By Ike A. Offor
The Bank Verification Number (BVN) introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to link individuals to their various bank accounts has led to a whopping N2.6 trillion being trapped in various banks across the country, it has been gathered.
Owners of these accounts, it is alleged, failed to make claims to the said sum by refusing to link their BVN to the accounts for fear of being labelled money launderers.
It has been reported in several media that these accounts belong to reportedly money launderers or politicians or others, who looted money from the national treasury. The supporters of the ruling political party have danceed around and jubiliated that these funds belong to the looters and those who got their money through ill means.
But no one has asked the simple but very intelligent and necessary question. And that is, how many Nigerians are in the diaspora, and how much money they have deposited in their various bank accounts in Nigeria?
The immediate past government and that of president Olusegun Obasanjo encouraged so many Nigerians to think back home. In view to that several banks encouraged millions of Nigerians in diaspora to open bank account(s) in Nigeria and some of these banks promoted and facilitated easy international money transfer into their bank accounts in Nigeria.
Though there is no accurate statistics of the number of Nigerian citizens living in various countries around the world. But, it is very close to fact to put the figure around over 50 million. These figures could be a rough estimate judging from the ubiquitous presence of Nigerians in almost every country around the globe. There is a common saying among Nigerians which says “if there is any country in the world in which no Nigerian resides, it simply means that nothing is happening in that country”.
While the figures could be vey low in some unattractive countries in East Europe or Asia, the figures in countries like United Kingdom, United States, Belgium, Ireland, Germany, Nederland, Italy, Spain are indeed very high. There is also some high number of Nigerians in some Asian countires like, China, Japan and some others.
These Nigerians in diaspora have bank accounts, and they make money transfers into their bank accounts and to their bank accounts or to their family members. The writer of this article is also a domicillary account holder and has not yet taken part in BVN process. The CBN sensing the danger of classifying accounts owned by Nigerians in diaspora as abandoned acoounts has initiated the possibility for those outisde our shores to particpiate in the BVN process. This is why the CBN has opened the window of particpiating in the process in our foreign missions and shifted the deadline until June 2016.
So, it is unwise for Nigerians at home to jump into the conclusion that N2.6trillion in various bank accounts are money that belong to looters or money launderers. Those funds will almost wholly belong to tens of milions of Nigerians in diaspora, who have not taken part in the BVN process, due to the fact that they are not around to participate in the process. The CBN must thread with caution and must never take possession of those funds or the federal government will face the biggest legal class action in the history of Nigeria, once these Nigerians in foreign lands ask for their funds from their various banks.
This is so because the constitution does not really cover BVN process, even if it did, does not exclude the right of Nigerians abroad depositing their hard earned funds in banks back home. Two previous governments seriously encouraged Nigerians in diaspora to think back home and encouraged them to move their money home. So, it will be wise for the government of Buhari to remove the deadline attached to the BVN process but make it a continous process, since it is once in a lifetime process.
The Republican News wrote about this few months ago, and said that the limited time frame attached to the process is very unwise. Whether one did it today or in five years time does not really alter anything. Once any client comes to their bank to withdraw their money, they simply participate in the process to authenticate their ownership of the bank accounts and the funds deposited in them. It is as simple as that.
Also, Nigerians in diaspora can return home anything time to take part in the process, and should not be in any constrain to return just for BVN process. That also is senseless and none of them will do that. The rights of these Nigerians in diaspora must never be disenfranchised due to overzealousness of the present government.
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