The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has announced that there would be no further extensions to the ongoing Bank Verification Number (BVN) exercise which closing date has been fixed for October 31, 2015.
This, according to the banking sector regulator means that bank customers without the BVN-linked accounts may risk restriction from normal operations of their accounts or free access to their bank account balances by the end of next month.
According to a statement by the CBN, weekend, the statistical trend of the BVN registration exercise showed the existence of about 52 million active bank accounts in various banks, just as total enrolment stood at about 20 million, out of which about 14 million accounts have been linked to the BVN as at September, 2015.
It further stated in the statement the BVN has now a mandatory requirement for opening new bank accounts, adding that those to be affected by the restrictions are customers whose accounts were opened prior to the commencement of the BVN scheme.
The CBN, in collaboration with the bankers’ committee, introduced the BVN on February 14, 2014. This initiative of the bankers’ committee is aimed at ensuring unique identity for all bank customers and other users of financial services in the country by the use of the customers’ biometrics as means of identification.
Initially, it was estimated that all bank customers would, within a period of 18 months, complete enrolment in the new system of customer identification. The enrolment for the scheme can be done in banks across the country.
One of the most potent arguments advanced by banks for not extending enough credit to prospective credit customers in Nigeria has been the absence of credible identity system. Thus, it was agreed that the scheme would make access to credit easier for people in the low income earners in the society, which include employees and entrepreneurs of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), students etc.
“At the expiration of the estimated 18 months after the launch, empirical evidence showed that a good number of bank customers were reluctant and never took the exercise seriously. Thus, few days to the end of the mandatory 18 months, which was June 30, 2015, there was commotion and stampede in banking halls across the country, as customers were pushing, shoving and climbing on each other in order to beat the deadline for the BVN registration.
“This confusion necessitated the call for the extension of the registration dateline by four months to October 31, 2015. What is required is for a bank customer to visit any branch of his bank and the desk officer would capture his finger print and a photograph of his face, his signature and demand for a photocopy of either of his driving license, national identity card or international passport of the customer.
“The question now is whether bank customers have been taking advantage of the extension to complete their BVN registration, and also ensure that their various bank accounts have been linked to the BVN,” it stated.
Another interesting trend, according to the Central Bank showed that after the initial rush between the end of June and July 2015, there has been a steady decline in new BVN enrolment figures for August and September, 2015.
“The emerging scenario therefore, strongly suggests that many bank account holders have continued to show apathy instead of taking advantage of the extension period.
“Given this development, there is the apprehension that the commotion and melee experienced at various banking halls in the month of June 2015 would be repeated if customers do not use the remaining one month to ensure that they complete their BVN registration, and also get their various accounts linked to the BVN.
“The CBN has made it clear that there would not be further extension after October 31, 2015 deadline. This means that customer without the BVN-linked accounts may risk being restricted from normal operations of their accounts or free access to their bank account balances,” it added.