As the deadline issued by the court on customers to link their accounts to the Bank Verification Number (BVN) or forefeet their deposits lapsed today, there are strong indications that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) may not compel the banks to implement the decision at the moment.
It would be recalled Justice Dimgba Igwe of the Federal High Court, ruling on an ex parte application filed by the Federal Government through the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation on October 21, granted the temporary forfeiture of unlinked deposits within two weeks unless the owners justify their ownership of such accounts.
Findings by our correspondent yesterday show that the CBN will not be enforcing to banks to comply with the court's ruling for now based on the ripple effect it will have on liquidity in the banking sector.
A senior staff within the CBN who chose to speak under conditions of anonymity said the CBN has not issued any directive to the banks to provide the status report on non-BVN-linked accounts in their books and there are no indications that would happen anytime soon.
But should the CBN chose to implement the directive, billions of naira will be moved out of the banking sector in one fell swoop and that may trigger illiquidity crisis, our correspondent leant.
The Acting Director, Corporate Communications Department at the CBN, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, didn't reply text messages to his phone over the matter.
Mr. Rislanudeen Muhammad, the former Acting Managing Director, Unity Bank Plc told our correspondent over the phone the decision of government to take over the accounts may be a bit hasty.
He said, more time should be given to account holders, particularly; small depositors to link their accounts arguing that some account holders may have travelled abroad and some may be in prison.
He advised that, even if the government was doing that because of money laundering, the target would be on high net worth individuals.
He thus said, the government should first target accounts with over N10 million deposit in the immediate term arguing that, anyone with up to N10 million in his or her account yet refused to do a BVN immediately raises a red flag.
According to Mr. Muhammad, government could give one month grace on such accounts after which it could proceed within appropriate legal means.
CBN on its own had previously issued strict directives to banks warning against BVN non-compliance.
Records from the NIBSS show that there were about 45.85 million total bank accounts unlinked, but when compared with the active accounts the number dropped to 15.72 million unlinked to BVN as of February 2017. The record further shows that as of October 8th, 2017, the total BVN issued were 30,511,506.
In a memo to the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) and Other Financial Institutions (OFIs) obtained by Daily Trust recently signed by Mr. Dipo Fatokun, Director Banking and Payment System, the apex bank warned banks and OFIs to ensure proper capturing of the BVN data and validate same before linkage with customers' accounts and to ensure all operated accounts are linked with the signatories' BVN.