With effect from Monday, March 30, 2020, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, suspended the clearing of all cheque instruments in the Nigerian clearing system.
A circular signed and sent out to all Deposit Money Banks and the Nigeria Internal Settlement System, NIBSS, by the CBN on Monday, March 30, 2020, stated that “no fresh cheque instrument will be allowed to pass through clearing system on March 31, 2020. Only returned cheques would be treated on the said date.”
The circular with reference identity REF: BKS/DIR/GEN/CIR/07/002 signed by Sam C Okojere, director Banking Services Department attributed the decision to “recent developments and in furtherance to the Bank’s efforts to ensure hitch-free clearing and settlement activities.”
The recent developments he referred to was President Buhari’s nationwide broadcast on Sunday where he announced a lockdown in Lagos, Ogun states and Federal Capital Territory for two weeks in the interim starting from 11 pm of March 30th, 2020 as a means of combating the spread of Coronavirus and to ensure the safety of all Nigerians.
However, the circular noted that “settlement activities for electronic instruments will continue to hold during this period of suspension.”
In another development, the Central Bank of Nigeria has released the list of financial institutions that have been granted an exemption from the two weeks lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT.
The organizations are the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN; Deposit Money Banks, DMBs; the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System. NIBSS, Plc; Switching companies; Mobile money operators and Payment solution service providers. Consequently, the staff of these organizations is meant to operate during the lockdown and therefore key staff are required to work through the period.
Consequently, relevant security agencies have been requested to grant passage to the critical staff of these institutions to enable essential and strategic financial transactions to go undisrupted during the period of the lockdown.
According to the CBN, “in view of the ongoing restrictions and in order to check further spread of the coronavirus disease, the CBN hereby urges the general public to limit their use of cash and avail themselves of the use of alternative payment channels such as mobile banking, Internet banking, Mobile money, Point of Sale, and USSD.
It assured the public that “financial institutions will remain operational during this period and therefore should guard against panic withdrawals from their banks.