The Federal Government of Nigeria has come up with a plan: ask bank account holders to queue up at financial institutions nationwide for something called a self certification form, and close their accounts if they refuse to show up.

“This is to notify the general public that all account holders in financial institutions (Banks, Insurance Companies, etc) are required to obtain, complete and submit self-certification forms to their respective financial institutions,” a statement from one of the government’s verified Twitter accounts reads.

“Persons holding accounts in different financial institutions are required to complete and submit the form to each one of the institutions. The forms are required by the relevant financial institutions to carry out due diligence procedures in line with the Income Tax Regulations 2019.

“Failure to comply with the requirement to administer or execute this form attracts sanctions which may include monetary penalty or inability to operate the account.”

The nerve!

To think that this statement was deliberated upon and deemed fit for public consumption in an era of social and physical distancing and at a time when the same government is asking people to shun gatherings because of a global pandemic.

To think that this memo was allowed into the public space at a time when schools, event and entertainment centers are still shut because this same government says it wants to curb the spread of an air-borne, highly contagious disease.

You want crowds at banking halls across the nation in 2020? Humour me please!!

President Muhammadu Buhari orders compulsory use of face masks nationwide. (Presidency)
President Muhammadu Buhari orders compulsory use of face masks nationwide. (Presidency)

In 2014, the federal government forced everyone into banking halls to obtain something called the Bank Verification Number (BVN). The BVN was seen as a novel financial policy in these climes at the time.

We were told that with everyone’s biometric data captured by the BVN, illicit banking transactions would be no more and fraudsters adept at using the banking system to fleece people of their hard earned money and game the darn system, would effectively be put out of business.

The BVN took off during the Goodluck Jonathan era (AFP)
The BVN took off during the Goodluck Jonathan era (AFP)

The BVN, we were told, would harmonise everyone’s bank accounts and provide the government with a single database and template for planning, development and crime prevention.

Quite what this self-certification form will achieve that BVN cannot, is beyond me.

At a time when the rest of the world has effectively moved away from paper, analogue and manual computation into a fast-paced digital sphere, the government of Africa’s biggest economy is asking its over 200 million people to abandon their daily hustles and head to banking halls to fill forms or lose their monies.

No other nation on the face of the planet has made a mess of harvesting data quite like Nigeria.

Our mobile phone companies have our data, the National Identity Management Commission has our data, the Federal Road Safety Commission has our data through its corrupt drivers’ licensing system, the tax authorities have our biometric information and we have supplied data to the Nigeria Immigration Service to acquire passports at cut-throat prices.

A serious government would have harmonised all the biometric information from all of these processes for crime prevention, planning and development.

Not the Nigerian government apparently.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (left) and President Muhammadu Buhari (right) before a retreat for ministers in Abuja [Presidency]
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (left) and President Muhammadu Buhari (right) before a retreat for ministers in Abuja [Presidency]

If you operate five bank accounts for instance, you are supposed to head to each one--no matter how far off there are from the other--to obtain a self certification form “required by the relevant financial institutions to carry out due diligence procedures in line with the Income Tax Regulations 2019,"--at the expense of your day job.

On the list of dumb, silly policies the Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government has come up with in recent times as the economy tanks and purchasing power hits rock bottom, this takes the cake. How do you preach 'ease of doing business' every other minute and come up with something this anachronistic?

I hereby call on the relevant agencies of government and the presidency to put a halt to this policy with immediate effect. It made no sense yesterday, it makes no sense now and it will make no sense in the future. The best time to bin this was yesterday. The next best time is now.

There are certainly better ways to ensure everyone is paying their fair share of taxes than coming up with something this stupid. The group of persons who thought this was such a brilliant idea in the middle of a pandemic, should be made to forfeit half of their monthly wages for good measure.

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*Pulse Editor's Opinion is the view of an Editor at Pulse. It does not represent the views of the organisation Pulse.