Banks are experiencing huge cash withdrawal by customers who could not complete their BVN registration within the October 31 deadline
Notwithstanding the four-months window offered by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to enable bank customers who missed the June 30 deadline to enroll in the mandatory Bank Verification Number (BVN) registration, numerous account holders did not benefit from the extension as they failed to enroll. Many also resorted to mass withdrawal from their accounts leaving them with lean balances.
The exercise ended last Saturday, October 31, after the CBN had granted four-months extension when it was observed that millions of bank customers had not been captured in the biometric verification exercise after the initial deadline of June 30. The BVN was introduced in February 2014.
The UNION investigation showed that bank branches across the country were besieged with crowd of customers who thronged the premises to carry out the BVN registration as the October 31 deadline approached. Investigation further revealed that about 10 million customers could not be registered in the BVN exercise as at October 31; and CBN has foreclosed any plan for further extension.
Reasons for not completing the BVN registration during the four-month extension, according to bank customers, include busy schedule, long queues in the banking halls, cumbersome process, inefficient equipment, failure to carry out the exercise during Saturdays, suspicion over CBN intention and wrong perception of the exercise.
Reports from our Correspondents in the six geo-political zones confirmed that a large number of bank customers could not be captured in the BVN exercise within the entire 18 month period since inception in April 2014; and still could not accomplish the exercise within the four-month extension that ended October 31.
The UNION witnessed mass withdrawal from Automated Teller Machines (ATM) terminals in various banks across the country by anxious customers who expressed mixed feelings over the BVN exercise and its likely impact on their transactions with the banks.
Many of the adamant customers who vowed not carry out the BVN registration expressed misgivings about the intention of the CBN in introducing the exercise many said would “worsen the hardship customers experience in transacting business with the banks”.
Our Correspondent who monitored the last minutes rush in Akwa Ibom State to be enrolled in the BVN exercise, observed frantic efforts by customers at various branches of banks at Ududoma Banking District, First Bank at Oron Road; Diamond Bank, Abak Road; GTB, Abak Road; Ecobank, Barracks Road and other banks outlets on the capital.
“If I am not able to do it today, the only option is to use my ATM to withdraw all my cash in the bank except the BVN Central Bank of Nigeria extends the deadline again…”, these were the lamentations of a customer to the Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) branch in Uyo, last Friday.
At the busy Oba Akran Avenue, Ikeja Lagos, virtually all the banks witnessed overflow of customers within their premises which turned the environment into a rowdy arena with brazen display of unruly behaviour, insults and arguments among angry customers and between bank officials and their account holders.
“After two days of unsuccessful attempt, I have no option than to withdraw all the amount I could be allowed to take from my account until this confusion is over. I cannot leave my money with a bank that would not allow me to register for the BVN, yet not allow me to operate my account because I did not complete the BVN,” a man who identified himself as Ayo, told The UNION at the popular computer village, after failing to register at the Oba Akran Avenue branch of First Bank because of huge crowd.
In Enugu, customers were seen registering their BVN with various branches of the banks in the metropolis; this, however, is not the same with Awka, Anambra State capital, where customers engaged in mass cash withdrawal from both the ATM terminals and across the counter “to avoid unforeseen circumstances.”
A lady, who identified herself as Chiamaka, said she could not be attended to even after she left home as early as 5am in order to complete the BVN registration. She said she was overwhelmed by the crowd she met at the bank premises which had been overtaken by anxious customers as early as 6.45.
Chimauche Onyeanuna, a business man, was able to complete his BVN registration at Zenith Bank; he is however of the opinion that the exercise is unnecessary. ”I don’t know why the CBN would make this BVN thing compulsory. I have to leave my business now to do this and you can imagine the time/money lost,” he lamented to The UNION.
A visit to various bank branches in the metropolis revealed that customers had embarked on large cash withdrawal since the beginning of the week. Those affected are mainly customers who said they had no time to queue for the BVN registration because of their busy schedule. “I have withdrawn over N800,000 from my three different bank accounts since the week because of this ‘wahala’ called BVN”, a middle-aged trader told The UNION.
Bank officials and customers who spoke to The UNION in Ilorin, Kwara State capital, expressed mixed feelings as the October 31 deadline approached.
An official of an old generation bank who would not want his name mentioned in the report, lamented over the huge crowd that the bank was besieged with as customers thronged the premises for the BVN registration. He decried the nonchalant attitude of customers to the exercise, which accounted for the long queues at the BVN registration point in the banking halls at the time.
“It is unfortunate that many bank customers are yet to get their BVN despite the extension. It is going to be tedious for bank officials during the last minute rush like what was experienced previously,” the bank officiallamented.
A First Bank of Nigeria customer, Mr. Ajitoni Adams told The UNION that he had been unable to do the registration because of his work schedule. “I am yet to register because my work schedule is very tight. The only time I’m free is weekends. I had to squeeze out time to get it done today but I’m surprised to see this long queue,” he added.
An Eco Bank customer, Mrs. Salimat Onagun said she had not registered because she was yet to see the need for the BVN. “I don’t understand what the BVN is all about. We have registered for national identity card and done SIM registration, if our data are needed, they can as well get it from there, and it’s not worth the stress.
“Moreover there is no time, some of us have jobs that are challenging and time-consuming, so we don’t have the liberty of staying on a long queue just to register for our BVN,” she stated.
A trader at Ariaria market, Aba, Abia State, 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.
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.
The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, said Thursday that 20,833,635 bank customers enrolled over 40 million accounts in various banks in the country under the Bank Verification Number, BVN, registration exercise as at October 25, 2015. The project is being implemented in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee of the CBN and is meant to provide unique identities for all bank customers and other users of financial services in the country.
The inability of a significant number of bank customers to obtain the BVN document resulted in last minute rush in most banking halls across the country towards June 30, 2015 – the first deadline set by the CBN for enrolment by all customers. The CBN later extended the exercise to October 31, 2015, to enable banks provide more facilities to enhance seamless enrolment of customers both within the country and abroad.
Statistics from the Nigeria Inter- Bank Settlement System Plc, NIBSS, show that about 20,833,635 bank customers had enrolled as at October 25, 2015.
The CBN has explained that customers’ accounts will not be frozen as being erroneously interpreted by members of the public, but that every customer will be required to complete the registration before accessing their accounts.
– Sam Diala (Lagos), Blessing Nwafor (Awka), Iniobong Ekponta (Uyo), Baldwin Amah (Enugu), Abioye Olarewaju (Ilorin), Ogbonnaya Ndukwa (Aba)