Bankers’ Committee recently unveiled ‘BVN 2.0’ to target rural dwellers
total of 4.07 million customers were issued Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) 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 40.47 million as at January 6, 2020. With NIBSS’ Electronic Payments Fact sheet for January to December 2018 showing that total BVN enrolments stood at 36.4 million at the end of December 2018, it means that a total of 4.07 million new BVNs were issued in 2019.
However, with total new BVN enrolment in 2018, standing at about 5.7 million, according to NIBSS, this means that the number of new BVN issued in 2019 compared with the previous year, declined by 1.63 million.
Analysts point out that there has been a significant slowdown in BVN enrolment in recent times compared with the situation three years ago.
Indeed, New Telegraph’s analysis of BVN enrolment data since the initiative was launched in February 2014 shows that the pace of registration by bank customers has dropped in the past one year.
For instance, on the eve of the October 31, 2015 deadline that CBN set for bank customers to register for BVN, data released by the apex bank and NIBSS indicated that 20.8 million bank customers had enrolled over 40 million accounts in various banks in the country.
NIBSS data further shows that as at December 2016, the number of bank customers that had registered for BVN had increased to 27.7 million. 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.
Industry watchers told New Telegraph that the slowdown in BVN enrolment was a cause for worry, as it could defeat the purpose for the introduction of the initiative.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in collaboration with 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 every bank customer and giving them a unique identity that can be verified across the Nigerian banking industry.
The hope was that this would 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.
Financial experts point out that by giving each bank customer a unique identification number that can be verified across the country’s industry, the BVN project has reduced the chances of criminals trying to impersonate people to attack their bank accounts.
It would be recalled that 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, CBN, lenders 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 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 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 then that operators were committed to enrolling “40 million new unique BVNs between now and year 2020; 10 million in 2018, 15 million in 2019 and 15 million 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.
Under the initiative, he further revealed that CBN had set aside N20 billlion, which would be accessed by operators at a reduced interest rate to enable them create 500,000 shared agent network points (access points) across the country by 2020.
According to him, 70,000 access points had already been created and nine operators, comprising three mobile money operators and six super agents, which are part of the scheme, had accessed N4.5 billion of the N20 billion.
But as it became obvious that industry operators would not be able the 70 million BVN enrolment target by 2020, CBN, together with the Bankers’ Committee, last month announced the introduction of a classification system for the BVN.
According to CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, who disclosed this during the 11th annual Bankers Committee retreat in Ogere, Ogun State in December, there would now be two BVN categories known as BVN Premium and BVN Lite.
He explained that under the new BVN classification dubbed “BVN 2.0,” the registration requirement for BVN Lite would be reduced to capture financially-excluded customers hence the transactions to be carried out by such persons would be limited.
The CBN governor said: “We now have about 40 million people on the BVN platform. We think that because of the benefits of the BVN to bank customers and the economy there is a need to consolidate and move BVN to a new level, something like 2.0.
“What it entails is to reclassify and segregate transactions that can be held by BVN. For instance, we have two classifications. The existence BVN requirement that we have in the system has almost about 18 lines of information that are required and where your 10 prints and fingers are taken to ensure that all transactions that you take are within the banking system.