relations now pay more to travel by road, thanks to serial fuel price hikes. We pay more to use energy in our homes and offices, a lot much, thanks to serial electricity tariff hikes. We pay more for every item we used to buy because Naira is completely weakened.

Savings raiders, pension rustlers

Our government is now behaving like a bank bandit. Agents peer into bank vaults, salivating at the prospect of pilfering monies found in dormant accounts and as unclaimed dividends. I call this pilfering because government may likely be unable to pay back.

Our government is also drooling over citizens’ pension contributions, a prospect that makes President Obasanjo shift uncomfortably in his seat. It took a visionary and determined administration to brush past union protest and move federal workers away from the old pensions and gratuities mess. In the bad old days, we watched thousands of poor and hapless public service retirees besiege Abuja and turn beggars. They became vagrants on city streets as they struggled in vain to get their terminal work benefits. This phenomenon has disappeared in recent years, thanks to the Obasanjo Pension Reforms. Are we returning to this sad tale if government raids citizen pension contributions lodged in banks?

Leave our monies alone! Don’t “borrow” from our pension funds. It’s not public funds but the sweat and life of us citizens which we are saving with various financial institutions. Don’t grab citizen deposits in banks simply because the banks declared some accounts as “dormant.” It is strange to see savings accounts declared dormant because owners are not depositing more or withdrawing from them. Leave our unclaimed dividend payout funds alone; they’re not public funds but earnings from citizens who sweated blood to make and invest in various private public companies.

Be creative instead. Invest in things that will boost productivity and reap the benefits in taxes and citizen wellbeing. After scrambling to grab and spend funds saved in banks by individual and corporate citizens, what next? Will you now descend on “active accounts” too, and ask us, citizen owners, to go to hell?

Ogbuagu outlines desperate ways that government acts like a bandit and systematically robs citizens of their hard-earned incomes.

Back to Top