Jan 8, 2017

BVN, Telecoms and Common Sense by Ahudiya Ukiwe

The Biometric Verification Number (BVN) was conceived by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the purpose of curtailing fraud, identification of individuals etc. Basically, what the Social Security Number is in the USA (and its variant in other advanced climes) is what the BVN was intended to be.

Upon its introduction, the religious fanatics likened it to the biblical number of the beast, aka 666, masked to deceive "God's children" and made to reject it. The Federal Government (genuinely or otherwise), convinced that this was the key to eradicate all shades of corruption made it mandatory for all persons to register for same.

Even though the BVN apparently is another version of other biometric exercises previously concluded, the Banks spearheaded the implementation of the BVN directive. Especially given that without it, persons cannot operate accounts, existing customers cannot access their funds or obtain (loans and other) financial services. Next came the adoption of same by the telecoms providers. Even with previous concluded biometric registrations, users were made to re-register and include their BVNs or risk being shut out of calls, messages, data and all other services related to the cyber-world. Repeated messages were sent to customers of the need to register, both those that had re-registered and those yet to. Personal experience, I was cut off from the "world" a day after I had successfully re-registered my BVN with the telecoms that seems to be battling “persistent ill-health”. The only good fortune that came out of the “accident” was a gift of over N7,500 worth of airtime. Of course, that greatly assisted to soothe my aggrieved emotions.

Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. This was the case of this hitherto telecoms provider of mine. A time came (recently too) when I was falsely debited for a service I did not request. Repeated complaints were made (via contact centre, mails, calls) and yours sincerely was tossed from one unit to the other with no resolution. It took the fear of the wrath of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and another agency I fail to recall. Whether or not the email addresses (which I got online) were valid, they sure produced results because I was refunded the money deducted from my airtime and even got a bonus! But we should know when to "pack well" after "fighting the good fight". After 12years of fidelity to that network, I ensured I exhausted the last kobo of my bonus and made the decision to port to the choice network of the Nigerian youths.

So I walk into one of the customer centres of this snazzy, effizy network. I inform one of the staff of what I propose to do and I am told that a means of identification is required. "What about my BVN?", I enquire, "it identifies me". And therein lies the shocker, "it does not suffice", I am politely but firmly informed. I proceeded to ask the staff what then is the purpose of the BVN registration but he obviously lacked a cogent response. It probably is not at fault for being unable to assist with an explanation but the point remains that the repeated biometric exercises conducted by different government organizations appear to be needless. I fail to understand why adoption of existing collected data cannot be achieved. Nigerians have undergone the same processes namely (the very least, twice) at: the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC). A repeat of a previous process confirms that the former exercise (and possibly the repeat exercise) is a waste of energy, human and financial resources.

Following the recent backpedalling of the Government in the proposed increased data charges billed by the telecom companies, we should be able empowered and emboldened to question the sense (or otherwise) in the policies rolled out by the Government and its agencies. Especially when at great inconvenience.

BY - Ahudiya Ukiwe

Photo - Central Bank of Nigeria
Photo Credit - www.sunnewsonline.com