SIX years after the introduction of the Bank Verification Number (BVN) project, the total number of BVNs so far issued by financial institutions in the country now stands at 41.01 million, findings by New Telegraph show.
According to latest data released by the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS), total BVN enrolment stood at 41,014,247 as at February 9, 2020.
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 all bank customers and giving them a unique identity that can be verified across the Nigerian banking industry.
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 as well as enhance financial inclusion by opening up opportunities for credit to millions of Nigerians without a standard means of identification.
New Telegraph’s analysis of NIBSS’ Electronic Payments Fact sheets for the first three quarters of last year indicates that total BVN enrolment increased from 37.4 million at the end of March 2019 to 38.3 million and 39.4 million at the end of June and September 2019 respectively.
With NIBSS data showing that total BVN enrolment at the end of 2018, was 36.4 million, it means that between then and February 9, 2020, financial institutions issued about 4.6 million new BVNs.
However, further review of figures obtained from NIBSS shows that there has been a significant slowdown in BVN enrolment in recent times compared with the situation three years ago.
In fact, New Telegraph’s analysis of BVN enrolment data, since the initiative was launched six years ago, shows that the pace of registration by bank customers has dropped in the past one year.
For instance, on the eve of the October 31, 2015 deadline that the CBN had initially set for bank customers to register for BVN, data released by the apex bank and NIBSS indicates that 20.8 million bank customers had enrolled for over 40 million accounts in various banks in the country
In addition, NIBSS data 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.
Thus, comparing the October 29, 2017 BVN data (30.7 million) with the February 9, 2020 figure (41.01 million), reveals that 10.31 million customers were enrolled on the platform during the period.
At a press conference in August 2018, top banking industry officials had announced that in line with plans for the implementation of the Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility (SANEF) initiative, the CBN, Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) 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 the 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 the 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.
Furthermore, as part of its efforts to boost BVN enrolment figures, the Bankers’ Committee, at its annual retreat in December last year, had unveiled a new plan that requires classification of BVN into two: BVN Premium and BVN Lite.
Giving details of the new BVN plan, CBN Governor, Mr. 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 rural areas that do not meet the full requirements.
The initiative, he said, would enable such grassroots’ customers, mainly the poor, conduct minimal financial services and reduce financial exclusion rate.
The CBN boss revealed that the Bankers’ Committee was collaborating with the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) and Mobile Money Operators to ensure that the project succeeds and more Nigerians brought into the financial system.
It would be recalled that the CBN had announced at the end of last year that it was planning to get the number of people enrolled on the BVN platform to 100 million over the next five years.
The regulator said the 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.
Analysts say that the BVN project has been one of the most significant initiatives introduced by the Bankers’ Committee.
Indeed, according to industry watchers, the success of the BVN project has enabled the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to issue national identity numbers to more Nigerians in the last few months.