Mixed reactions have continued to trail the new policy regime on the Nigerian Uniform Bank Account Number Scheme (NUBAN) authorised by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), reports Ibrahim Apekhade Yusuf
EXCEPT for a few discerning bank customers, majority really do not see the rationale behind the new policy regime on the Nigerian Uniform Bank Account Number Scheme (NUBAN) announced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Already, most of the deposit money banks have started complying.
The banking watchdog had through a circular issued to the 24 commercial banks by its Banking and Payment System Department and dated July 14, 2010, given a nine month compliance period to banks to migrate to the new system.
According to the regulator, the move was to promote best practice in the account number scheme and also eliminate many of the problems associated with the Automated Clearing House (ACH) as well as the electronic payment system generally.
It had explained that the proposed NUBAN was a 10-digit Bank Account Number format, with A Check Digit constructed to support a modulus check, which enables the resenting bank to perform checks.
The Check Digit, according to the apex bank, was derived from an algorithm that operates on a combination of the 3-digit CBN-assigned Bank Code and the 9-digit Account Serial Number.
Under the new format, every bank is required to create and maintain a NUBAN code for every customer account in its customer records database, which should be the only account number to be used at all interfaces with a bank customer.
The CBN said the new format is in line with international best practice and is expected to enhance the e-payment system.
"We expect every bank to maintain their present account numbers and use them for their internal operations only as from the effective date of NUBAN, but every such account number would have to be mapped to a NUBAN code as an alternate account number," the bank said in the circular. The new number format will comprise 13 digits, which includes the three-digit bank code and a 10-digit NUBAN code."
It said banks are to submit their comprehensive migration plan to the new system one month from the release of the circular.
"Compliance monitoring will commence six months from the release of the circular. Any infractions to the dictates and stringent timelines provided in this document shall attract severe sanctions as may be determined by the Central Bank of Nigeria from time to time," the circular stated.
The bank noted that the upsurge in automated direct credit was as a result of the January 2009 directive that all ministries, departments, and agencies should replace all forms of cheque payments with electronic payments, hence the need to adopt a new cheque number system to make clearing and settlements of cheques less cumbersome.
"As the Automated Clearing House volume increased, so have complaints of banks and bank customers resulting from the incidents of abuse of the clearing system," the apex bank noted.
The CBN said the change would enable Nigeria to fully comply with the 10-digit Account Number structure required by the West Africa Monetary Institute (WAMI) towards the economic integration of ECOWAS countries.
However, like the growing level of apathy, which attended the account update exercise by the banks as directed by the CBN few months ago with many of the customers failing to update their bank details before the expiration of the deadline, not a few people are upbeat about the new uniform bank account number.
Although investigation by The Nation revealed that some banks have since communicated their preparedness to implement the scheme to their customers, majority of the customers who spoke with our correspondent were yet to come to full grip with the policy, even as many were nonchalant with the apex bank’s directive.
But many of the banks, like Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, have already sent memos and text message alerts to their customers intimating them of their desire to implement the new account numbers as directed by the CBN.
"Dear Valued Customer,
NOTIFICATION OF NEW ACCOUNT NUMBERS
In view of the recent Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) directive that all Nigerian Bank account numbers be changed to a new standard format by May 2011, kindly find below, your new Nigerian Uniform Bank Account Number(s) (NUBAN):
"ACCOUNT NAME: XXXXXXXXXXXXX
OLD ACCOUNT NUMBER NEW ACCOUNT NUMBER (NUBAN)
"Please note that you are expected to start using your new NUBAN account number(s) for all transactions immediately. We appreciate your co-operation and understanding whilst we continuously strive to offer you exceptional service", the memo stated in part. Even as some banking consuming publics are still trying to come to terms with the new uniform bank account number introduced by the CBN, Skye Bank Plc said it has successfully migrated its customers’ account numbers to 10 digits in line with the CBN directive to banks to standardize their customers’ account numbers.
A statement issued by the bank last Tuesday, said standard bank account numbers would eliminate most of the complaints currently being experienced during automated direct clearing transactions, which include delayed presentation of customers’ instructions in the Clearing House, late return of unapplied inward Automated Clearing House items, among others.
The bank assured its customers that the change would not affect their banking transactions as their debit cards and cheque leaves remain valid. It, however, explained that it would issue a new cheque book on request once the current cheque leaves have been exhausted or rendered unusable by time limit given by the CBN.
According to the statement, customers can view their new account numbers at any of the bank’s branches irrespective of where their accounts were domiciled or opened.
The benefits of the new account numbers include ease of remembrance given that the new account numbers are only 10 digits as well as greater speed in cheque clearing at the automated clearing house.
A cross section of respondents, who spoke with our correspondent in some of the old and new generation banks in the Lagos metropolis and its environs, while acknowledging the fact that they have received one form of correspondence or the other from their banks, however, expressed mute indifference as to the merit or demerit of the new policy.
As much as he sees the new bank account as a welcomed development, Adewale Adeoti, an undergraduate of the Lagos State University, insisted that the new numbers ought to be even fewer, at least five digit, for easy memorisation by those who may not be good with numbers, if the whole idea is to personalise banking.
"It is a great idea, no doubt about it. But 10 numbers are still way too long for me. I don’t think a lot o people can easily memorise that. A simple five digit numbers would have been much easier as far as I’m concerned", Adeoti said.
Hajia Rahmat Shodeinde, a school proprietress in Lagos, who is a customer in one of the new generation banks, had this to say about the new uniform bank account numbers.
"I really don’t want to bother myself about what the so-called new account numbers are. Whether they increase the numbers or even decrease it, my concern is that whenever I want to do any transaction in the bank, I don’t experience any hassles", she said.
She added: "I have just received an alert from my bank informing me of my new account number, if not for anything else, I will go to the bank to confirm the veracity or otherwise. And once I do that, that’s all."
Unlike Shodeinde, the concern of Mr. Stanley Odion, also a customer in one of the new generation banks is whether there would still be a grace period for those who may be impervious to this new change.
"My own concern is what if funds are sent to the old account number and how long will they be valid? Because I must admit that some of us have poor numeric skills, as such, it may be difficult for us to learn this new numbers easily", Odion said.
But a staff of one the old generation banks who would not be named said contrary to the fears being expressed by some of the customers, the dissemination of the new bank account numbers has been hitch-free.
He said: "It’s even easier the way they did it, just sending mails to customers, instead of asking customers to go through some stress of filing forms and paper work common with similar exercises.
"Automatically, all your existing data have been transferred to the new account, all you need to do is promptly inform any holder of your old account number, so as to avoid invalid transactions", he said.
Many bankers and financial analysts have also argued that the new scheme will promote efficiency and also help to reduce cost of operations overall.
In an interview with The Nation, Mr. Joshua Okeowo Oderinde, Chairman,
Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, Ikeja District, described the policy as one of the best development in the nation’s banking landscape recent times.
Oderinde, who applauded the apex bank for this policy, said it was a step in the right direction.
"The policy is a big plus for the banking sector, not only because of the immense benefit to the banking consuming publics, but to the entire financial system", he said.
Expatiating, he said, among other things: "It is going to facilitate e-payment. Besides, it is going to make the banking operations system generally to be seamless. I think, what banking consumers stand to benefit include quick response rate, because when you get quick clearing of your money, you can quickly make policy or take a definitive decision for a transaction."
The policy, he further maintained: "Is bound to take care of all forms of delays hitherto observed in the banking system. Now this would be a thing of the past I can assure you."
As for the doubting Thomas’s who are not convinced of the propriety of this policy, he urged them to be positive-minded.
According to the ICAN boss: "There is no system that is free of hiccups, and by the way, it is not advisable to always stay negative all the time especially when any new policy is about to be implemented. The Bankers’ Committee is there, and I know they won’t let things go wrong. Once they notice any lapses with this policy I know something positive would be done about it. But in the interim, we have to let this policy work first, let’s give it a trial."
Source : The Nations