Just recently, the crowds gathered in front of many banks may make one think a robbery had just taken place, however it is far from that, as they are simply Nigerians who are rushing to do their Bank Verification Number (BVN) registration.
Bankers would not forget this period in a hurry as following the chaos that besieged the financial institutions as customers rushed to beat the mandatory BVN deadline billed for June 30, but has been thankfully postponed till October. Trust Nigerians who never joke with their money, the threat by the banks that their accounts would be frozen and inaccessible to them was enough to have them running in droves to the banks
As part of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s cashless policy, the aim of the BVN is to capture data and check fraud in the banking system by giving the over 34 million bank customers in the country a unique identification number that can be verified across all banks in the country.
The Bank Verification Number initiative, though another cumbersome attempt at Nigeria’s personal data management plans, is one that is highly beneficial to both the customers and the economy at large. It is an important step taken by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN to strengthen the security of banking transactions and to ensure that fraudulent transactions are minimised, if not totally eliminated.
The BVN is also a great help to people who cannot read and write, as their finger prints and pictures would serve the same purpose as signatures, while multiple account holders would be covered with a single registration in any of the banks where they have accounts.
It is a wonderful initiative to reduce illegal banking transactions and improve national financial intelligence gathering, thereby increasing the confidence of an account holder in his/her financial service institution which increases the financial standing of banks.
However, like most laudable initiatives in this country, the application has its own flaws. Firstly, customers who are account holders in several banks are required to physically present their BVN to all their banks, as there is presently no system to allow customers to send their BVN via any electronic or mobile channels to their banks. This is not only stressful, but also time consuming.
There seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding the exercise, as some bank workers do not even understand what the BVN is all about, how then can hey explain it to a customer. A better clarification of the penalties that await defaulters should be disclosed. From some banks warning that customers who fail to update may be barred from online transactions to some banks threatening defaulters with an outright ban on all banking transactions, the exercise shows a confusion that should not be associated with the banking industry.
To an ordinary man, this threat triggers panic which is enough to make him withdraw his funds from banks and keep them somewhere safer (most likely not), like under the pillows, which would not augur well as it would most likely lead to more robbery attacks.
“If they are going to close down my account for not registering, is it not better to withdraw all my money and use it for monthly contributions?” Adeola Odutola, a trader in Lagos asked.
The CBN needs to step-in to ensure that this initiative is carried out in a more organised method as it winds down.
All through this fever that went down last week, one thing that many bank customers claimed they were not aware of the process or deadline even at about 24 hours to the initial deadline. Though those dwelling in the rural areas might be justifiable, how about those residing in the cities looking at the huge turnout of Lagos residents at the banks? That is not justifiable at all.
The rush for the BVN registration has basically shown the behaviour of many Nigerians. It shows that we are “last-minute” people, very reactive and not proactive. There was a whole year to do this, but many just had to wait till the last two days to rush to the banks. Thankfully, the process was extended and it is hoped that with this, those who have not done theirs will not return to the comfort of their homes only to come out few days to the new deadline.