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NIN headache: Banks may scrap 70m bank accounts

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Over 70 million bank customers are at risk of losing access to their accounts when the Central Bank of Nigeria’s directive on restricting accounts without Bank Verification Numbers and National Identification Numbers goes into effect.

The CBN had on December 1, 2023, in a circular directed that a ‘Post no Debit’ restriction be placed on all bank accounts without the BVN and NIN from Friday, March 1, 2024.

‘Post No Debit’ is a term used to describe a restriction imposed by banks on specific accounts, preventing customers from making withdrawals, transfers, or any other debits from such accounts. This measure effectively freezes the funds in the account, rendering them inaccessible for the duration of the restriction.

The circular, jointly signed by the Director, Payments System Management Department, Chibuzo Efobi; and Director, Financial Policy and Regulation Department, Haruna Mustapha, read, “It is mandatory for all Tier-1 bank accounts and wallets for individuals to have BVN and/or NIN. It remains mandatory for Tiers 2 & 3 accounts and wallets for individual accounts to have BVN and NIN.

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“For all existing Tier-1 accounts/wallets without BVN or NIN: Effective immediately, any unfunded account/wallet shall be placed on ‘Post No Debit or Credit’ until the new process is satisfied. Effective March 1, 2024, all funded accounts or wallets shall be placed on ‘Post No Debit or Credit’ and no further transactions permitted. The BVN or NIN attached to and/or associated with all accounts/wallets must be electronically revalidated by January 31, 2024.”

The circular went on to warn banks in the country that a “comprehensive BVN and NIN audit shall be conducted shortly and where breaches are identified, appropriate sanctions shall be applied.”

As the deadline approached, some banks sent out messages to their customers to regularise their accounts in line with the new CBN directive. While some asked customers to visit their physical branches, others made provisions for customers to update their accounts online.

FirstBank Nigeria in an email to customers said, “Please ensure that your Bank Verification Number and National Identification Number are linked to your account number on or before February 29, 2024.

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“You can seamlessly update your account information with your BVN and NIN by visiting any FirstBank branch close to you. Please note that the Central Bank of Nigeria through its circular: PSM/DIR/PUB/CIR/001/053 dated December 1, 2023, has directed that effective March 1, 2024, all funded accounts without BVN shall be placed on ‘Post No Debit or Credit’ and no further transactions permitted.”

Ecobank Nigeria wrote, “Please be informed that the Central Bank of Nigeria through its circular dated December 1, 2023, has announced that all accounts without Bank Verification Number and/or the National Identity Number would not be able to carry out transactions from March 1, 2024.

“Consequently, you will be required to update your account information with your National Identification Number and Bank Verification Number if you have not done so already.” It, however, offered an online solution.

Fintech firm, OPay, also called on its customers to complete the regularisation of their accounts by linking their BVN or their NIN as mandated by the apex bank, offering them both online and offline options.

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A Tier-1 account refers to a bank account that can be opened with minimal or no form of documentation. Such an account can be opened with a passport photograph and has a limit of N50,000 deposit and an operating balance of N200,000 and is mostly not linked to the BVN and is targeted at the unbanked population.

This space is dominated by fintech firms and there are concerns that the lax Know Your Customer requirements are loopholes that are being used to perpetuate fraud.

The National President of the Association of Mobile Money and Bank Agents in Nigeria, Sarafadeen Fasasi, who called for an extension of the deadline, said while the policy was a good move to improve banks’ KYC requirements, its implementation was worrisome.

He said, “We are all aware that it is a good policy for the system for us to have good KYC, but unfortunately, what we have a challenge with is the implementation. This is another wrong implementation. Before you give a deadline, you must have provided the access points. As of today, we have about 104 million NINs out of 200 million people expected to have NINs. So, there is a gap of about 100 million.

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“It is the same thing with the BVN, which as of the last report was about 59.9 million out of 134 million expected bank accounts. That means we have over 70 million accounts, which will be affected.”

According to data from Statista, as of 2021, the number of active bank accounts in the country was around 133.5 million, with savings accounts making up about 120 million.

Fasasi claimed that the National Identity Management Commission lacked the capacity to deliver 100 million NINs within the required timeframe.

He said, “The question is, can the NIMC deliver the gap of about 100 million NINs within the deadline? The answer is no, so why should this drive Nigerians into another problem? For BVNs, we have a huge gap to deliver and only bank branches can enrol BVN as of today.

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“Based on our research, about 300 local government areas out of the 774 LGAs in Nigeria have no bank branches; so, who are those who are going to provide BVN enrolment at those LGAs? It means that people are going to run into trouble.

“Also, the highest that the banks have done is 500,000 enrolment per month. We are not ready for this. Why the rush? Why not plan that every month, this is what we want to achieve based on our capacity and access points?”

He lamented that this was coming at the same time as the National Communications Commission had directed telecom companies to bar mobile lines without the NIN.

“Who is pursuing us in Nigeria in this critical period where everyone is groaning under adverse economic conditions? They want to add extra trauma; I think we need to reconsider this,” he concluded.

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The Chairman, Consumer Rights Awareness, Advancement and Advocacy Initiative, Moses Igbrude, said the apex bank ought to assess the level of compliance before wielding the big stick.

He said, “You must check the challenges and the parties who are responsible for the NIN and BVN. What of Nigerians in the Diaspora? They should give more time for this linkage so that they will not disrupt the banking system.

“It is a multifaceted issue involving many players. What is the infrastructure required for them to work? Otherwise, they will use a legal way to disenfranchise a lot of people.”

The President, Bank Customers Association of Nigeria, Dr Uju Ogubunka, called for an extension of the deadline to enable more bank customers regularise their accounts in line with the CBN directive.

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Ogubunka told the pres “We know that some of our members have linked their accounts with the BVN/NIN as directed by the CBN. At this point, I think it will be wise to give an extension, because the telecom network has been a bit inclement and, then of course, you talk about power; some of us were unable to charge our phones for some time because there was no power. And these things are happening almost everywhere.

“People are willing to do what they’re supposed to do, but conditions within the environment are a bit difficult. So, I will personally suggest that we consider what is happening and give some extension.”

He went on to suggest that a test run where restrictions would be placed on some affected accounts might be of help in sensitising people to the importance of the directive.

“Another thing that they can do is maybe do a test run so that people will know that it is something that can be done. Some people may not even believe that it is possible to restrict transactions. So, if you do a test run for one day or even a few hours, you announce that those who have not linked up will be unable to access their accounts temporarily, maybe for 24 hours or 12 hours, then give an extension. That should help,” Ogubunka added.

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He stated that there had been no reports that banks had started to restrict bank accounts without the BVN and NIN.

“No one has reported that to us yet. But then, they may not know until they want to make use of the accounts. It is not as if they are using the bank accounts every minute of the day. It is only when they want to make use of it and then see that they can’t get through, that is when they have an issue. So far, we don’t have any report on that,” he said.

Multiple bankers, who spoke with journalists on condition of anonymity, said the banks had not yet started to restrict accounts without the BVN and NIN.

They said directives had been issued from their headquarters to create a seamless linking process to avoid account deactivation.

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A bank official said, “No one is deactivating accounts yet. They have been sending emails to customers to calm down so that a more seamless linking process will be communicated to customers. They will be reached via text and email. Some people used the NIN to open or update their accounts already so they won’t need to do it again.”

On the number of possible affected customers, the official stated, “We haven’t got the affected number yet. It has to be spooled by our IT team from the backend.”

Another official confirmed the directive to assist more customers via email.

“The deadline still stands; however, not all accounts are blocked because some opened theirs with the national ID from the inception. But we will be reaching out via email and text,” the official wrote to one of our correspondents.

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A News Agency of Nigeria report on Friday revealed that customers continued to besiege various bank branches in Lagos to meet the CBN deadline for linking BVN and NIN to their accounts.

The customers also asked the CBN to extend the deadline for them to link their BVNs and NIN with their accounts.

With the implementation of the directive, there was a significant gathering of customers at various banks as early as 8am on Friday to link their NINs with their bank accounts.

A security officer at a Guaranty Trust Bank branch in the Abule Egba area, while addressing customers who were eager to gain entry into the banking hall, said the message sent out by the bank to its customers concerning the directive was a random one.

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He said not all customers that got the message were affected by the directive. This got the customers infuriated, as they said the bank should have sent out messages to only those affected. At another GTB branch in Egbeda, the bank advised customers to register online using specified codes displayed on the walls outside the banking hall.

However, at Polaris Bank, the crowd was not allowed to converge, and those who went into the banking hall were told by the customer service desk to produce their NIN slips.

Those without the slips were turned back. Customers who explained their mission to the bank’s security officers before entering the banking hall were told to get the slips.

Two bank employees used mini computers to do the first registration at the entrance before the security guards allowed the customers into the banking hall.

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At Providus Bank on Nnamdi Azikiwe Road, customers were given forms and were assisted with registration simultaneously. The situation was similar at Wema Bank on Broad Street and other banks visited on Lagos Island.

Meanwhile, calls and text messages sent to the CBN spokesperson, Hakama Sidi, yielded no response as of the time of filing this report.

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Nigeria to export petroleum products by Dec, says NNPCL

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Nigeria’s oil industry will join the big league in December when it becomes a net exporter of refined petroleum products.

Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO), Mele Kyari, said yesterday that ahead of this, the Port Harcourt Refinery will go into full operation and petrol supply from next month.

According to him, the Warri and Kaduna refineries will follow suit by December.

On Sunday, Alhaji Aliko Dangote said the Dangote Refinery will pump petrol in commercial quantity also from next month.

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These are expected to bring relief to Nigerians.

Kyari spoke when he appeared before the National Assembly Joint Committee on Finance.

He was part of the Federal Government’s finance team that shared ideas with the lawmakers on how the Executive is tackling the myriad of economic challenges.

Yesterday, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) put the June headline inflation rate at 34.19 per cent, pushed up by the 40.87 per cent food inflation.

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Other members of the economic team at the parley led by the Coordinating Minister of the Economy Mr. Wale Edun were: Budget/National Planning Minister, Senator Atiku Bagudu; Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri; Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Dr Yemi Cardoso, represented by Deputy Governor (Economic Policy) Muhammad Abdullahi and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) Chairman, Mr. Zacch Adedeji.

Edun and Abdullahi joined the meeting during the closed-door session.

Relying on emerging indicators in the energy and gas sector, the NNPCL boss told the committee that Nigeria will become a net exporter of refined petroleum products by December.

Kyari told the committee that the Port Harcourt Refinery will start production early next month, adding that this will be followed by the one in Warri and Kaduna Refinery latest by December.

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He added that in a few months, the daily crude oil production will hit two million barrels with the logistics so far put in place.

Kyari said: “NNPCL and the oil and gas industry are very critical in bringing a turnaround in our current economic situation, and we understand the importance of this. We are taking every step that is practical for us to achieve this.

“We have already seen growth in our oil and gas production because of certain actions that Mr. President personally took, and also the very mere truth that we have also declared a war on production activities and this is yielding the required results.

“The combination of these two has now seen us restoring production in our country, and we believe that, as the minister has said, we will soon hit the target of two million barrels of oil production per day.

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“I’m aware that there are several comments in the public space around refining business and domestic production, including production that will come from the commissioned Dangote refinery.

“This country will be a net exporter of petroleum products by the end of this year. We’re very optimistic that by December, this country will be a net exporter.

“That means a combination of production coming from us, and also from Dangote refinery and other smaller producing companies are in line to do this.

“So, I can confirm to you, Mr. Chairman, that by the end of the year, this country will be a net exporter of petroleum products.

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“We have spoken to a number of your committees that it is impossible to have the Kaduna refinery come into operation before December, it will get to December. Both Warri and Kaduna but that of Port Harcourt, will commence production early August this year.”

The CBN Deputy Governor said the triple challenge of rising inflation, foreign exchange rate fluctuations and food inflation would soon be on the reverse trend as indicators to that effect are already emerging.

Bagudu said the 2024 Budget is already being implemented and that there is ongoing negotiation with Labour leaders on the new minimum wage.

Chairman of the joint Committee, Senator Sani Musa, appealed to Nigerians to persevere “as the government is working around the clock to stabilise the economy”.

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He added: “Our critical interactive session with you as managers of the economy is about economic growth. It’s about how we can get our policies to work. How we will support Nigerians.

“The National Assembly is very concerned because we are the representatives of the people. And we are obliged to ask what is happening and this is the reason for this meeting.

“We have heard from you, at least you have given us preambles of the activities going on, on how our economy can get back on track.

“You are all aware of the obstructions our economy has had in the previous years and it is not going to be easy that overnight, in 365 days or in one year of the coming administration, things will change. It will be gradual.

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“I believe that Nigerians will persevere. This is the only time we can all come together as Nigerians to give His Excellency the President, all the needed support to get us out of all the trouble we have been.

“The indicators are showing that the economy is doing well. Things are a bit difficult because it is not easy for inflation that has gone up to go down like that. It takes time.”

Inflation rises to 34.19 per cent

Nigeria’s headline inflation rate rose marginally by 0.24 percentage points to 34.19 per cent last month from 33.95 per cent in May.

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Food inflation also increased to 40.87 per cent last month against 40.66 per cent the previous month.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in its latest report, said: “In June 2024, the headline inflation rate increased to 34.19 per cent relative to the May 2024 headline inflation rate which was 33.95 per cent.

‘’Looking at the movement, the June 2024 headline inflation rate showed an increase of 0.24 per cent points when compared to the May 2024 headline inflation rate.”

The NBS stated this in its Consumer Price Index (CPI) released yesterday.

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The CPI  measures the average change over time in the prices of goods and services consumed by people daily.

“On a year-on-year basis, the headline inflation rate was 11.40 per cent points higher compared to the rate recorded in June 2023, which was 22.79 per cent,’’ the report added.

However, the rate of increase (0.24 percentage points) is lower than that of  May and other months.

“On a month-on-month basis, the food inflation rate in June 2024 was 2.55 per cent, which shows a 0.26 per cent increase compared to the rate recorded in May 2024 (2.28 per cent),” it said.

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The NBS attributed the development to a rise in the average prices of food items.

CPI had risen from 33.20 per cent in March to 33.69 per cent in April.

Nigeria has seen 19 months of consecutive inflationary pressure, pushing the inflation rate to a 28-year high.

Many experts at Cordros Capital Group, and CardinalStone Group, had expected a gradual and sustained decline in inflation in the months ahead, with some highlighting possible disinflation from July 2024.

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Financial Derivatives Company (FDC) predicted that average prices would rise further this month. It cited renewed inflationary pressure.

FDC particularly noted that imminent wage increases could trigger cost-push inflation.

President of the Association of Capital Market Academics in Nigeria, Prof. Uche Uwaleke, said recent fiscal measures by the Federal Government designed to address food shortages would manifest in a slowdown of costs.

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18.7m Nigerians under insurance cover, NHIA DG

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No fewer than 18.7 million Nigerians have been covered by health insurance as of this year’s second querter, the Nigerian Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) said yesterday.

The agency said it has made significant strides in expanding health insurance coverage across the country.

It’s Director-General, Dr. Kelechi Ohiri, dropped the hints in Abuja during the inaugural Quarterly Performance Dialogue between the Federal Government, 36 State Governments, and key health sector stakeholders.

According to him, the 18.7 million Nigerians covered by health insurance, surpassed the target set for the period by an impressive 11 per cent.

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He said that this achievement highlighted the NHIA’s dedication to achieving universal health coverage (UHC).

Ohiri said: “The authority’s vision is centered on bridging the gap in healthcare access for millions of Nigerians and enhancing the overall quality of care. Despite this progress, several challenges persist.”

He said that one of the significant challenges identified was the uneven distribution of coverage, particularly the disparity between the formal and informal sectors.

To tackle these challenges, Ohiri said that the NHIA had outlined a strategic plan for the future.

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He mentioned that the authority aimed to leverage on data and technology to enhance service delivery and patient outcomes.

He said that the NHIA was optimising operations and fostering citizen engagements in its commitment to improving healthcare access.

“The authority has set an ambitious target to cover 20 million Nigerians by 2027, a goal that underscores its comprehensive vision for universal health coverage in the country,” he said.

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Ex-VP Osinbajo Celebrates Wife’s Birthday With Heartfelt Message

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Former Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has taken to social media to gush over his wife, Dolapo, as she marks her birthday anniversary on Monday.

Osinbajo took to his X handle (formerly Twitter) on Monday to pen down emotional messages with pictures of Dolapo appreciating arts and plants, to wish his wife well.

Osinbajo wrote: “Happy birthday my love @dolapoosinbajo.

“Your love, kindness, and generosity make all our lives so much happier.

“Love you always, Yemi xxx.”

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He continued, saying, “This year I decided to share my favorite photos of Dolly @dolapoosinbajo doing her favorite things.”

Taking to the comment section, veteran Nollywood actress Joke Silva said, “Happy birthday to the Jewel in the Crown. Have an incredible day.”

Also, a former Chairman, Board of Directors, First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., Ibukun Awosika, reacted: “Happy birthday to a most beautiful person, both inside and outside. You are a true treasure and a worthy example of Christ in us. God bless you richly. Love you lots.”

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