By Babajide Komolafe
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has extended the pilot scheme for mobile money operations by one month. Consequently, the pilot scheme which was schedule to end last month would now end this month. A top official of CBN confirmed this to Vanguard saying the apex bank decided to extend the deadline to allow the licensee company more time to address teething issues.
Mobile Money is the person-to-person payment through the mobile phone or the use of mobile phones to conduct financial transactions. It is the latest electronic banking innovation and a revolution changing the lives of millions across the globe.
Last year December, the apex bank issued temporary licenses or Approval-In-Principle (AIP) to 16 consortiums for mobile money services. Six of the consortiums are bank-led while the other 12 are led by non-bank firms. The name of the lead bank or firms are: First Bank of Nigeria, UBA/Afripay, GTBank, MobileMoney, Stanbic IBTC, and Eco Bank. The others are Fortis MFB, Pagatech, Paycom, Chams, E-Tranzact, FET (Funds Electronic Transfer), Monitiz, Parkway, Corporeti Services, Eartholeum, and M-Kudi.
The CBN, however, insists that the licensees must first demonstrate their competency to offer the service through a four-month pilot scheme.
“We have given them four months to demonstrate their competence to roll-out mobile money services before we give them the final license”, said Emmanuel Obaigbona, Deputy Director, Domestic Payment Division at the official launch of Freedom Network in February.
Vanguard investigation reveals that while granting the AIPs, the apex bank banned the licensees from embarking on any publicity campaign or making reference to mobile money as part of their services until they are given final operating license. A staff in one of these firms who spoke under condition of anonymity told Vanguard that the apex bank recently issued a directive to remind them of the ban on publicising mobile money services. The apex bank told them that during the four-month period before the final license, the consortium operate as a pilot scheme to test-run the capabilities to roll-out mobile money services. The position of the apex bank, it was gathered, is to ensure that mobile money services, though a new phenomenon in Nigeria, takes off with minimal operation hiccups.