Head of Partnership at Moniepoint Inc., Efemena Ogie, has said that the National Identification Number (NIN) database at 102.39 million could be used to create Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) for more Nigerians to boost financial inclusion. Speaking at a fintech forum organized by the Nigeria Information Technology Reporters Association (NITRA) in Lagos, Ogie said that as of October 9, 2023, only 58.9 million shows and that many Nigerians are still financially excluded. According to him, with the country’s population at about 230 million, the figure means that only about 25 percent of the population has bank accounts.
Ogie noted that the NIN database being managed by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) could be used to create more verification numbers for Nigerians, which they can use to access financial services. He explained how this would work at the forum, which was themed “Harnessing Nigeria Fintech Potentials: Challenges and Opportunities.” He said that since NIMC already has the data, the custodian of the BVN, which is the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS), can develop an API that will connect to NIMC such that the NIMC data is replicated with NIBSS.
NIBSS can create more numbers from NIN data captured by NIMC.
He further noted that it means that those with NIN and without BVN can have a BVN generated for them using the identity number. However, he acknowledged that there is a data privacy aspect to this. “So, for you to have access to that BVN, all you need to do is to dial a code and that serves as consent,” he said. Once the person gives the consent, they have their BVN. While noting that poor identity is still a challenge to fintech in Nigeria, Ogie said there is a need for the harmonization of the fragmented data with different agencies of the government.
According to him, creating multiple databases is creating problems for Nigerians in getting proper identity. Nigerians do not have a central database like citizens of developed countries do. In Nigeria, there is a database for driver’s license, NIN, voters, passport, and major examinations. Each of them requires biometric capturing. Ogie said that the country needs to start to think about harmonizing this data. “When we have a harmonized data system or database integrated it will go a long way,” he said. When this is done, anyone can simply give officials their NIN in order to get a passport. This is also true for a driver’s license and other registrations.
FG can replicate India’s Aadhaar in the country.
While noting that Nigeria still has a long way to go in terms of identifying its citizens, Ogie cited an example of India, where Aadhaar, a replica of BVN has almost all the citizens of the country captured. According to the World Bank, financial inclusion means that individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs — transactions, payments, savings, credit and insurance – delivered in a responsible and sustainable way.
In Nigeria, financial inclusion has been improved through the establishment of various measures. The central bank established NIBSS to ensure seamless settlement of funds between banks. As the cashless policy was introduced, the government encouraged transfers through bank applications and also USSD to foster inclusion. People began to use phones to make transfers and it became popular as the cashless policy intensified. Nigeria transfer feature is one of the most seamless in the world. Now, with just the recipient’s account number and destination bank, one can make transfers in seconds.
Data harmonization can help with financial inclusion, as digital banking.
Transitioning from the traditional mode of banking to digital banking is a big feat in the financial inclusion journey. It banked the unbanked so far they have access to a phone. Those with smartphones use the bank applications, while those without internet access can use the USSD. However, harmonizing the data from different databases and generating BVNs for those who did not have one can go a long way in bridging the gap. This will ease the stress on registering for the number and going through another round of biometric capturing.
World Bank: Website