Nigerian bank account holders might be forced to undergo an exercise to link their bank accounts to their National Identification Numbers (NIN). This is because the Federal Government is planning to replace the Bank Verification Number (BVN) with the National Identity Number (NIN).
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami disclosed this at a media briefing in Abuja after a survey of the ongoing NIN registration exercise at NIMC enrolment centres in Nigeria’s capital city.
The minister revealed he has consulted with the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele on the need to replace BVN with NIN. Pantami further stated that he led a presentation made to the National Economic Sustainability Committee (NESC) to that effect.
Pantami explained that the use of NIN is mandated by law stipulated in National Identification Number Regulations 2017 while the BVN is a policy introduced by the CBN.
“The strength of the law wherever you go is not the same with a policy of one institution.”Dr Isa Pantami
“BVN is our secondary database, while NIN and the database is the primary one in the country that each and every institution should make reference to NIMC,” he added.
Another NIN Linkage Exercise for BVN?
Going by Pantami’s statements, it seems only a matter of time before Nigerians are required to link their NIN to BVN in order to continue transacting with their bank accounts.
There are certain complexities that could yet determine how exactly the NIN would replace the BVN, especially because they serve different purposes.
Data from the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) shows that 71 million of about 124 million bank accounts in Nigeria are still being operated without the BVN identification.
The BVN was launched in 2014 by the CBN on the back of the deployment of a centralized Bank Verification System. As part of a Know Your Customer (KYC) Strategy, the BVN gives each bank customer a unique identity across the Nigerian banking industry. It also equips banks to better curtail fraudulent activities.
NIN on the other hand serves to provide accurate identification records about every citizen and legal residents in the country while granting access to all government services. However, the government has been making desperate efforts in recent times to integrate the NIN across every sector of the economy, including telecoms, transport and e-commerce.
Recall that in December 2020, the Nigerian Communications Commission had issued a directive ordering telcos to block SIMs not linked to NINs by 30th December.
The case with BVN may play out in a similar vein. BVN is usually required to register and transact on financial services platforms including e-banking channels, fintech apps and even crypto exchanges (before the CBN order).
If the NIN would replace the BVN, bank customers would perhaps be compelled to link NINs to their bank accounts for unrestricted access to financial services.
In early January, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) voided NIN generated via BVN in what was perhaps an indication that plans to replace the BVN with NIN were in the works.
“You MUST complete your NIN registration even if your BVN has generated a NIN,” the commission said in a Twitter post.
While the details supplied for BVN registration, with the exception of bank account information, are also provided for NIN enrolment, it does not necessarily imply that the BVN would be phased out.
Just as with the NIN-SIM linkage exercise, it is likely that account holders would have to link NIN to BVN instead.
Just as a mobile subscriber’s NIN can easily be used to trace the holder’s phone number, people may only be able to access financial services using the NIN linked to their BVN going forward.
On the whole, the government’s plan appears to be part of a concerted effort to “force” Nigerians to obtain the NIN and deploy it across the board.
Impact On Banks
Having integrated the BVN for customers’ bank accounts since 2014, banks would of course lead the transition to NIN, should it be enforced by the government.
Speaking on the government’s NIN/BVN replacement plans, a source at a full service commercial bank in Nigeria told Technext:
“There has not been any official communication on the NIN replacing the BVN for bank customers. No information has been received in that regard as of now.”
Although banks already have customers’ personal information and biometrics via BVN, it is not particularly clear how they would tweak their database to recognise NIN as the new BVN or whether banking transactions could be affected during the process.
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