From Udo Onyeka, Lagos:
Account holders with deposit money banks in the country may have abandoned about N500bn in their accounts due to their inability to furnish their respective banks with Bank Verification Numbers (BVNs), DAILY ASSET investigations have revealed.
Extant regulations of the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) require an account holder to obtain BVN from his bank as a precondition to operate any type of account.
The apex bank had at the introduction of the BVN policy in 2014 opened a window for all depositors to obtain the BVN after which the veil was placed on accounts without the number.
DAILY ASSET however, learnt that many customers who opened accounts with dubious documents, fictitious names or photographs could not come forward to present BVNs on the accounts for fear of being identified since the BVN once obtained from one bank can be used on multiple accounts across the banks.
Investigations further revealed that some account holders who got money through corrupt means had concealed their real identities and opened the accounts using either photographs of their relations, staff or children, most of whom were not in a position to earn such huge amounts of money.
Some of the accounts, investigations revealed, were opened and funded with cheap campaign funds, abandoned contracts, unremitted revenues, illegal sale of government assets or outright theft of cash by contractors, government officials, their cronies or staff prior to the introduction of the BVN policy.
Before the advent of BVN, such accounts were operated on the basis of Know Your Customer (KYC), a relationship which required the account holders to personally come to the bank before transactions were permitted on such high net-worth accounts.
In one of such accounts, a former Commissioner from one of the North Central States had lodged N6 billion in a company account without proof of any visible business from where such money was earned.
The former Commissioner who is being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) promptly disowned the account before bolting out of the country in the bid to escape justice.
Worried by this situation, the CBN had directed all deposit money banks in the country to compile a list of all accounts for which the owners were yet to attach BVNs.
According to the CBN directive, the banks had up to July 31, to make returns on the matter. Checks conducted across the banks showed accounts without BVNs attached to them had balances up to N500 billion. The list of such accounts was being compiled for submission to the CBN in compliance with the July 31 deadline. Our source however, hinted that submission of the list would be done by instalments as the banks wanted to do a thorough job on the matter.
Sources close to CBN however, told DAILY ASSET, the apex bank would upon receipt, carefully study the list from banks before a decision would be taken on what to do with the abandoned deposits.
“Some of the accounts without BVNs may belong to some deceased persons whose next of kin might be undergoing the legal procedures to obtain letter of administration so as to claim the proceeds,” a source explained adding some of the accounts may belong to people who were resident outside the country.
Both the CBN and bank officials contacted on phone would not comment on the matter.
However, the Head, Virtual Markets, Nigeria Inter Bank Settlement System Plc, Oluyemi Samuel, who spoke to DAILY ASSET on the matter explained that “the BVN project was meant to identify every account holder in Nigerian banks, those who have not identified with the BVN may be those who have ill- gotten monies stashed in their banks”.
He said the amount involved may be huge but it was difficult for anybody to say exactly how much was involved.
The Lead, Research, Vetiva Capital Management Ltd, Mr. Pabina Yinkere in an interview however, said
Since BVN registration was an ongoing process, the banks and CBN owned the money in the dormant accounts until the depositors come up with BVN.
“I know there is a time frame that the monies would stay before it becomes government money. But the BVN is ongoing. For instance, if you open account today, the person would be registered so for those dormant accounts somebody can come up tomorrow to claim them,” he stated.
Financial consultant and Chief Executive Officer, RTC Consulting Ltd, Lagos, Mr Opeyemi Agbaje, said if such amount of money was found in dormant accounts it was a testimony to the success of the BVN project just as he said it exposed how much some corrupt people may have stolen from the people’s common patrimony.