Continuous registration for the Bank Verification Number (BVN) by bank account owners in the country has pushed up total BVN registration to 56.78million as of January 22, 2023, latest data released by the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS), shows. With NIBSS data indicating that total BVN enrolment stood at 56.7 million as at the end of December 2022, it means that about new 80,000 BVNs have so far been issued by banks this year.
The relatively low number of BVN registrations recorded in the last three weeks, however, appears to contradict expectations in some quarters that there will be surge in BVN enrolment as the January 31, 2023 deadline, set by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for members of the public to deposit their old N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes into their bank accounts, in line with its currency redesign policy, approaches.
CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, had on October 26, announced that the regulator had obtained President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval to change the design of the N200, N500 and N1,000 denominations. Emefiele, who stated that the new currency notes will become legal tender as from December 15, 2022, said that the old and new notes will circulate concurrently for a period of 45 days up until January 31, 2023, when the former will cease to be legal tender, adding that depositors must deposit the old N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes into their bank accounts before the expiration of the deadline.
He stated that apart from helping to tackle currency counterfeiting and the worsening shortage of clean and fit banknotes in the system, the currency redesign policy would accelerate financial inclusion in the country as there will be an increase in the number of people opening bank accounts in order to deposit their old notes. Furthermore, the policy was also expected to boost BVN enrolment as new bank customers would be issued BVNs.
The CBN, in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, NIBSS and the German firm, Dermalog, launched the $50 million BVN proj-ect, on February 14, 2014, with the aim of capturing biometrics of all bank customers and giving them a unique identity that could be verified across the Nigerian banking industry. A former CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi, had said at the event that the BVN project would enable the apex bank to significantly reduce incidents of fraud and money laundering in the banking industry and also help accelerate financial inclusion by opening up opportunities for credit to millions of Nigerians who do not have a standard means of identification.
However, New Telegraph’s analysis of NIBSS’ BVN enrolment data since the inception of the scheme, indicates that the pace of registration by bank customers has slowed in the last few years, compared with what it was during the early years of the implementation of the project. Indeed, data obtained from NIBSS shows that while total BVN enrolments stood at 51.9million as of the end of December 2021, total active BVNs across all banks stood at 44.5million in the same period.
The data also indicates that while as at the end of December 2021, the total number of bank accounts stood at 191.4million, belonging to 122.3 customers, total number of active bank accounts at the end of 2021 stood at 133.5million. Similarly, the CBN’s recently released Financial Stability Report (FSR) for H1’ 2022, stated that as at June 30, 2022: “2,722,518 BVNs were enrolled, bringing total BVN enrolment to 54,651,086, reflecting an increase of 5.24 per cent over 51,928,568 enrolments at end- December 2021. The number of accounts linked with BVNs was 130,569,656 out of 148,462,947 active customer accounts, while the number of watch-listed BVNs associated with fraud and deceased persons stood at 6,047 and 11,871, respectively.” Analysts note that at 56.78million, current BVN enrolment in the industry is 13.22million less than 70million total BVN enrolment target by 2020 set by operators under the Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility (SANEF) initiative. The SANEF initiative was launched in late March 2018 by the CBN in collaboration with DMBs, NIBSS, licensed Mobile Money Operators (MMOs) and shared agents as part of measures to promote financial inclusion. At its maiden press briefing in 2018, the SANEF technical committee said that the plan to almost double the number of Nigerians with BVN within two years was critical to boosting the country’s financial inclusion rate as well as ensuring financial stability.