There is no doubt that the Nigerian banking sector was on its heels on Tuesday June 30, 2015, the deadline earlier fixed by the nation’s apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for every bank customer in Nigeria to register for their biometric verification number (BVN). Our Correspondent, Bamidele Ogunwusi, writes on the extension and the fate of Nigerians in Diaspora.
As Nigerians, in their characteristic eleventh hour rush, besieged branches of banks to register for their BVNs, reports from banks’ branches across the country revealed that something was about to happen if the CBN did not extend the registration.
In response to the call for the extension and contrary to its insistence of not rescinding its decision on the June 30, 2015 deadline for the enrolment of the Biometric Verification Number (BVN), the CBN over ruled itself and extended the exercise by four months.
The CBN in a circular to all deposit money banks said the decision to extend the deadline for the registration was as a result of the hardship Nigerians are facing to get registered in the last two days as bank customers besieged branches of commercial banks to register for the BVN.
In the circular signed by Dipo Fatokun, Director, Banking and Payment System Department, said: It has come to our notice that the BVN registration has elicited tremendous interest from the Nigerian banks’ customers who crowded the banking halls, in order to beat the deadline.”
The circular added that aside the interest of banks’ customers in the country, “there is the need to give Nigerian banks’ customers in Diaspora, ample time to enroll on the programme.”
“In view of the foregoing, it has become imperative for the bank to extend the timeline for all bank customers to have the BVN. The deadline for enrolment is hereby extended from 30th June, 2105 to October 31, 2015. The extension is expected to facilitate a smooth completion of the registration exercise.”
However, the CBN said the guideline for the enrolment of Nigerians in Diaspora is being finalized and will be released soon.
Though, the CBN promised to issue guidelines on how Nigerians in Diaspora will benefit from the BVN enrolment, experts are of the opinion that they should be exempted from the enrolment as it may be difficult for Nigerians in the Diaspora to come home within the period.
Olakunle Olusegun, a former banker and a financial expert, said the move, though commendable, will not achieve 100 per cent as it will be out of place to expect that all Nigerians abroad will be able to come home for the enrolment.
His words: “I don’t know how this will be possible but we are still waiting for the guidelines from the CBN. I would like the apex bank to look at ways of exploring the development to favour those in Diaspora. Those who cannot make it home should not be cut off from doing banking in the country.”
In the opinion of Rasheed Alao, lecturer of Economics at Adeyemi University of Education, Ondo, the people in the Diaspora were the main reason for the extension of the registration as the CBN at any time did not put their interest into consideration.
“If you look at it, it seems the CBN never at anytime consider Nigerians in Diaspora and the latest move to bring them in will go a long way at adding value to banking in the country. I am still trying to look at how this will be possible but I am hopeful that the CBN is capable of doing something,” he said.
The BVN enrolment was launched in February 2014 by the former CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and a timeline of 17 months was adopted with a deadline of Tuesday June 30, 2015.
The BVN, which is a brainchild of the bankers committee, a committee of banks CEOs and top officials of the CBN, according to Ade Shonubi, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Inter Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), was meant to rid the country of fraudulent activities in the banking sector.
In an interview with Daily Independent, Shonubi, said: “What we are implementing, which is very unique in almost all areas is to centralise handling of cards, electronic payments and PoS. Most of the solutions available elsewhere are mainly for cards but we have to modify it to allow transactions on other electronic payment platforms. It can create patterns and also highlight suspicious transfers and payments. This platform has gone live; it is currently being used and we are already seeing the benefits. “Most of these frauds are more or less insider-related and with click of the computer, the money is gone. Is there no way to set a limit or threshold on the value of transactions allowed at a particular time?
“This is part of the area the Anti-Fraud initiative caters for. We agree there must be a limit, either in frequency or value, all transactions going through the Anti-Fraud Systems are tracked such that if it exceeds that frequency or limit, it is flagged.
“We are currently building rules now in collaboration with the banks, such that when the system receives transactions that are outside the agreed parameters, these transactions are blocked or flagged and the Banks are advised immediately. It is very difficult to say you want to eliminate fraud, but with all these being implemented, it is our expectation that fraud will be highly mitigated.”
The Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has condemned the decision of the apex bank over what it termed as subjecting Nigerian account holders to untold hardship because of the deadline unilaterally imposed on the so called BVN.
HURIWA has therefore called for the registration to be permanent and seamless rather than being undertaken in a military fashion.
The group said the introduction of this new rule without consultation with customers of banks and the arbitrary decision to impose a deadline with consequences on how account holders can access their legitimate deposits is unconstitutional and amounts to abuse of authority even as the rights group has called on the CBN to make the registration open and continuous for the simple logic that new account holders wouldn’t stop opening accounts with banks on June 30th 2015.
The group said the imposition of deadline and restrictions on genuine account holders amounted to a deprivation of economic and social rights provided for and protected by both chapters two and four of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and must be rescinded forthwith.