“To get your NIN registration, you have to open a bank account with us. You need to put in at least N2,000 naira.” When the Hope PSBank employee makes this announcement on Thursday morning at 8:20 a.m., a sound of exasperation goes through the crowd. At least five people get up and leave. Over 30 Nigerians had been waiting in the parking lot of the online bank’s head office on Victoria Island for what they were promised would be a free registration of the National Identity Number (NIN); only to be told on site that the registration comes with strings attached.

The week before, Managing Director Ayotunde Kuponiyi of Hope PSBank announced in a press release that his bank was partnering with the federal government on the NIN registration exercise. Several Nigerian news outlets published the bank’s press release with the headline ‘Hope PSBank Begins Free NIN Registration For Nigerians’. In the press release, no mention was made of the need to open a bank account with Hope PSBank in order to register for the NIN.

Shola Aboniyi is one of the people who came in Thursday morning. “I came to register my NIN for free. And now they tell me I need to open a bank account first,” she said as she walked off the bank’s premises. “Abeg, let me not waste my time,” she added.

Some people waiting under the canopy were, however, aware they would have to open an account, mainly because they had heard it from friends. Tayo Adedokun explained why he decided to go ahead with it: “I have spent three days already trying to get my NIN at several NIMC centres. I want to get this over with and get my registration.” The woman next to him agrees, but said her friend last week only had to pay N1,000 into the new account.

Managing Director Kuponiyi is on the premises, but refers PREMIUM TIMES’ questions to Head of Corporate Services Cletus Igah. Mr Igah states: “We are in the business of opening bank accounts. The NIN registration is an add-on service.” According to him, the bank’s website does state the need of opening an account first, but going through the “Registration for National Identification Number (NIN) or Bank Verification Number (BVN) or Account Opening” on the online platform, this is not mentioned at any point. The only requirement is to complete the online form, after which you are referred to one of the bank’s NIN registration centres.

Later that day, public relations consultant Bolaji Abimbola for Hope PSBank telephones PREMIUM TIMES to further explain the bank’s position: “Accepted that it wasn’t explicitly stated in the press release that you had to become a customer. The bank uses the platform to recruit customers. It is a way for us to support government and decongest the NIN registration process.”

Meanwhile, at the bank’s head office, the next person in line was called to the table for capturing of her biometrics. The first question she heard: “Did you open your bank account yet?” When one of the customers asks why, the bank employee responds: “Madam, it’s a marketing scheme.”