Presidency exempts banks from lockdown

…as CBN suspends cheque clearing instruments indefinitely

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) alongside the Ministry of Finance, yesterday, secured approval from President Muhammadu Buhari to exempt key players in the financial services sector from the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19)  curfew to avoid creating more chaos to the economy,

The disclosure was contained in a joint statement released  by Zainab Ahmed, the Finance Minister, and Godwin Emefiele, the CBN Governor.

President Muhammadu Buhari, had on Sunday in his nationwide broadcast, imposed a total lockdown restricting movements in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja.

Addressing Nigerians, the President said: “Based on the advice of the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC, I am directing the cessation of all movements in Lagos and the FCT for an initial period of 14 days with effect from 11pm on Monday, March 30, 2020.

“This restriction will also apply to Ogun State due to its close proximity to Lagos and the high traffic between the two States. He urged all citizens in these areas to stay in their homes, adding that travel to or from other states should be postponed.

All businesses and offices within these locations should also be fully closed during this period, President Buhari ordered.

But in the joint statement yesterday, the duo said: “In the light of the devastating effects of the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) on many countries around the world, we applaud and appreciate the appropriate and proactive restrictions in personal and vehicular movement directed by President Muhammadu Buhari in his speech of Sunday, March 29, 2020.

“We would like to inform the general public and all affected stakeholders that we have obtained exemptions from the President to allow very skeletal operations in the financial system and money markets in order to keep the system in light operations during this time.”

They further advised relevant staff of affected outfits and agencies to be on the look out for further instructions from their immediate bosses and urged all Nigerians to be patient, cooperative and united as all hands are on deck to defeat this virus.

Meanwhile, the CBN on Monday suspended indefinitely, the clearing of cheques instruments in the Nigerian clearing system

The apex bank said this in a circular released on Monday to all Deposit Money Banks and the Nigeria InterBank Settlement System.

The circular with reference number BKS/DIR/GEN/ClR/O7/002 was signed by the CBN Director, Banking Services Department, Sam Okojere.

The apex bank said in the circular that the directive became imperative due to the lockdown issued by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Retd) in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory.

The lockdown was to check the increase in the number of confirmed cases of the Coronavirus pandemic in the country.

The apex bank said in view of the lockdown and in furtherance of its effort to ensure hitch-free clearing and settlement activities, there is need to suspend the clearing of cheques instruments.

The circular said the suspension would commence from March 31, adding that no fresh cheque instrument will be allowed to pass through  the clearing system on that date.

It said only returned cheque would be treated on March 31.

The circular reads in part, “Please recall that the first index case of COVlD-19 was recorded in Nigeria on 27th February, 2020 and since that date, there has been some level of increase in the number of confirmed cases in the country.

“The President, through a nationwide broadcast yesterday, announced a locked down in Lagos and Ogun States and the Federal Capital Territory for two weeks in the interim, starting from 11:00 pm. of March 30, 2020 as a means of combating the spread of the virus and to ensure the safety of all Nigerians.

“In view of these recent developments and in furtherance to the Bank’s effort to ensure hitch-free clearing and settlement activities, the Central Bank of Nigeria hereby suspend, until further notice, the clearing of cheques instruments in the Nigerian Clearing System starting from March 31, 2020.

“For the avoidance of doubt, no fresh cheque instrument will be allowed to pass through clearing system on March 31, 2020. Only returned cheque would be treated on the said date.”

The circular, however, said that settlement activities for electronic instruments would continue to hold during this period of suspension.


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