The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) on Friday urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to strengthen its oversight responsibility on issues relating to bank charges.

Mr Muda Yusuf, Director-General of LCCI, made the plea in the Chamber’s Economic Review and Outlook for 2019 released to newsmen in Lagos.

According to him, this should be part of CBN’s efforts to ease the burden of doing business in 2019 and to protect bank customers.

“Concerns were expressed by stakeholders on the multiplicity of fees being charged by the banks, which include COT, card maintenance, transfer fees and other charges in the outgoing year,” Yusuf said.

He said that the regulatory environment should be improved upon.

The LCCI director-general said that in 2018, businesses experienced frequent incidence of overbearing regulatory disposition.

“This led to increased burden, higher cost of operation, waste of executive time and reputational consequences.

“Access to and cost of funds remains a big issue for many domestic investors.

“With commercial banks’ lending rate at between 20 to 35 per cent, the private sector, especially the SMEs could not successfully access funds capital for their businesses.

“We note the efforts of government through CBN and Bank of Industry (BOI) to extend intervention funds to business owners, particularly SMEs.

“However, there are still pockets of issues with access to funds,” Yusuf said.

He expressed concern about the country’s fast-growing public debt profile and the fiscal sustainability in the medium term.

“Debt service to revenue ratio of 31 per cent and debt service to capital expenditure ratio of 75 per cent in the 2019 budget proposal are on the high side with implication on the country’s ability to deliver infrastructure investments,” Yusuf said.

According to him, the Debts Management Office (DMO) put the nation’s total debt stock (Federal, FCT and states) at N22.38 trillion ($73.21 billion) as at June 30, 2018.

“Besides, the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) statistics released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that the economy grew by 1.81 per cent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2018,” he said.

Yusuf noted that the performance was lower than the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) growth forecasts of 2.1 per cent and 4.1 per cent respectively for 2018.

“GDP growth of 1.81 per cent, which is far below three per cent annual population growth remains a cause for concern due to its wider implications for welfare and poverty conditions,” the LCCI director-general said.

He said that beyond the GDP numbers, what was paramount to investors were the cost of doing business, productivity of investments, competitiveness of firms and the sustainability of investments.

“To the average Nigerian, what matters is welfare and quality of life, especially food prices, cost of healthcare, transportation system, power supply, access to quality education and security of lives and property,” he said.

Yusuf said that the Federal Government still had enormous task of ensuring much better performance to enhance economic productivity.

He added that a sound and result-oriented business regulations and innovative implementation would be required in 2019. (NAN)