NIGERIA: CBN mulls 100m BVN-linked accounts in five years

By Collins Nweze

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has pledged to increase the figures of bank customers enrolled on the Bank Verification Number (BVN) system from over 40 million to 100 million in the next five years.

According to the CBN Update released recently, the apex bank said increase in BVN enrolment would address the constraint that poor identification has on the availability of credit to prospective banking customers, particularly, those in the informal sector.

According to recent figures released by Nigeria Interbank Settlement Systems (NIBSS), over 40 million active banks accounts are currently linked with BVN and the CBN has pledged to increase the figures within the next five years through its proactive measures.

The BVN project, which captures the uniqueness of every bank customer, is one of the most-innovative projects introduced into the Nigerian financial system in 2014.

With 40 million bank accounts already linked to the BVN, the Bankers’ Committee has also unveiled a new plan that required classification of BVN into two – BVN Premium and BVN Lite.

Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele, said BVN Premium will cover customers that can provide the 18 basic requirements for a complete BVN enrolment, while the BVN Lite will require minimal documentation like name and phone number for bank customers, especially those in the rural areas that do not meet the full requirements.

This, he said, would enable such grassroots’ customers, mainly the poor, conduct minimal financial services and reduce financial exclusion rate.

The BVN scheme, which gives each bank customer unique identification, is to revolutionise the banking and payment systems while ensuring safety of depositors’ funds.

The CBN boss said the Bankers’ Committee was collaborating with the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) and Mobile Money Operators (MMOs) to ensure that the project succeeds and more Nigerians brought into the financial system.

Emefiele said the Know Your Customer (KYC) scheme would be migrated into the BVN Lite.

“However, there are people who are currently financially excluded, like people in our rural communities that carry phones, but not having financial services. With the collaboration of NCC, we are putting this BVN arrangement to allow them conduct minimal financial services.”

Analysts have seen the new BVN policy as key to bringing more people into the financial services net. The CBN’s policies on mobile money, agency banking, Know Your Customer (KYC),  insurance, and, recently, Payment Service Banks (PSBs) expected to take off this year have helped to bring 2.6 million new customers to the financial system.

Emefiele has continued to take steps to deepen banking services in the economy. The hope for Nigeria to achieve 80 per cent financial inclusion rate come the year 2020 received a major boost, when the Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access (EFInA) released its 2018 survey figures. The survey showed that 63.6 per cent of Nigeria’s adult population now has access to financial services and only 36.6 per cent are financially excluded.

EFInA is a non-governmental organisation and a financial sector development organisation funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the promotion of financial inclusion in Nigeria. The outfit conducts surveys every two years to determine the situation of things on financial inclusion in the country.