Before I start this post, I’m going to make some assumptions

One, you can read (duh).

Two, you’re comfortable. (You’re not sitting on hot coals, or facing a countdown clock on a doomsday device etc) because you’re gonna be reading for a while.

Three, you know what a university is, even though you may not have entered one (because almighty JAMB or the witches in your father’s village denied you).

So, let’s begin.

Identity theft is a real thing. And even though online transactions are safer than ever, there are still lazy people out there who would rather use their genius to steal your money than to work for an honest living. Since the CBN’s cashless policy is here to stay, they came up with a biometric identification system, tagged Bank Verification Number (BVN) to help curb fraud and theft.

What’s a BVN?

The BVN is an 11 digit number that acts as your universal ID in all banks in Nigeria. Think of it as a socio-security number but for the banking industry. It ensures you can engage in transactions at any Point of Banking operations.

Another way to think about the BVN is like a university matric number. When every student gets admitted into the tertiary institution, they get allocated a number. That number is your identification in the school’s system until the day you graduate. You may have an impressive name like Thomas Pink, but the school isn’t going to call you that. If for some reason you get allotted the numbers LAG/419/666, well too bad. To the system, you’re now Mr 419.

Bottom line: your BVN is your ID in the banking system.

It’s one BVN per person

Listen to this carefully. You are not meant to have more than one BVN. If you do, you’re going to end up on EFCC watchlist. Seriously though, one person – one BVN. Remember the matric number analogy? Yes, it applies here. When you take a course in another department, or you switch faculties, your matric number will not change. The same way, your BVN does not change from bank to bank.

You mean I’m stuck with whatever 11 digits I’m allotted on that fateful day?



The BVN is attached to your name across all banks/financial institutions

But what of my other bank accounts?

That’s easy. Let’s say you have three accounts in three different banks. Let’s call them, bank A, bank B, and bank C. Here’s what you do: walk into Bank A with any acceptable form of ID – driver’s license, national ID card, Voter’s card, National passport. Register for the BVN. Wait for 24 hours and get the number sent to you via SMS. Take that number to Bank B. Tell whoever attends to you, I got a BVN and I wanna link my account. Remember to say it with attitude. And a smile. Repeat for Bank C, ad infinitum.

What if I change my address? Or my name?

Go to the same bank where you got your BVN and tell them you need to update your biodata. Your BVN number remains the same.

Biometrics. Sounds like a medical term

Don’t worry. They won’t be placing needles in you or anything like that. The biometrics refer to your unique human features which would make it more difficult for anyone to impersonate you or access your account without proper authorization. It’s an extra layer of security. If you’re thinking retinal and DNA scanners, you’re probably thinking 25 years ahead.

Right now, the only biometrics they need from you are your 10 digit finger prints, your picture (a headshot) and your biodata. Boring, I know. Welcome to twenty first century Nigeria.

Wait, those biometrics aren’t things that can be done over the phone

Exactly. There’s no registering for a BVN by proxy. You have to be in the bank to do it. In fact, folks who are outside the country had to return to register. Otherwise, no BVN. But the authorities are starting to make concessions on that.

Wow! Sounds serious

Did I mention this thing is being enforced by the CBN? The Central Bank has endured a lot of bad press and seem determined to correct a lot of that this year by implementing changes in the system. So they are taking this BVN campaign very serious. They’re even clamping down on Bureau de Change operators, ordering them to refuse any transactions without presentation of BVNs. In fact, any Bureau de Change that fails to adhere to instruction will be penalised (first offenders would be made to pay a fine of a million naira).

So, yes it’s serious.

Okay I’ve gotten my 11 digit number, is that all?

Did you get a card with your BVN? Because you should. Your bank should contact you, informing you to come pick up a card (similar to an ATM) with the BVN number on it.

When you finally get yours, you will not be required to present any other ID again at the bank. That’s right, no more “Where is your international passport, driver’s license, national ID card?” and so on. Just flash your BVN card and you should be attended to.

BVN card

Your bank owes you a card that goes with your BVN

What the BVN is not

Some fears exist about the consequences of having no BVN. Let me clarify. Come the deadline (October 31, 2015), and you’re still without a BVN, your account will not be closed. You’ll just lose access, to all of them if you have multiple accounts. The only way to resume activity on your accounts would be, you guessed right, to get a BVN.

BVN will also not increase your credit-worthiness. At least, not automatically. There’s some misleading info on the interwebs about the benefits of having a BVN which is that it will help you secure loans.

If the bank refused to give you any loans prior to getting the BVN, they won’t be changing their minds after you get one. The BVN isn’t a magical give-me-a-loan card. This isn’t Monopoly. If you want a loan, you may need to ditch your gambling habit and get some collateral.

The BVN is an idea that promises easier banking activities. Ideally, when next you’re going to the bank, you shouldn’t be required to present any form of identification except your BVN. But this is Nigeria. For now, take your ID card along, just in case.

Ibukun Taiwo Author

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