Millions of bank accounts in Nigeria are at risk of being blocked as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) deadline for linking accounts with either a Bank Verification Number (BVN) or National Identity Number (NIN) approaches. The CBN issued a circular on December 1, 2023, directing all financial institutions to electronically revalidate BVN or NIN by January 31, 2024. Failure to comply will result in funded accounts or wallets without BVN or NIN being placed on ‘Post No Debit or Credit’ from March 1, 2024.
According to a report by Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA), 52 percent of unbanked adults have an NIN, while 5 percent of banked adults lack a BVN or NIN. The total number of bank accounts in Nigeria was 191.4 million in 2021, with 133.5 million actively in use. The latest data from the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) indicates a BVN count of 59.96 million as of December 18, 2023.
Despite the CBN’s directive, there has been observed low compliance, with customers reportedly unaware or not rushing to link their accounts. Bank officials note that many accounts were already linked to BVN, and the directive is not new, as accounts without BVN could not be opened previously.
Financial institutions are intensifying efforts to sensitize customers through various channels, including direct contact, calls, SMS, and emails. Olanrewaju Kazeem, Group CEO of Alert Group, a pan-African Microfinance bank, stated that accounts without BVN or NIN will face restrictions on withdrawals, transfers, and other debit transactions post the deadline.
Rasheed Bolarinwa, president of the Association of Corporate and Marketing Communications Professionals in Banks, emphasized the need for customers to visit banks in person to link their accounts, warning that failure to comply before the deadline will result in restricted access and transactions.
To ensure compliance, the CBN has advised compliance officers to acquaint themselves with provided guidance notes. A comprehensive BVN and NIN audit will be conducted, and sanctions will apply for identified breaches. The directive aims to strengthen Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures and promote financial system stability.
As Nigeria strives for inclusion in financial services, the EFInA report highlights an increase in the use of digital financial services, savings, remittances, and credit. However, the impending account blocks underscore the urgency for customers to adhere to the BVN and NIN linking deadline set by the CBN.