BVN DEADLINE: Why the Central Bank may not be bluffing this time

The Managing Director of Ecobank Nigeria, Jibril Aku has disclosed that bank customers who fail to meet the October 31 deadline for the Bank Verification Number (BVN) enrolment will be denied total access to their accounts. Mr Aku, hinted this at the end of the 324th meeting of the committee in Lagos, while emphasizing that there is no going back on the new deadline set by the CBN for customers to obtain their BVN. “There will be no extension of the October 31 deadline. All efforts have been made by the committee, CBN, and Nigeria Interbank Settlement System for bank customers to obtain their BVN. The customers who fail to meet the deadline will not be able to operate their accounts until they comply,” he said.

According to him, data from the Central Bank of Nigeria shows that only 20 million out of the 52 million active bank accounts have so far enrolled on the BVN network.

This development comes as no surprise to millions of customers who have so far endured attempts by the CBN to scare the unverified into action. However it is also important to note the rights of a bank to freeze an account. The entire BVN enrolment stems from the CBN’s response to fraud and a way of providing greater security in the banking industry. Its decision to freeze 32 million accounts may be on the grounds of a steady decline in new BVN enrolment figures which may have spurred the apex bank into questioning the possibility of illegal transactions.

The bank may temporarily freeze an account if it suspects illegal activity such as money laundering or cashing bad checks. Before the bank will release the account, customers are required to provide documentation showing that the transactions in question were legitimate. This seems like the best option as many Nigerian bank account holders continue to show apathy instead of taking advantage of the extension period awarded for the completion of this process.

When an account is frozen, customers still have limited access to them— to check the balance and view  transaction history. Deposits from a company or its customers into the account are still permitted, however, the customer will be unable to withdraw or transfer any money out of the account until the freeze is removed. While CBN’s course of action may seem a little drastic and rather unrealistic, it could be the definitive way of boosting registration in the long run.

For a process that intends to provide security in the banking industry, reduce queues and improve efficiency, Nigerians appear reluctant to jump on the bandwagon.

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