By Nnamdi Azodo
Hello everyone, trust you are doing great.
For this week’s post, I have more questions than answers. My intention is to open a national discussion, starting right here on LinkedIn, on how we can maximize the benefits of Nigeria’s cleanest data, the BVN.
The issue of lack of data, its integrity, and accessibility in Nigeria is no news. Today in Nigeria, I can go to Igbosere Magistrate Court and swear an affidavit for Age Declaration that I am 21 years old (hint: I’m not bearded), proceed to Ikeja Magistrate Court to swear another affidavit that I am 18 years old. Right after that I can proceed to Yaba Magistrate Court for another Age Declaration affidavit. And I will get away with it all. We all know people with different ages (we are probably one of them).
All that is reduced when it comes to the BVN data.
Bank Verification Number is an initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria through the Bankers’ Committee. It was launched on the 14th of February 2014. It aimed to provide a unique way of identifying bank customers across the banking industry. With the aim of protecting bank customers against unauthorized access to their account, prevention of identity theft as well as a means of identifying individuals whose BVNs have been blacklisted for one crime of the other.
Quick Facts About BVN
BVN stands for Bank Verification Number and NOT Biometric Verification Number, even though some of your biometric details are embedded in it.
The central custodian of the BVN database is the Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement Systems (NIBSS)
As at May 21, 2017 there’s a total of 29,139,476 unique BVNs, according to NIBSS.
How do I retrieve my BVN? Just dial *565*0# from your registered mobile number. A service charge of N20 per request applies. My guess is that the telecommunication company and NIBSS share the revenue.
BVN enrollment is free of charge
Can Nigerian’s in diaspora who have Nigerian bank accounts register? Yes. Agents have been provided
Can foreigners resident in Nigeria have BVN? Yes
Your 10 fingerprints and facial image are the only biometric being captured. Retinal scanning and DNA information might help to enrich the data and make it more secure. Too futuristic?
How Can We Make the Most of BVN?
Today, BVN is used primarily used in the banking industry but must it be that way What if we build on this to kick start our social security number and a national database of everyone? I am aware that we have National Identity Management Commission. And I am also aware of how dirty the data is. I am also aware that people don’t have a sense of urgency to obtain one since it does not prevent them from having access to their accounts or living their normal lives. What of the issue of fraudsters obtaining fake National Drivers’ License? It is easier to carry fake driver’s license than it is to falsify BVN records knowing that it will cut across all your Nigerian bank accounts. Bear in mind that banks can blacklist the BVNs of fraudsters
What if we issued BVNs to minors? They don’t necessarily have to have accounts. Today in America, parents can apply for social security number for their children at birth on the application for birth certificate. This will help the National Population Commission with data gathering. Again, knowing that their kids will use their BVN for life, parents will very likely not falsify the records. Once, registered at birth the rampant reduction in age to gain certain advantages will likely reduce. To encourage parents to enroll their kids at birth for BVN, they could be allowed to claim tax deductions on each child they support right from birth.
With BVN, we can track everyone’s revenue. This can have use cases in taxation. I am not a tax expert. Using BVN to track everyone’s income will also assist the government in payment of unemployment benefits. I recall that the present administration promised us that during their campaign. And for those who support the “Unconditional Basic Income” idea where citizens and/or residents of a country receive an amount around the poverty line unconditionally, BVN will help in tracking such payments (NB: I am not a socialist. I am all for capitalism until we find a better economic system)
Use BVN to make banking easier by replacing actual physical address visitation for bank customers. The CBN in a circular dated July 28, 2016 and titled “Circular to All Banks and Other Financial Institutions” directed that actual address verification in account opening should be discontinued. Only to renege on this directive months later. I have provided my personal details and submitted myself for biometric capturing why do you think visiting my physical address will prevent me from committing fraud?
Expose the biometric information captured during BVN enrollment to banks via APIs (Application Programing Interfaces) for a deeper level of authentication.
How Can We Achieve Some of These?
Again, I do not have the answers. But I think that:
Independent Enrollment Centers will help. Today, all BVN enrollments are through banks/bankers. What if we allowed people to register at different outlets such as malls, post offices, and village squares through various agents (for financial inclusion)? If we trust independent agents to carry out BVN enrollments for Nigerians in diaspora, why can’t we employ the same method here in Nigeria especially in the remote villages?
Newer, Smaller and Cheaper BVN Machines will also help. The BVN machine for offsite (outside-the-bank) enrollment is too bulky to move around and too expensive to purchase
Regular Updates of the BVN Details. I am aware that during enrollment, some errors such as misspelling of names, incorrect date of birth found their way into the database
The conversation continues on Nnamdi Azodo LinkedIn page
Nnamdi Azodo is the product owner of ALAT Digital Bank