The Association of Bureaux De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON), the umbrella body of Bureaux De Change (BDCs) has just completed a comprehensive course on the use and deployment of Bank Verification Number (BVN) Validation Portal, made possible by the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS).
The training, which covered the six geopolitical zones, was part of ABCON’s input to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN’s) policy implementation and confidence-building for the operators, its goal of ensuring that the member operate within set rules, as well as impress on the regulator to help reduce rising bank charges depleting operators’ capital and profitability.
Of course, BVN has become a veritable tool for fighting fraud in the foreign exchange (forex) market, as it has been deployed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to achieve transparency in forex deals and sustain exchange rate stability.
The impact has been the swift recovery of the naira from over N520/$1 in February this year to N361/$1 at the parallel market, a development that has continued to marvel financial experts. It is also not a surprise for those who understood the role played by BDCs in achieving the milestone.
The Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS) powered Bank Verification Number (BVN) Validation Portal and this explains why ABCON and the NIBSS had in the last two months, organised sensitization programmes across the six geopolitical zones for over 3,500 BDC operators. Basically, it was meant to enlighten BDCs on the usage and deployment of BVN Validation Portal for industrial benefits.
For ABCON President, Alhaji Aminu Gwadabe, the world is going digital, and BDCs under his leadership must stay ahead of the competition by deploying time-tested technology to deliver effective services to their numerous customers.
He said the NIBSS BVN Validation Portal helps BDCs to ascertain the genuineness of BVNs of customers wanting to buy forex. The CBN had directed BDCs to validate the authenticity of BVN that clients wanting to buy forex submit to them.
“The programme held in the six geopolitical zones – namely Kano, Lagos, Awka and Abuja, among others is our input to CBN’s policy implementation. It is an opportunity to take confidence-building in BDCs’ operations to greater heights. ABCON leadership has zero tolerance for its members that breach operational guidelines,” he said.
Gwadabe however, appealed to the CBN to help BDCs reduce rising bank charges associated with their transactions, as they are currently charged N1,000 per N1 million transaction and each operator paying as much as N67,000 for the N67 million monthly transactions.
“These charges are too high, and I urge the CBN to help reduce the charges which are becoming huge burden on BDC operators,” he said. But findings have shown that each of the 3,500 BDCs actually carryout transactions worth N16.8 million weekly, which comes to N67 million turnover and N67,000 maintenance fee monthly.
He disclosed that this fee has made it difficult for many BDCs stay profitable in the business because of the rising operating costs and including overhead. “I appeal to the CBN to address this challenge so that the market will continue to enjoy ongoing stability,” he said.
CBN had directed licensed BDCs to ensure that all their transactions have the BVN of the buying customers. The information must be included in the forex returns to the regulator. In the case of corporate customers, the BVN of a director of an authorised signatory of the entity must be provided to the BDC.
Gwadabe explained that to ensure a hitch-free implementation of the directive, the CBN has continuously provided list of all licensed BDCs to the NIBSS to enable the firm make available the necessary hardware token that would be used by the BDC in accessing the NIBSS portal.
By regulation, a token transaction fee of N100 would be paid for each access on the portal, while NIBSS will also provide the necessary training manual for an “easy to use” operation of the system.
Consequently, any BDC that fails to provide the required information in its returns, or provide a wrong BVN would be penalised. First offenders will be required to pay a fine of N1 million, while any subsequent violation of requirement may lead to the revocation of the operating license of the BDC.
Analysts have said that BDCs’ compliance with the NIBSS’s BVN Validation mandate is positive for their business and economy, as it is expected that more customers, seeing the level of transparency and data integrity in the BDC’s operation, will be motivated to give them more businesses.
“Even local and international investors, including Diaspora agencies are more likely to commit their funds to BDCs as the sector becomes more transparent,” Gwadabe said.
He explained that in many advanced countries, BDCs are direct agents of International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs) because of the established transparency and infrastructure in those countries, expressing delight that the porrtal is one of the infrastructures now available for BDCs to compete favourably and take over the retail-end of the forex market that rightly belongs to them.
According to him, the platform is also expected to promote financial inclusion, and get more people into the financial services net. The Managing Director of NIBSS, Ade Shonubi, confirmed that the portal was developed to enable BDCs comply with the CBN’s directive that BDCs customers provide their BVN before buying forex. He also agreed that such exercise brings transparency in the market and prevents multiple supply of forex to single individual.
The BVN captures customers’ biometric data, such as fingerprints, provides unique identification number for the customers and protects their accounts from unauthorised access, identity theft and fraud.The CBN had ordered that customers desiring to purchase forex through all channels must provide their BVN, which shall be validated by the CBN authorised forex dealer through the NIBSS platform before the transactions are consummated.
The regulator said any authorised forex dealer that fails to provide the required information in its returns or provides a wrong BVN would be penalised; this may include the termination of the forex dealership authorisation.
Shonubi assured that NIBSS had deployed two services on the Web and phone that would make BVN verification for BDCs customers and others as easy as possible.Explaining the process for the exercise, he said in accessing the phone for the verification, the first step is for customers to dial *565*1#, enter the BVN code type, date of birth and click on send. While for the Web portal, the customer needs to type: www.nibss-plc.com.ng, a space will show where to enter the BVN code, date of birth and send.
Shonubi said customers are charged N10 for phone transaction and N20 for the web portal, which the customer would be required to pay either with credit card or internet banking.
According to him, the essence of the verification is to checkmate sharp practices among BDCs operators and customers. He, however, noted that once a customer carries out the verification either on phone or the Web portal, such customer does not need to verify again when dealing with the same BDC operators.
These were some of the issues addressed Gwadabe said these were some of the issues that BDCs that participated in the sensitization programme were taught. Meanwhile, Gwadabe has commended CBN’s drive to stabilise the forex market, stem the rampant cases of forex leakages and illicit money transfer from the country.
He said that ABCON aligns with the CBN’s vision of providing a stable framework for the economic development of Nigeria through effective, efficient, and transparent implementation of monetary and exchange rate policy, and management of the financial sector.
Speaking at the 2017 Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) Investiture held in Lagos, CBN Deputy Governor, Financial System Stability, Joseph Nnanna, said the regulator never forced the naira-dollar exchange rates down to current position. He insisted that the recovery of the naira happened naturally and based on market forces. The support of BDCs to this milestone has also been commended.
Gwadabe said the ABCON will continue to work closely with the CBN to ensure BDC operators abide by regulatory rules. The ABCON under Gwadabe has also pledged to ensure that forex purchased by BDCs are disbursed to end users and for eligible transactions only.
The BDCs, he said, will continue to render returns on forex purchases from the CBN to Trade and Exchange Department of the apex bank. He further promised to ensure strict compliance to the provisions of the anti-money laundering laws observance of appropriate Know-Your-Customer (KYC) principles in the handling of forex transactions.
The BVN, which captures customers’ biometric data, such as fingerprints, provides unique identification number for the customers and protects their accounts from unauthorised access, identity theft and fraud.