Intensify Awareness On BVN, Senate Tells CBN

Not forgetting the stampede that greeted the days preceding the June 30 initial deadline set by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to enable bank customers register for a Bank Verification Number (BVN), and ahead of the October 31, new closing date, the Senate on Tuesday tasked the Bankers Committee on the need for a rigorous awareness campaign, particularly in rural areas, to ensure compliance.

The Bankers Committee is chaired by the CBN Governor and comprises other regulatory agencies in the banking industry like the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) and chief executives of banks in the country, among others.

The resolution of the Senate followed a motion by the Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Biodun Olujimi, who noted that unless aggressive awareness is undertaken, the BVN exercise could deny rural customers access to banking activities.

While commending attempts by the apex bank to provide a central database for the country’s bank customers, she expressed concern that most rural bank customers were not aware of the exercise.

“We appreciate the fact that the Bank Verification Number will help the banking system to track transactions across banks in Nigeria.

“There is however the concern that the people in the rural areas are not carried along due to the inability to access print and electronic media,’’ she said.

Commenting, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said the motion was apt in view of the deadline, which might affect many rural dwellers, urging the CBN and other stakeholder to ensure that no Nigerian, irrespective of location, is negatively affected, as “it should be inclusive.

“They should go the extra mile to ensure their customers participate in the exercise.”

Supporting, Sen. Philip Gyunka  (Nassarawa North) said the CBN ought to make provisions for rural dwellers, particularly farmers, who had complained that their fingerprints could not be captured in the exercise.

“CBN should provide alternative means  of  capturing  those in the rural areas  so as  not to contravene 42(1) of the Nigerian Constitution.

“Going against this constitutional provision is trying to deprive them of their rights,” he said.

On his part, Sen. Enyinaya Abaribe called for a unification of data from agencies saddled with the responsibility of collating data, lamenting that Nigerians were often put through the rigour of registration for difference purposes when their information could be centralised.

“I support this motion because it is difficult to register to vote,  go through the rigour of another biometric  data capturing for  drivers licence and also  dragged into registering for national identity card.

“We are carrying all manner of identifications that are not linked in any way and we are concerned.

“This has to be part of what we will discuss with the CBN governor when he comes.

“We will discuss how to make life pleasurable for an average Nigerian,’’ he said.

Sen. Shehu  Sani expressed concern  with the poor state of banking in the rural areas.

He said attempts to promote banking in the villages had not been successful and something urgent should be done to carry them along and that “the CBN should know that our people in the rural area are still not banking friendly.

However, Sen. Ali Wakili believes that rather than calling on the CBN to reverse or amend the policy, Nigerians should be encouraged to always keep to deadlines.

According to him, passing a resolution on the motion would be an exercise in futility, adding that, “CBN has said whether you have BVN or not,  it will only  stop you from electronic transactions in the bank.

“We should rather call on the citizens to do things at the right time,” he added.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has summoned Godwin Emefiele, the CBN Governor, over the recent policy on foreign exchange deposits with commercial banks across the country.

The apex bank recently barred commercial banks across the country from receiving cash deposit of foreign currency.

Also at plenary, the House resolved to set up an Ad hoc Committee to investigate the N89 billion realised by Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) from taxes paid by companies.

Both resolutions followed the adoption of motions sponsored by Emmanuel Ekon and Abubakar Amuda-Kannike.

In his lead debate, Ekon who brought the issue of the ban of the foreign currency deposit noted that the CBN’s directive “is already inflicting untold hardships on Nigerians and manufacturers.”

According to him, section 16 of the CBN Act 2007, conferred the statutory powers on the apex bank to devise suitable mechanism for the exchange rate of naira from time to time.

While acknowledging that the policy may have both short and long term economic benefits for the country, the lawmaker however noted that “CBN has not created avenues to address the fears of parents wishing to remit money abroad for their children’s education and manufacturers placing orders for goods abroad.”

He explained that the CBN Governor during the proposed interaction would brief the House on the policy to allay fears of their respective constituents, noting that section 12 of the CBN Act, 2007, empowers the apex bank to formulate monetary policy and credit policies for the country, however argued that “if the CBN fails or neglects to give proper explanations and carry out proper enlightenment of the said policy to Nigerians, the policy may appear unpopular, counterproductive and grossly misunderstood by the general populace.”

During the debate on the proposed investigation on the revenue accrued to FIRS from the taxes, Amuda-Kannike who sponsored the motion, stressed the need to investigate accounting procedure adopted by FIRS in relevance to relevant sections of the FIRS Act.

He noted that “in the year 2014, out of N4.69 trillion generated by the Service, non-oil taxes were given as N2.24 trillion, four per cent of which amounted to N89.6 billion was presumably retained as operational cost by the service for that year.”

The lawmaker however noted that the amount accrued to the Service might have been a significant contribution to the sources of funding the nations budget which stood at N4.669 trillion.

“The House is also concerned that given the fact that the country has been experiencing dwindling revenue earnings from the sales of crude oil due to the weakening global demand and fall in oil prices, a product which the country depends.

“There is a need to ensure transparency, accountability and due diligence in the management of the country’s revenue to rekindle hope in Nigeria’s creditors about her fiscal capacity to added her macroeconomic concerns.

“We feel that there might be irregularities in the accounting procedure and calculations of the four per cent of the non-oil taxes the service is empowered to retain as operational costs,” he posited.

The two motions were adopted by voice votes.

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