60 million Nigerians risk losing their banking privileges

As of June 11, 2015, The Bankers’ Committee, an umbrella body comprising the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) and Discount Houses, said only 14 million customers had been registered under the Bank Verification Number (BVN) project, an initiative launched to help banks identify customers, halt fraud in the banking system, boost retail or consumer credit, and enhance economic growth.

The Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Mr. Ibrahim Mu’azu, told Punch Newspaper in a telephone interview that the apex bank will not extend the 30th June, 2015, deadline because enough time had been given for registration. “For now, the deadline will not be extended. We have given customers enough time to do the registration.”

He also noted that for those who fail to register before today’s deadline, they will be unable to enjoy some banking services, including access to loans and internet banking services until they get registered.

The Electronic Payment Providers Association of Nigeria (EPPAN) states that the number of bank account holders (made up of both individuals, including children, and organisations) has hit 76 million out of a population of 170 million people. Going by EPPAN’s statistic, about 60 million Nigerians run the risk of losing certain banking privileges if they fail to get their BVNs today.

However, Nigeria’s current banking landscape shows that a significant portion of bank account holders are already facing the proposed repercussions:

The threat of restricted access to bank loans would do little to motivate many Nigerians. Prior to the disclosure, securing finance from local banks has always been a challenge. Most Nigerians operating businesses in the informal sector (small and medium scale businesses), which contributes over 45 percent to the country’s GDP, often rely on family or friends for start-up capital as bank loans are mostly unavailable, or too expensive.

Nigeria may be Africa’s biggest internet market, with over 70 million mobile phones connected to the internet, its online banking space remains underutilized. A survey conducted by Business Day revealed that while 81 percent of Nigerians use the internet for information gathering and official communication, 76 percent as a work tool, and 45 percent for social interactions, only 26 percent utilize it for banking purposes. Experts still blame issues such as technical hiccups and lack of trust for the un-willingness of many to online.

Long queues have been spotted across banking halls as of customers scramble at the last minute to obtain their BVNs. However, their motivation isn’t born out of the threat to render their online privileges dormant or close to the door to loans—they believe they will be unable to access their money saved up in commercial banks.

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