By Blaise Udunze
TENSION seems to be mounting among customers over the fate of their bank accounts as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) ruled out another extension of the deadline for the Bank Verification Number (BVN), which expired last Friday.
The apex bank, through the Bankers’ Committee and Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS), introduced the BVN project in February 2014, targeted at ensuring unique identity for all bank customers and other users of financial services in the country.
Before the expiration of the initial 18 months deadline, more than 85 per cent of bank customers were reluctant to register. But towards the end of the ultimatum, the rush to register led to commotion and stampede in banking halls across the country. That confusion necessitated the call for the extension of the registration period by four months to October 30.
The project, though described as a silver bullet to taming the multifaceted banking frauds as it will identify a customer based on physiological or behavioural attributes like fingerprints, facial features, signature and unique number, but the issue of conflicting figures of captured data and the question of who is in charge/ control of the data among government agencies may scuttle the target goal.
Daily Sun investigations showed that the issue of data harmonisation is critical for the BVN to achieve its goals since indications emerged that there is no clear understanding between CBN, NIBSS and National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).The actual figures given by the three parastatals of government are already at variance as far as database is concerned.
The central bank, last Thursday, estimated the number of customers that registered in the BVN platform at 40 million. The apex bank disclosed that there has been less pressure in banking halls across the country among those seeking to do the registration, which buttressed the fact that the response in the exercise was astounding.
But data obtained from NIBSS showed that close to 21 million bank customers had enrolled as at October 25, 2015,out of the 52 million active accounts, a development that may soon trigger tension in the industry as more than half of the customers’ population would be affected by the shut-out.
However, following the claim on the huge turnout for the exercise, the apex bank asserted that a greater percentage of account holders have been enrolled in the mandatory registration. Despite the success, CBN said that what is left is for the remaining account holders to get their accounts linked to BVN.
“Given the tradition of multiple accounts holding by an average Nigerian, which could be conservatively estimated at about two or three per account holder, it could be safely assumed that over 40 million accounts might have been enrolled to BVN,” it stated.
An official of the apex bank, who preferred anonymity, disclosed that the registration window would still be opened after the deadline elapses, but unregistered customers would not be allowed access to their accounts.
The official, who claimed that the exact figures of registered bank customers would not be ready until next week, however, lamented that “less than half of total bank customers have been captured as at last Monday.
“Field reports show that there has been increased surge in the number of registrations per day since last week, but it is clear that we may not exceed 50 per cent by the deadline,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the whole idea is to maintain a unified customer identity but the current situation of the regulators wanting autonomy may thwart the big picture.
Only last week, the General Manager, Corporate Communications of NIMC, Mr. Abdulhamid Umar, confirmed the takeover of the BVN by NIMC.
This followed the recent directive by President Muhammadu Buhari that Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government should hand over the database of Nigerians they have developed in the course of discharging their mandates to NIMC, the body mandated by law to manage the identity of Nigerian citizens and residents.
But NIBSS refuted the report, saying it will only share relevant data with NIMC and will not be handing over its data collected during the BVN exercise to the commission.
The Managing Director/CEO of NIBSS,Mr Fola Shonubi, disclosed to Daily Sun that the project was a private sector-led initiative and, therefore, would only share with NIMC the data it requires in issuing National Identification Number (NIN).
According to him, with the data integration, once a customer has a bank account, such individual will automatically have a NIN. Hence, the person does not need to visit NIMC to obtain NIN but will need to get to them for the card because they still need to capture the customers current picture and few other information to be imprinted on the card.
He affirmed that NIBSS would be able to issue a NIN to everybody who has a bank account because of the integration.
He stated: “We are sharing that with them, we are not handing over to them. We would give them a copy of the data they need but we will not give them our database. What we give them will allow them to expand their own enrolment of Nigerians because what we give them will be sufficient for them to issue a NIN.”
Also, the banking industry for long has been riddled by the menace of electronic fraud. If this lack of harmonisation continues, it would raise question on the relevance of the BVN exercise.
Data obtained from the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) showed that a total of 10,612 fraud cases in banks were reported in 2014, as against 3,786 cases in 2013, which showed an increase of 183 per cent. The amount involved in 2013 was N21.80 billion as against N25.61 billion in 2014. The types and nature of frauds and forgeries were largely web-based, ATM card related, fraudulent transfer/ withdrawal of deposits, among others.
The first reality about the BVN is that it is a response to the problem of identity crisis in the banking industry. For many reasons, banks are mandated to know their customers under the KYC initiative. They are expected to know where the customer lives, what he does, etc. Among other things. The aim of this KYC requirement is to ensure that fraudsters do not use the services of banks to perpetrate criminal activities like money laundering, Advance Fee Fraud (419), etc.
Source : SunOnline