Total Bank Verification Number (BVN) enrolment in the country has crossed the 50 million mark, findings by New Telegraph show. According to data obtained from the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS), total BVN enrolment stood at 50.002 million as at September 18, 2021.
With NIBSS’ data showing that total BVN enrolment stood at 45.8 million as at January 3, 2021, it means that about 4.2 million new BVN enrolments were recorded between January and September 18, this year.
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.
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 and also enhance financial inclusion by opening up op portunities for credit to millions of Nigerians without a standard means of identification.
New Telegraph’s analysis of NIBSS’ BVN enrolment data since the initiative was launched over seven years ago, however, shows that with the exception of 2020, the pace of registration by bank customers seems to have slowed in the last few years, compared with the situation during the early years of the implementation of the project.
For instance, on the eve of the October 31, 2015, deadline that the CBN had initially set for bank customers to obtain their BVNs, data released by the apex bank and NIBSS indicated that 20.8 million bank customers had enrolled on the platform. NIBSS data also showed that as at December 2016, the number of bank customers that had obtained their BVNs 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).
Further analysis of the NIBSS data shows that total BVN enrolment rose from 30.7 million on October 29, 2017 to 36.4 million and 40.4 million at the end of December 2018 and December 2019 respectively.
This suggests that about 9.7 million new BVNs were issued in the 46-month period.
Analysts note that while there was a sharp slowdown in BVN enrolment between February and May last year due to COVID-19 lockdown, enrolment picked up significantly between August and October as the resumption of economic activities led to the federal and state governments introducing empowerment schemes that would benefit only people that had obtained their BVNs.
Analysts, however, point out that 50 million BVN enrolment is 20 million less than 70 million total BVN enrolment target by 2020 set by operators under the Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility (SANEF) initiative.
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 iperators (MMOs) and shared agents.
At its maiden press briefing in 2018, the SANEF technical committee 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.
The committee said at the time that it was 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,” adding that as part of plans to ensure that the 70 million enrolment target by 2020 was met, 10,000 remote BVN devices had been ordered by NIBSS and were being deployed by DMBs, MMOs and Super Agents.
Apart from the SANEF initiative, the Bankers’ Committee, at its annual retreat in December 2019, had unveiled a new plan that required classification of BVN into two – BVN Premium and BVN Lite – as part of additional measures to boost BVN enrolment.
Providing details on the Bankers’ Committee BVN plan, CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, told journalists at the event that while BVN Premium would cover customers that can provide the 18 basic requirements for a complete BVN enrolment, the BVN Lite will 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.