*‘Other Banks’ Debit Card Holders Fault Limited Cash Access

Contrary to expectations that the pressure on Nigerians by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to take old naira notes in their possessions to the banks for new ones would boost bank account records in the country, indications have emerged that since the beginning of the year, lenders have only recorded abysmally low number of new customers.

This was revealed by the available Bank Verification Number enrolments seen by New Telegraph yesterday.

Findings showed that despite the over 36 million Nigerian who currently have zero access to financial services and the pressure by the apex bank through sensitisation on new notes, only 80,000 new customers approached the banks for new accounts and BVN registration in the last three weeks.

This development may have been part of the reasons the apex bank initiated the ‘swap’ option to enable more Nigerians in the rural areas change their old notes to new ones without necessarily opening an account in the first instance, depending on the amount in their possessions. According to data from the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS) seen by New Telegraph, BVN enrolment pushed to 56.78million as of January 22, 2023. With the data indicating that total enrolment stood at 56.7 million as at the end of December 2022, it means that about 80,000 new BVNs have so far been issued by banks this year.

The relatively low number of BVN registrations recorded in the last three weeks, however, appears to contradict expectations in some quarters that there will be surge in BVN enrolment as the January 31, 2023 deadline, set by the CBN for members of the public to deposit their old N200, N500 and N1,000banknotesintotheir bank accounts, in line with its currency redesign policy, approaches.

CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, had on October 26, announced that the regulator had obtained President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval to change the design of the N200, N500 and N1,000 denominations. Emefiele, who stated that the new currency notes would become legal tender as from December 15, 2022, said that the old and new notes would circulate concurrently for a period of 45 days up until January 31, 2023, when the former will cease to be legal tender, adding that depositors must deposit the old N200, N500 and N1,000 banknotes into their bank accounts before the expiration of the deadline.

He stated that apart from helping to tackle currency counterfeiting and the worsening shortage of clean and fit banknotes in the system, the currency redesign policy would accelerate financial inclusion in the country as there will be an increase in the number of people opening bank accounts in order to deposit their old notes.

Furthermore, the policy was also expected to boost BVN enrolment as new bank customers would be issued BVNs. Despite its effort to push for financial inclusion, Nigeria remains one of the top seven countries with a sizeable part of the population unbanked, according to a Work Bank report.

The report titled, “The Global Findex Database 2021: Financial Inclusion, Digital Payments, and Resilience in the Age of COVID-19” had revealed that about 64 million of its nearly 200 million people still do not have an account with a financial institution or mobile money platform. The report also showed that of the world’s 1.4 billion unbanked population, over half or 740 million comes from seven economies, including Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, and Pakistan. However, in November last year, the Director of Information Technology at theCBN, RakiyatMohammed, said that about 36 million Nigerians had zero access to financial services.

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