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Bank 'Robs' Woman of Her Widow's Mite

2005-10-10 14:17:39
This article has been read 1078 times.

A senior citizen in her 60s, Madam Azumah Gladys a retired kayayei (female porter) was glad to open a savings account with SSB Bank, now SG-SSB Bank when she heard the bank was offering good interests to anybody who opened a savings account with it.
She opened the account in 1996 with an initial deposit of ¢20,000 and built it gradually to ¢690,000 in 2004 with her daily earnings from carrying goods at Makola and Kantamanto markets.

But within a space of two years, bank charges alone had eaten the poor woman's savings from ¢690,000 to ¢51,000 by August 2005, when the bank increased its required minimum balance on savings, but failed to communicate the increase to her.

Senior citizen, Azumah, who hails from the Upper East Region said ill-health compelled her to retire from the arduous kayayei job, but with the hope that she could fall on her savings of ¢690,000 in time of need, since she expected the bank to pay interest on her savings. More so, when she was not a contributor to SSNIT scheme and so no formal social security benefits.

Her bank statement shows that sometime in 2001, she withdrew ¢90, 000, leaving a balance of ¢600,000 and never withdrew any amount after that. Rather she saved on three occasions- ¢57,000 on 20 September 2001, ¢100,000 on 21 January 2002 and ¢150,000 on 25 September 2003, to bring her total to ¢907,000. "This was what I assumed was left in my account and I even expected that with interest payment I should have more", she said.

Senior citizen Azumah said in August this year she received a quit notice from her landlord at Maamobi and needed money to pay new rent. Besides, her son, 26-year old Isaac Sampson needed money to pay for his computer classes. "I was saving towards this kind of situation", she explained, adding that out of happiness she sent her son to the Ring Road Central Branch of SG-SSB to withdraw some money to pay part of her rent bill and her son's school fees.

But she had a shock of her life. Unknowing to her, the bank had increased its required minimum balance on savings, but failed to communicate to her. The bank then started deducting monthly penalties from her account. The bank started with 5,000 monthly deductions from January 2000 to September 2003 and increased it to ¢10,000 from 31 October 2003. By August 2005 when she last went to the bank these charges had 'eaten up' her savings and left her with only ¢51,000.00. According to her she was told by a bank official that the money (¢690,000.00), which she thought was her only insurance did not meet the required minimum balance of saving accounts and therefore attracted service charges instead of interest payment, contrary to her expectation. But this she said was never made known to her since she started saving at the bank.

When contacted, bank officials at the Ring Road Central Branch of the SG-SSB refused to comment. The Branch manager said he was ready to speak to Madam Azumah but declined to comment further. The bank officials refused to mention the minimum balance of a savings account when pressed. Rather, they advised her to close the account since her minimum balance was below the bank's requirement. When the process of closing the account was done the following day, the poor woman was handed ¢41,000, out of the remaining ¢51,000, meaning the bank deducted a further ¢10,000 as penalty for closing the account.

She told Public Agenda that her only prize for saving with SG-SSB Bank is that she was left with no money, no home and no food. Her son too could not go back to school, since she did not have the money.

Narrating what led her to the bank and her current predicament, she said that she has been operating as a kayayei at the makola market in Accra since she left Tongo, her home town in the Upper East Region to Accra in search for greener pasture in the late 80s. She said in 1996 she decided that instead of keeping her daily earnings under her pillow, which could easily be lost to armed robbers, opened an account with a bank.


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