CBN set to Close Millions of Bank Accounts in First Bank, Access, Zenith, GTB, and Others

  • CBN plans to close bank accounts without BVN to clean up the sector and reduce fraud
  • BVN is a unique identifier capturing biometric data used to verify customer identities and prevent fraud
  • There are 24 commercial banks operating in Nigeria including Access, UBA, Zenith, and other financial institutions that require BVN

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has announced plans to close millions of bank accounts across various financial institutions that are not linked to a Bank Verification Number (BVN).

Blaise Ijebor, the CBN director of the Risk Management Department and Chief Risk Officer, who disclosed the plan at the Prembly Compliance Breakfast Dialogue on Thursday April 6, said the objective is to clean up the sector and reduce the growing incidence of fraud.

He added that the financial regulator was looking at commencing the exercise soon but did not give an indication of when the CBN would begin the clean up.

Why is CBN closing bank accounts without BVN

As of April 3, 2023, BankTransfer’s analysis of the NIBSS website indicated that there were only 57.01 million registered BVN numbers out of the total 191.4 million bank accounts in the country, with 133.5 million active.

CBN’s Ijebor further detailed the importance of closing bank accounts without BVN and highlighted three areas where cybercriminals are exploiting vulnerabilities.

The first is the Tier-1 account, which allows customers to open an account with minimal documentation and is mostly targeted at the unbanked and rural population.

He said: “This account is dominated by digital banks or fintech firms, and often lacks BVN linkage, which makes it an easy entry point for hackers.”

“Secondly, some banks, especially digital ones, may not meet regulatory requirements, creating a second loophole for fraudulent activity.

“Lastly, hackers can exploit any vulnerability to gain access to bank accounts.” Ijebor mentioned that apex bank was working on improving agency banking and enabling agents to register BVN, which will help move Tier-1 accounts to Tier-2.

The CBN’s decision to close millions of bank accounts that are not linked to the BVN is expected to encourage customers to update their records and link their bank accounts to the BVN. The CBN has also assured customers that the process will be conducted in a transparent and fair manner.

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