47 Million Bank Account Now Dormant – NIBSS: More Nigerians have abandoned their bank accounts majorly due to economic hardship caused by sluggish economic growth, rising job losses and reduction in purchasing power occasioned by double digit inflation.
Statistics from the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System, NIBSS, showed that Nigerians abandoned 10 million bank accounts in 2018. NIBSS is owned by all Nigerian banks and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
According to the company, the number of bank accounts abandoned by bank customers and hence categorised as ‘inactive bank accounts’ rose by 28 percent to 46.7 million in 2018 from 36.7 million in 2017.
According to the CBN 2015 guidelines on dormant accounts, “An account shall become inactive if there has been no customer or depositor-initiated transaction for a period of six months after the last customer or depositor initiated transaction.”
This implies that in just one year, ten million bank accounts recorded zero transactions.
Financial Vanguard analysis also showed a steady growth in the number of inactive bank accounts between 2014 and 2018.
According to NIBSS, inactive bank accounts grew faster than active bank accounts in the past five years, 2014 to 2018.
During this period, inactive bank accounts grew by 73 percent while active bank accounts grew by 35 percent. While inactive bank accounts increased by 19.61 million to 46.7 million in 2018 from 27.09 million in 2014, active bank accounts rose by 24.75 million to 71.2 million in 2018 from 46.45 million in 2014.
Financial Vanguard investigations and the comments from both bankers and bank customers, indicate that factors responsible for the steady and huge growth in the number of inactive bank accounts are many and varied. These include ownership of multiple bank accounts by some bank customers, breakdown in bank-customer relationship, Biometric Verification Number (BVN) issues, incomplete account opening documentation and Know Your Customer, KYC, challenges as well as increased efforts against money laundering and other financial frauds by banks and the regulatory authorities.
However, most of the bankers and individuals who spoke to Financial Vanguard, cited economic difficulties and business failures as well as rising job losses as the major causes.
Okechukwu Uzor, a teacher, does not see the need to continue to operate his bank account.
“I have an account with a zero balance which I have abandoned. If I have the money I will credit the account. The money is not enough to feed talk-less of saving it in the bank”, he told Financial Vanguard.
“The factors mainly responsible for the rise in inactive bank accounts are economic downturn/business failures and inactivity on salary accounts due to loss of job,” said FirstBank in response to Financial Vanguard enquiries.
Last year, the National Bureau of Statistics reported that the number of unemployed Nigerians rose by 3.3 million to 20.3 million in the third quarter of 2018 (Q3’18) compared to third quarter of 2017 (Q3’17).
This, according to Uju Ogubunka, President of Bank Customers Association of Nigeria (BCAN) will definitely lead to inactivity in bank accounts.
“The current situation where people are being laid off is responsible. If your job stops and you have been depending on your salary; now if your salary is not coming in, whatever you get, you just use it to oil your daily need. That can warrant inactivity in account,” he told Financial Vanguard.
This is aptly illustrated by the story of Makinde Wakil, Managing Director B2SM Management Services Limited, who had to abandon his corporate bank account due to economic downturn.
He said: “I have a personal account and I also had a corporate account between 2010 and 2015. If I print my bank statement you will see inflow and outflow of funds and the e-payment transactions because we dealt with multinational companies at that time and their payments didn’t come within the country, they paid from their head office abroad.
“We worked round the clock when there was business. We paid salaries; we also had other subsidiary companies under us. The business was at its peak by that time but thereafter from mid 2015 there was no business activity happening in the company.
“As a result of that, what do we have to do? When you are in business everything goes well but when you are not, what do you do. So my corporate account has been dormant from that time till date.”
In addition to bank customers who abandoned their accounts due to job losses, is a growing number of Nigerians leaving the country for greener pastures abroad, and in the process abandon their bank accounts.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a staff of Ecobank, said: “A lot of people are leaving the country and abandoning their accounts. So it is leading to an increase in inactive accounts that banks have. Those are the people that can actually have bank accounts. You know people that are able to leave are people that earn fairly well and they can have a bank account. Once they leave they don’t access those accounts anymore.”
An example is Mr. and Mrs. Oloruntoba who have stopped operating their bank accounts since they migrated to the United States early 2018 with their two year old daughter.