Fear Grips 46m Defaulters, Plead For Extension Of Time

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By CHIMA AKWAJA, Kayode Tokede, Lagos and MBACHU GODWIN NNANNA, Abuja

About 46 million customers operating various in Nigerian banks, both home and aboard, are jittery about the next line of action the federal government would take on the interim order granted by the court to freeze all corporate and individual accounts without Bank Verification Numbers (BVN).

The deadline given by federal government to bank customers on its directive on BVN enrolment expired yesterday.

According to statistics, over 15 million Nigerians in the diaspora are set to lose an estimated N3 trillion through the federal government’s directive on BVN enrolment.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in conjunction with the Bankers Committee, had in 2014 launched the Biometric Identification project to provide a single biometric database for all customers operating accounts with Nigerian banks.

It was also deployed by the CBN to achieve transparency in foreign exchange deals and to sustain exchange rate stability.

Despite the growing tension in the banking industry, the CBN is yet to give directive to commercial banks or assure bank customers of the safety of their monies.

As at the time of filing this report, the acting head of Corporate Communication of CBN, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, did not reply to text messages or respond to several phone calls placed to him by our correspondent

Meanwhile, in a desperate move to avoid losing deposits in 46 million bank accounts that have not been linked to BVN, commercial banks operating in the country have started reaching out to their customers, asking them to come and complete the biometric registration process.

Speaking with LEADERSHIP Weekend, the president, Bank Customers Association of Nigeria (BCAN), Mr. Uju Ogubunka said, “This should not have happened in the first place but since it has happened, all parties involved should comply, and longer time for compliance should be given to bank customers”.

Ogubunka noted that the time given was too short, even as he urged defaulters to ensure they register for the BVN.

Commenting on the impact of the new policy on Nigerians in Diaspora, he said, “They should be taken into consideration by giving them enough time for the exercise, because there are some of them who are processing letters for administration for their deceased ones. In this country, it takes months before such things can be finalized. Such people should also be recognized, while coming up with a new deadline.

“So, when people know that this is the intention of the government they are likely to react to the issue faster than what they expected. But if they don’t know the essence of what you are doing, then you are just talking to yourself.

“That is the way we have looked at it and we believe this is a listening government because not all the bank account holders work in government or are politicians. So, they should bear those things in mind”.

A reliable source who is a chief executive officer of a leading commercial bank also told LEADERSHIP Weekend that that his colleagues will be unwilling to oblige the federal government with directive to forfeit customers’ funds in accounts without the BVN.

The interim order of injunction handed down barely two weeks ago by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba directed banks to stop outward payments or any transactions in respect of the accounts without BVN until the substantive application filed by the federal government and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice is heard and determined by the court.

The exparte motion dated September 28, 2017 had the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice as plaintiffs/applicants, with commercial banks in the country as defendants/respondents.

The motion exparte was argued on behalf of the federal government by A. D Tyoden who prayed the court to grant all the orders as granted by Justice Dimgba of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.

It was gathered that days after the court injunction was granted, commercial banks were reaching out to their depositors reminding them of the need to enroll for the BVN exercise.

When contacted to know whether it would act based on the court order, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it was waiting for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to carryout its responsibility as the BVN dateline expired.

EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren said it is the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s) responsibility to act concerning the inability of bank customers to obtain the BVN.

The anti graft agency said it will keep its eagle’s eyes on its primary responsibility and allow the apex bank to act accordingly.

E-fraud: CBN, VISA, others tackle N2.19bn yearly losses

Meanwhile, a high-level discussion forum backed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Visa Inc., Unified Payments and Global Accelerex is set to explore strategies on how the country can drastically reduce N2.19 billion annual losses to electronic-fraud (e-fraud).

The meeting point of the stakeholders will be at this year’s eighth edition of the Annual Payment Systems and Fraud Conference being organised by the Electronic Payment Providers Association of Nigeria.

The event scheduled to hold in Lagos on Tuesday November 7, 2017 is being hosted in partnership with the Nigeria Electronic Fraud Forum (NeFF), the Committee of Chief Compliance Officers of Banks in Nigeria (CCCOBIN); the Information Security Society of Africa-Nigeria (ISSAN); Association of Chief Audit Executives of Bank in Nigeria (ACAEBIN) and other industry stakeholders.

A NeFF report had indicated that Nigerian economy loses N2.19 billion to e-fraud annually just as it said that cases of electronic fraud increased by 82 per cent between 2015 and 2016.

The E-PPAN’s e-fraud conference is focusing on the theme ‘Leveraging Big Data Analytics in Combating Payment Fraud.’

According to the Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer, Mrs Regha Onajite, this year’s conference “will curate a one day rallying ground for over 250 delegates made up of CEOs, risk, compliance, high ranking government executives, security experts and law enforcement professionals”.

She said the stakeholders are drawn from banks, government agencies and ecommerce, telecommunication and industry regulators, noting that the focus is on latest fraud techniques and technologies as well as how to capitalise on big data to ensure an effective, swift and well-orchestrated response to cyber-attacks.

Onajite said cyber attack trends around the world shows that organisations are vulnerable to attacks because of how swift fraudsters take advantages of any loophole in the system and winning the fight against fraud requires the collaboration of all.