…Accuse Bank Officials Of Blocking Chances For Easy Registration
Ogbonnaya Ndukwe, Aba
Barely few days to the deadline set by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the nation’s apex bank for all bank customers to register and obtain verification numbers for accounts they operate il all commercial banks within the country, many of those who are yet to do so are blaming their woes on bank officials who, they accuse of non cooperation and making it difficult for them to participation in the exercise before the period of grace elapses finally.
Those who spoke to The UNION Business on the issue in the commercial city of Aba in Abia State, claim that even after going to the banks and spending hours in trying to carry out the registration process, officials of the various local banks engage in asking questions that were outside the demands in application forms being issued out to them to fill and present while other problems include slow pace of registration especially failure of many of the biometric data machines used to capture their images and finger prints.
According to most of them, since the authorities of the Central Bank of Nigeria has vehemently forclosed any extension of the current registration process any further, they will wait to know the fate of their accounts already with the banks and probably end up forfeiting money in such accounts should they be frozen and they not being allowed to continue to operate them.
Others in similar situation, said the businesses they dos did not give them enough time to spend time in their various bank branches to complete the exercise which they claimed, they had sosught to do even befor the first erxpiry date of July 31, before it was extended to October ending, due to what they described as lack of seriousness on the part of bank officials given the responsibility to register customers.
A big time trader at the Ariaria International Market, Aba, Chief Osita Okafor, told our correspondent that while the policy was a good one to check cases of fraud and stealing of other people’s money from accounts in banks, the exercise ought to have been a continuous one instead of having a deadline after which those that could not meet up with the said deadline will be punished with the freezing of their accounts and not being allowed to draw from it any money that was deposited even before the exercise began.
He noted that the issue of using government policies to bring undue punishment on the citizenry even when they were not the primary cause of such lapses in programming was unacceptable in the present democratic setting and advised managers of the nation’s economic policy implementations to beware of the prevailing hardships being faced by the people and work towards cushioning them instead of creating avenues for more sufferings.
Another trader in the same market, Mrs Margaret Johnson, said she was unable to register for the BVN within the period and may not do so in the remaining few days in view of the problems being encountered by those who had gone to their local bank branches to do so, who conplain of non-challance by operatives engaged in carrying out the registration exercise.
She said she was determined to abandon the account she was currently operating and open another one after the expiration deadline, since it had been disclosed that the registration exercise would form part of the requirements for opening every new account with any commercial bank in the country.
Asked about what will happen with the money in her current account with the bank, Mrs Johnson said like any other person she had spoken with, she had already gone to the bank to withdraw the bulk of her savings in the account she was planning to forfeit pending whatever policy statement the apex bank will come out with that may negatively affect accounts in banks without BVN.
She is not alone in this line of thinking as many petty traders and small and medium scale producers within the commercial city, are toeing the same line of making efforts to withdraw their monies in banks so as not to be taken unawares shosuld the CBN direct banks to stop operations of accounts that have no verification numbers.
Chief Coordinator of Abia State Coalition of Business Associations and Professional Groups, Ambassador Darlington Kalu, told The UNION that, while the provision of having a bank verification number for accounts in banks was a normal process of banking business the world over, the late introduction of the exercise in Nigeria and the coaxing way it was being handled as if the customers wer responsible for the lapses, had left much to be reckoned with.
He advised the CBN and the bankers committee to come out with a policy of making the exercise a continued formality in the banking process and ensure that those coming to transact business with their existing accounts reguralise them with prompt registration instead of seeking to obstruct usage of such accounts, a situation that will only result into opening new ones even when such customers needed only to carry out biometric thumb-printing and having their photographs taken online without much stress.
Some bank officials approached for comments by our correspondent, refused to admit failure on the part of their staff handling the registration exercise who, had been accused by customers as lacking in using soft words to woo or pacify those that come to their local branches and spend hours on end and still unable to complete the registration exercise due to one technical hitch or the other emanating from network failures and delays in communication with the central registration posts.
However, one of them who pleaded anonymity claiming he was not authorized to speak to newsmen on the issue said though the current exercise has not recorded up to fifty percent success due to poor handling by the authorities and coaxing nature of customers who felt disturbed at being asked to give out their fingerprints, fill forms and provide other new reuirements just to secure their money, activities they felt, should have been done by the banks.
He hoped the apex bank alongside the bankers committee will come out with a regulation on continuing the exercise instead of a policy that will make customers forfeit their accounts and scrambling for opening new ones.