BVN. NIMC’s Nemesis or Nunc Dimitis?

As expected, the Central Bank of Nigeria have decided to press ahead with the introduction of the Bank Verification Number BVN. I expected this, having watched the successful introduction of the Nigerian Uniform Banking Account Number (NUBAN).

Whats is BVN?

BVN gives each bank customer a unique identity across the Nigerian Banking Industry that can be used for easy identification and verification at the point of banking operations. According to the BVN website  (, BVN gives a unique identity that can be verified across the Nigerian Banking Industry (not perculiar to one Bank). Customers Bank Accounts are protected from unauthorized access and it will address issues of identity theft thus reducing exposure to fraud. The Customer’s unique BVN is accepted as a means of identification across ALL Nigerian Banks. The Banks will capture facials and the ten fingerprints of each customer that completes the registration at the Bank branches.

So, you have an account with Heritage Bank, but you go to open another account with Ecobank. You do not need to supply further details. Just give your BVN to Ecobank, and they have access to all your details from the CBN’s BVN repository. Know Your Customers (KYC) is now simplified.

But isn’t this the reason why the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) was setup? According to the NIMC website,  “The NIMC has the mandate to establish, own, operate, maintain and manage the National Identity Database in Nigeria, register persons covered by the Act, assign a Unique National Identification Number (NIN) and issue General Multi-Purpose Cards (GMPC) to those registered individuals, and to harmonize and integrate existing identification databases in Nigeria. In a few words, our mandate is to provide an assured identity system in Nigeria through the concept of enrol once and be identified for life”

Pray, how is identity management in banking operations different from that of Examinations identification? Vehicle Registration? Voters’ identification etc?

Just Two possible differences (either of, or both)

1. Having waited for NIMC to get its acts together, and the wait seeming longer that the wait for Godot, the CBN, being critically in need of this process and data, has decided to push ahead and not wait for NIMC. Of course, CBN regulates Finances and NIMC regulates identity management, so expect some fireworks in the days to come!

2. Like every cooking pot in Nigeria, the cooks just add the ingredients to milk the hapless citizens and create another opportunity for the Boys (and more recently girls) to eat fat from the nation. Before you get confused about this possibility of the CBN/NIMC joint “Come-and-Dine” invitation/collusion, let me remind you of the last three versions tax payers are still paying ….

a) Someone decided that the best way to manage our petroleum resources is to buy the most expensive PMS in the world spot market, resell to Nigeria and claim subsidy money. So … the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) comes up with some funny model for pricing and paying those who import nothing … the ever flowing petroleum subsidy.

b) Someone decided that my vehicle registration number was not good enough, so the entire hapless citizens including yours truly were forced to re-register our cars, in exchange for two miserable plate numbers withour bar codes or QR codes. Pronto, RK956KJA was re-registered and is now KJA956RK. Just interchange the prefix and the suffix. FRSC ingenuity. This level of data management ingenuity is only found in Nigeria!! In reality, N20,000 goes somewhere, or it is 25,000 or 30,000? Whatever the touts charge!

c) The Mobile Operators and the NCC announced on different occasions that there is going to be SIM registrations. What is not clear was whose responsibility it should have been. The operators or the regulator. Our SIMs have now been registered and the tax payers took the hit. Who bears the cost of future SIM registrations? Again, is it the operator or the regulator?

If you are still wondering how a German can get a Nigerian passport with the name Goodluck Jonathan when we have a functional immigrations database with biometrics, Welcome to the creation of yet another data Silo in Nigeria that may end up not being connected to all other massive and existing data silos! 

Having been beaten to this one, NIMC should simply make BVN one possible means of populating the NIMC database. If this is not acceptable to the NIMC, then please join me in asking NIMC … Quo Vadis? Go talk to CBN, your Nemesis otherwise we will sing your Nunc Dimitis!!

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