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Number of bank customers with BVN stood at 36.4m as at December 31, 2018

 

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inancial institutions in the country enrolled a total of 2.02 million customers for the Bank Verification Number (BVN) project between April and September this year, latest data released by the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS) shows.

New Telegraph’s analysis of  latest NIBSS BVN figures  as well as the organisation’s Electronic Payments Fact sheet for January to March 2019 show that total BVN enrolments increased from 37.4 million at the end of March 2019 to 39, 415,508 as at October 6 this year. This means that total BVN enrolment rose by about 2.02million in the six month period.

 

 

Given that total BVN enrolment at the end of last year, according to NIBSS, was 36.4 million, it means that 3.02 million customers enrolled for the BVN initiative between the end of December 2018 and October 6 this year.

 

 

Analysts, however, point out that there has been a significant slowdown in BVN enrolment in recent months compared with the situation three years ago.

 

 

Indeed, thi newspaper’s analysis of BVN enrolment data since the initiative was launched in February 2014, shows that the pace of registration by bank customers has declined in the past one year.

 

 

For instance, on the eve of the October 31, 2015 deadline that CBN set for bank customers to register for BVN, data released by the apex bank as well as NIBSS (the organisation that provides the connectivity service for the initiative), showed that 20.8 million bank customers had enrolled over 40 million accounts in various banks in the country.

 

 

NIBSS data also shows that as at December 2016, the number of bank customers that had registered for BVN had increased to 27.7 million. It climbed to 30.7 million by October 29, 2017, indicating that about 10 million bank customers were enrolled on the BVN platform between October 2015 and October 2017 – a two-year period.

 

However, comparing the October 2017 BVN data with the October 6, 2019 figure indicates that 8.72 million customers were enrolled on the platform during the period.

 

Industry watchers told this newspaper that the slowdown in BVN enrolment was a cause for concern, as it could defeat the purpose for the introduction of the initiative.

 

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, NIBSS and the German firm, Dermalog, launched the $50 million BVN project, on February 14, 2014, with the aim of capturing biometrics of every bank customer and giving them a unique identity that can be verified across the Nigerian banking industry. The hope was that this would significantly reduce incidents of fraud and money laundering in the banking industry as well as enhance financial inclusion by opening up opportunities for credit to millions of Nigerians without a standard means of identification.

 

Financial experts note that by giving each bank customer a unique identification number that can be verified across the country’s industry, the BVN project has reduced the chances of criminals trying to impersonate people to attack their bank accounts.

 

 

In fact, at a press conference, in August last year,   top banking industry officials had announced that in line with plans for the implementation of the Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility (SANEF) initiative, CBN, lenders and their partners planned to  increase total BVN enrolment from about 33 million, at the time, to 70 million by 2020.

 

 

The SANEF initiative, which is primarily aimed at accelerating financial inclusion in the country, was launched in late March 2018   by CBN in collaboration with DMBs, NIBSS, licensed mobile money operators (MMOs) and shared agents.

 

 

Speaking at the briefing, a member of the technical committee set up by CBN to deepen financial inclusion, Guaranty Trust Bank’s Mr. Bolaji Lawal, 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.

 

 

He stated then that operators were committed to enrolling “40 million new unique BVNs between now and year 2020; 10 million in 2018, 15 million in 2019 and 15 million in 2020.”

 

 

He disclosed that as part of plans to ensure that the 70 million enrolment target by 2020 was met, 10,000 remote BVN devices were ordered by NIBSS and were being deployed by DMBs, MMOs and Super Agents.

 

 

Further, he revealed that under the initiative, the CBN had set aside N20 billlion, which would be accessed by operators at a reduced interest rate to enable them create 500,000 shared agent network points (access points) across the country by 2020.

 

 

According to him, 70,000 access points had already been created and nine operators, comprising three mobile money operators and six super agents, which are part of the scheme, had accessed N4.5 billion of the N20 billion.

 

But given the slowdown in BVN enrolment and with total enrolment standing at 39.42 million as at October 6, 2019, analysts believe that  the chances  of operators in the financial system achieving their target of 70 million BVN enrolment by 2020  now look quite remote.

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