By: Toluwalope Ayeye
Blessing might just have had enough of the seller on her floor who she believes has no valid reason for charging extra when students wish to pay through bank transfers. As Indy Press Correspondent gave her audience, she explains and talks about how, coupled with the high cost of the products Mummy Fikayo sells, the charges she adds to every purchase made no matter how small, has fuelled her resolution to walk down two flights of stairs to another vendor to make her purchases. The issue of the price differences amongst vendors within the hostel and ultimately, the school, is not the contention of this piece, rather, it is the issue of charges added to the original cost of goods when a student wishes to pay through the use of transfer.
SU Directives and Extra Charges on Transfers
Sometime last semester, the Host-led administration held a meeting with various vendors from faculties and hostels to discuss, amongst various issues, price regulations and the trend of including extra cost as charges for transfers made by students. Following this meeting, an official release was made by the Students’ Union, informing students of the new development and assuring them that a regulation and a directive has been made on the inclusion of charges for transfer. This release would serve as a tell-tale sign that both the vendors and the student union had come to a consensus. Weeks after this release, many things have changed. What seems to remain the same, however, is the absence of uniformity in the implementation of these directives amongst various vendors inside UI with a considerable number of them still adding exuberant prices as charges on transfer.
This default from the Union’s directive is not without excuse from the traders as they explain their plight and the reason for their default. Sifting through the interviews Indy Press correspondent held with three different trader cut across hostels and faculties, one recurring factor which every trader seems to face is the fact that when transfers are made to them, their banks tend to charge small fees per transaction which aggregate into heavy tolls.
At the Faculty of Law is a trader, whom many have resorted to calling ‘House of Moda’ because of her account name during transfers. She explained to this correspondent that while she makes use of a microfinance bank, charges are still removed from her balance for any transfer made to her bank. This claim of hers might not be farfetched as although microfinance banks like Opay are turned to for easy and almost free transactions, there are instances where this might not be so.
For instance, vendors who use the Opay merchant account might notice that for every money sent to them, there is a reduction by a fee of about 10 to 20 naira depending on how much was sent.
Mr. Afolabi Abiodun known to many as Baba Klazz, the owner of the restaurant in Lord Tedder Hall, did not give a very different account from other traders interviewed. According to him, the reason he charges up to 50 naira, as affirmed by students, is because he uses a corporate account which means money transferred to him is reduced by a fee regardless of how small such money is.
“I use a corporate account, even if it is only 100 naira that makes it into my account, it would still be deducted from.” He explained in Yoruba. He also went on to state that using a microfinance bank does not necessarily make a difference as to the deductions made to his account.
Another reason given was that it helps them balance their profits by covering meager costs such as transportation. Not long into the interview, Mr. Abiodun invited a staff member, Baba Eleran to join the interview and had him explain why he collected extra money whenever he was asked to run errands.
“If I am given cash it is different but when money is transferred to me, sometimes more than 50,000 naira, my bank removes from it and when I want to withdraw from the POS or make transfers, it costs another sum,” the man explained.
This explanation was not far from what Adeboye Adebisi the House secretary of Nnamdi Azikiwe Hall gave when he explained the executives struggle to curb exuberant charges placed on transfers.
“Their reasons for the charges was because they felt it was a way to make extra charges and cover some of their variable costs like the cost of transporting raw materials and the like,” he explained.
Although to some extent, the vendors seem to have a valid reason as to why they still insist on collecting an extra charge for students, one must bear in mind that there still are vendors who even without the directive of the Students’ Union never indulged in collecting charges from Uites. Let’s take a step back to the Obafemi Awolowo Hall where Blessing resides. Having resolved to not patronize the trader on her floor due to charges despite her two microfinance banks, she takes her time to go two floors down to Mummy Bidemi whose use of a regular financial institution has never been an incentive to request charges. One then wonders at the strength of the vendors’ excuses.
The Effect of Transfer Charges on Students
When it comes to the effects of transfer charges on students, different UItes have different reactions to it. For instance, Israel, a 300 level student from the Faculty of Arts explains that although some vendors in and around his faculty add charges for any transfer made, he is barely fazed and it doesn’t stop him from patronizing him. Similarly, Jane, a Fatssaite who has hardly experienced having to pay more because of charges both in her hostel and faculty, explains that she has taken to carrying out more online payments than carrying around cash.
On the other hand, Prince, a 300 level chemistry student tells the correspondent that while these charges do not necessarily stop him from patronizing vendors, he still gets to face the effect as it causes an unfair reduction in his money. In his words,
“Now the charges affect my money because those little charges cut into my money which can be very inconvenient.”
And like Blessing, some students choose to simply boycott vendors who request extra charges as they are unable to bear the cost.
The Need for a Different Approach
While it was easy for halls like Zik to fully and successfully incorporate this initiative into their hostel, the same cannot be said by all hostels and faculties.
Speaking to Lola, the Bar and Buttery Minister of Awo Hall, she explained that while in Awo, measures have been put in place to try and prevent exorbitant charges placed on online transfers, it is not very effective because “If something has come to stay for a while, it becomes difficult to get rid of it.”
She also revealed that apart from the measures set by Awo Hall executives, the SU was to create a task force for this issue, who will be tasked with the duty of carrying out random checks.
The use of a task force might not be effective on its own however especially if these checks are not frequent and the vendors are still defiant towards the directive as only so much can be done to a defaulting vendor. To make this a success, a common ground might have to be reached between the Students’ Union, ensuring that all interests are duly served. There is also a need for better awareness, as amongst students and vendors interviewed, a considerable percentage of them were in the dark about the SU directives on bank charges.
The regulation of prices and charges in the University of Ibadan fall within the jurisdiction of the office of the House Secretary. However, attempts by Indy Press to interview him (Oluwole Ayomide (Sanjay)) proved futile as he refused to grant one.