By Babajide Komolafe
Contrary to several official pronouncements, the deadline for bank customers to enrol for the Biometric Verification Number (BVN) was extended by four months till October 31st.
Though a big relief to millions of bank customers across the country who were yet to enrol, it was also a huge relief for the banks, due to the cloud of uncertainties and increasing technical issues undermining the exercise.
The BVN is a good initiative with many benefits to customers and the economy. Furthermore there were massive publicity efforts to enlighten the public about the initiative, and ensure early enrolment. All things being equal, the enrolment procedure takes about ten minutes and each customer had about nine months to choose a day within these months to spend 10 to 30 minutes to enrol.
Hence it was quite surprising that many customers waited till few days before the June 30 initial deadline before they visited their banks for enrolment. With the exception of customers in rural areas, or terror ravaged states of the North East zone, the massive crowd of customers that besieged banking halls two weeks ago was not justifiable.
But the BVN had more problems than the lackadaisical attitude of customers. One of them was communication. I was surprised when a banker of more than seven years, queried the rationale and the purpose of the BVN.
I had to spend about 20 minutes on phone to educate her how the initiative would make her job easier. Furthermore, I was in a banking hall a week to the June 30 deadline, and upon seeing the customers waiting for BVN enrolment, I asked the staff attending to me what would happen to customers who do not enrol before June 30th, she responded, “We don’t know.
We are waiting for CBN to tell us what would happen”. By Monday June 29th, some banks were barring customers from accessing their accounts until they enrol for BVN while some issued directives that any customer that fails to enrol by June 30 should not be allowed access to his/her account. Other banks however did not bar or threaten to bar customers before or after the June 30 deadline. Even among CBN officials there were conflicting signals.
A top CBN staff, who is directly involved in the BVN initiative, told Vanguard that the official position was that customers who do not enrol by June 30 would not be allowed to access their accounts until they do so. He spoke on condition of anonymity.
But the Director of Corporate Communications, Alhaji Ibrahim Muazu told Vanguard that the apex bank did not issue any directive to banks to bar customers who could not enrol by June 30. He said such customers would be allowed to access their money but would be denied some privileges such as online banking etc.
Thus as at the end of Monday June 29th, there was confusion and uncertainty about what will happen after June 30th. This of course aggravated the mammoth crowd of customers that besieged the banks as early as 7am on Monday June 29th and on Tuesday June 30th. (To be continued next week). Send comments and enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org