BVN listed as requirement for accessing government intervention funds
A total number of 5.4million Bank Verification Numbers (BVNs) were issued by financial institutions in the country last year, findings by New Telegraph show. According to latest data released by the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS), total BVN enrolment stood at 45.8million as at January 3, 2021 compared with 40.4 million at the beginning of 2020.
This means that 5.4million new BVN enrolments were recorded last year. With New Telegraph’s analysis of the of NIBSS’ Electronic Payments Fact for May 2020, however, showing that the total number of active bank account holders stood at 111.5milion during the period, it means that as at the first week of January this year, about 65.7million of such account holders were yet to be enrolled on the BVN platform.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, NIBSS and the German firm, Dermalog, launched the $50 million BVN project on February 14, 2014, with the aim of capturing biometrics of all bank customers and giving them a unique identity that can be verified across the Nigerian banking industry.
A former CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi, had said at the event that the BVN project would enable the apex bank to significantly reduce incidents of fraud and money laundering in the banking industry as well as enhance financial inclusion by opening up opportunities for credit to millions of Nigerians without a standard means of identification.
Further review of NIBSS’ BVN enrolment data since the initiative was launched, almost seven years ago, indicates that while the pace of registration by bank customers seemed to be on the downward trend, it headed north in 2020. For instance, on the eve of the October 31, 2015, deadline that the CBN had initially set for bank customers to register for the BVN enrolment exercise, data released by the apex bank and NIBSS showed that 20.8 million bank customers had enrolled over 40 million accounts in various banks in the country.
NIBSS data also showed that as at December 2016, the number of bank customers that had registered for the exercise had increased to 27.7million. It climbed to 30.7 million by October 29, 2017, indicating that about 10 million bank customers were enrolled on the BVN platform between October 2015 and October 2017 (a two-year period).
Also, with total BVN enrolment standing at 36.4million at the end of December 2018, the implication is that 4million new enrolment was recorded between the end of 2018 and the end of 2019, which is 1.4million less than the 5.4 million new account holders that enrolled last year.
New Telegraph gathered that while there was a slowdown in BVN registration between February and May last year, due to the COVID- 19 lockdown, there was a significant increase in enrolment between August and October due to several government schemes aimed at empowering the people, for which BVN numbers are required. Specifically, the 774,000 participants in the Federal Govern-ment’s Special Public Works Programme were required to commence account opening processes with their BVNs at six banks.
However, at a press conference, in August 2018, top banking industry officials had announced that in line with plans for the implementation of the Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility (SANEF) initiative, the CBN, DMBs and their partners planned to increase total BVN enrolment from about 33 million, at the time, to 70 million by 2020.
The SANEF initiative, which is primarily aimed at accelerating financial inclusion in the country, was launched in late March 2018 by the CBN in collaboration with DMBs, NIBSS, licensed Mobile Money Operators (MMOs) and shared agents.
Speaking at the briefing, a member of the technical committee set up by the CBN to deepen financial inclusion, Guaranty Trust Bank’s Mr. Bolaji Lawal, said that the plan to almost double the number of Nigerians with BVN within two years was critical to boosting the country’s financial inclusion rate as well as ensuring financial stability.
He stated at the time, that operators were committed to enrolling “40million new unique BVNs between now and year 2020; 10million in 2018, 15 million in 2019 and 15million in 2020.”
He disclosed that as part of plans to ensure that the 70 million enrolment target by 2020 was met, 10,000 remote BVN devices were ordered by NIBSS and were being deployed by DMBs, MMOs and super agents.
Furthermore, as part of its efforts to boost BVN enrolment figures, the Bankers’ Committee, at its annual retreat in December 2019, had unveiled a new plan that requires classification of BVN into two: BVN Premium and BVN Lite.
Giving details of the new BVN plan, CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, said BVN Premium would cover customers that can provide the 18 basic requirements for a complete BVN enrolment, while the BVN Lite would require minimal documentation like name and phone number for bank customers, especially those in rural areas that do not meet the full requirements.
The initiative, he said, would enable such grassroots’ customers, mainly the poor, conduct minimal financial services and reduce financial exclusion rate.
The CBN governor revealed that the Bankers’ Committee was collaborating with the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) and Mobile Money Operators to ensure that the project succeeds, which would thus bring more Nigerians into the financial system.