The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele has revealed plans to close millions of bank accounts that are not linked to a Bank Verification Number (BVN) across several Deposit Money Banks (DMBs).
Emefiele, in a statement issued by the Director of the Risk Management Department and Chief Risk Officer, Blaise Ijabor said the objective is to clean up the sector and reduce the increasing incidence of fraud in the financial sector.
As part of their efforts to combat this problem, Ijebor noted that the apex bank has been working with the Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) to address the growing incidence of fraud in the sector.
According to him, the objective of this initiative is to clean up the financial sector and reduce the growing incidence of fraud.
He further explained that the CBN has observed that many bank accounts are not linked to the BVN, making it difficult to track fraudulent activities.
The CBN’s decision to close millions of bank accounts that are not linked to the BVN is expected to encourage customers to update their records and link their bank accounts to the BVN.
The CBN has also assured customers that the process will be conducted in a transparent and fair manner, adding that the public has been urged to cooperate with the CBN to ensure the success of this initiative in creating a more secure financial sector for everyone.
The BVN is a biometric identification system that captures the unique biometric data of bank customers, including fingerprints and facial features. It is a means of verifying the identities of customers and ensuring that they are who they claim to be.
This system has been instrumental in curbing fraudulent activities in the Nigerian financial sector since its introduction in 2014.
Meanwhile, the NIBSS is a payment infrastructure that facilitates the electronic clearing and settlement of inter-bank transactions in Nigeria. The partnership between the CBN and NIBSS has led to the development of various initiatives to enhance the security of the financial sector, including the BVN system.
He, however, highlighted the importance of the BVN system in reducing cases of fraud in the sector. He also reiterated the CBN’s commitment to working with stakeholders to promote a more secure and transparent financial sector in Nigeria.
Only 57.01 million registered BVN numbers out of the total 191.4 million bank accounts in the country, with 133.5 million active.
CBN’s Ijebor further detailed the importance of closing bank accounts without BVN and highlighted three areas where cybercriminals are exploiting vulnerabilities.
The first is the Tier-1 account, which allows customers to open an account with minimal documentation and is mostly targeted at the unbanked and rural population.
He said, “this account is dominated by digital banks or fintech firms, and often lacks BVN linkage, which makes it an easy entry point for hackers.”
“Secondly, some banks, especially digital ones, may not meet regulatory requirements, creating a second loophole for fraudulent activity.
“Lastly, hackers can exploit any vulnerability to gain access to bank accounts.”
Ijebor mentioned that the apex bank was working on improving agency banking and enabling agents to register BVN, which will help move Tier-1 accounts to Tier-2.