Customers throng banks to beat BVN scheme’s deadline
CUSTOMERS, in large numbers, thronged their respective money deposit banks yesterday, to beat today’s deadline for the Bank Verification Number (BVN) exercise.
Indeed, security agents and bank officials had hectic sessions trying to control the crowd, to ensure that security measures in place were not compromised.
At a particular first generation bank in Lagos yesterday, security agents had to fire gunshots into the air to control the assessed unruly crowd.
The development was sequel to alleged moves by the banks to close accounts of customers that fail to secure their BVNs by Wednesday.
Already, Nigerians in Diaspora have protested against the exercise, describing it as unfair and discriminatory against them.
Their protest may have prompted the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS) to send a proposal to Central Bank of Nigeria, on measures that could safeguard the interests of these Nigerians abroad.
Besides, there were hints that the Disaporans’ challenge in keying into the scheme may be tackled through collaboration with an international agency with presence across the world.
NIBSS official, Seyi Adenmosun, who represented the Managing Director, Ade Shonubi, at EuroFinance’s fifth conference on treasury, risk and cost management in West Africa, in Lagos, reiterated that the initiative was aimed at protecting customers and further strengthening the Nigerian banking system.
A top banker, who spoke to The Guardian on condition of anonymity, expressed the need to make the exercise an on-going one, which would require account holders to effect the biometric details, whenever they come up to transact on their respective accounts.
“We cannot afford to close accounts of customers just because they fail to meet the deadline for the BVN. That would create confusion and disruption in the system.
“The system should be on-going. It would be punitive on defaulting customers if the threat to shut down on their accounts is carried out.”
In his reaction, a legal practitioner and a solicitor of the Supreme Court of England & Wales, O.B Omatsuli noted that as commendable as the policy may be, it is unfortunate that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has imposed a deadline of June 2015 for all customers to enrol into the BVN system, despite recording a low turnover in the scheme as at June 7, 2015.
According to him, the collaborative efforts in the implementation of the BVN initiative had resulted in the achievement of over 12.43 million registered customers in the central database, leaving out about 20 million unregistered customers.
“The action of the CBN would seem to me to be a gross violation of the fundamental rights of Nigeria under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. There is no doubt that money held in customers’ bank accounts are personal properties to the customers.
“Under section 44 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, the right to personal property is a fundamental right and no person or institution can infringe the right unless such right has been derogated by section 45 of the constitution. It is contended that such a drastic measure that will deprive customers of the money in their bank accounts may infringe the constitution.
“Furthermore, it appears CBN may have overlooked the effect of its June deadline decisions on customers living abroad. There are so many Nigerians living all over the world today. There are those who have settled abroad and others who are diplomatic staff in various Nigeria missions abroad.
“There are also workers of foreign companies in Nigeria who are on secondment abroad. Most of these Nigerians still carry out significant banking activities with banks in Nigeria and they regularly send money home and as a result they contribute substantially to the in-flow of foreign exchange into Nigeria. Indeed, in a banking survey conducted by KPMG stated that in-flow of personal remittances to Nigeria from non-Nigerians abroad in 2013 was USD21 billion. This makes Nigeria the fifth largest remittance receiver in the world and accounts for 65.6% of total flows into Sub-Saharan Africa.
“It is particularly shameful that CBN expects customers living abroad to pay for flight tickets to come to Nigeria just to enrol for BVN. This is insensitive and unfair.”
In the light of the prevailing circumstances, Omatsuli urged the CBN to as a matter of urgency, seriously consider the extension of the deadline and come up with a workable and cost effective arrangement for customers living abroad to enrol for the BVN.
Meanwhile, the NIBSS said the BVN project might record more than 20 million registrants before the deadline comes to a close today.
Already, about 14 million customers have been captured into the scheme as at last week, while transactional challenges would be ensuing after the deadline for customers that failed to comply, who will be deemed to have incomplete Know Your Customer (KYC).
Adenmosun expressed optimism that the figure would likely hit 20 million by tomorrow, as banks’ weekly BVN registration increased to 900,000 against 400,000 witnessed in the past few months.
He pointed out that the figure was only for bank customers residing in the country, adding that Nigerians in Diaspora were not included, as plans are underway for their customers.