By Suleima Umaru
When the Asian country of Iran reopened its economy for business as there was no end in sight to the Wuhan town in Hebei Province of China erupted Coronavirus last December, it set the stage for other countries to follow suit. One of such countries was United Kingdom , UK .others are the European countries which had begun gradual easing of the lock down. While from the African Continent, Nigeria had followed suit.
Last Monday, President Muhammadu in a nationwide broadcast after getting briefs from Osagie Ehanire, minister of Health and Chikwe Ihekweazu , had promised to begin a phased relaxation of the COVID 19, lock down in Lagos, regarded as the epicenter of the disease and the country’s Commercial nerve center, Ogun and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. The decision may have given people an insight that the President had concluded arrangement with godwin Emefiele, the governor of central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to start the process of reopening the economy.
Giving an insight to the gradual phasing of the relaxation of the lockdown, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos State had said on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 that the MDBs, operating in the country have been given approval to reopen with effect from Monday, May 4, 2020 but Staff will work onlybetween 9 AM and 3 PM.
Perhaps to curb the spread of the disease in the bank, the government had said that the maximum Staff strength that could be found in any branch is 60 percent of the work force while the others would operate from home. Informed sources told The Magazine that Emefiele, the CBN governor may have been encouraged by the phased relaxation of the lock down to lift the suspension on cheque clearing by the MDBs. It was temporarily suspended last March due to the out- break of the COVID 19 in the country.
The apex Bank was said to have stated this in a circular issued to all the Banks and Nigeria Inter- Bnk Settlement system on Monday, April 27, 2020,, titled ‘Temporary Suspension of cheque clearing in the Nigerian clearing system’’. The circular was said to have been signed by Sam Okojere, Director , Banking Services Department.The CBN Director had said that they were encouraged to review the need for Cheque clearing to accommodate users of cheque as one of the payment instruments in the economy, despite the lockdown of some states and the FCT.
Already, the United Bank for Africa, UBA, plc, a Pan African Bank , in its determination to carry its Customers along with CBN, regulatory directives that may affect their business in this trying and difficult times , a had informed them of the Bank lifting of the temporary suspension of cheque clearing , which became effective on Tuesday, April 28, 2020, a day after the Presidential broad cast on COVID 19.
This is good news to the many Customers of the Pan African Bank including Corporate Organisations which Cheques had been trapped at the Clearing House because of the outbreak of COVID 19 , in the country since last February due to the Temporary Suspension of the cheque clearing System by the CBN.
The Bank, according to The Value News sources ,had made it clear to the Customers, particular, traders and business men, who had been making inquiries lifted cheque clearing system sure directive and what it connotes under COVID 19, were said to have been told that‘’all cheque instruments will now be processed and cleared for payment’’.
The CBN, may have moved a step further to unlock the economy with the planned resumed provision of Foreign Exchange to banks to sell to parents to enable them pay for their wards school fees overseas and also allow Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, SMEs, to make essential raw material and Chemical imports for their factories. There are indications that the apex Bank had concluded arrangement to Sale over $100 million to the banks in order to conduct their transactions with their Customers.
Isssac Okorafor, the CBN, Director of Coporate Communications had issued a Statement about the resumed Sales of Foreign Exchange to Banks on Wednesday, April 29, 2020, stressing that the decision was taken in view of the government gradual easing of the COVID 19 lock down ’’as a way of revamping the country’s economic activities, which had had been at the lowest ebb in the last one month’’.
The Bureau De Change, BDC, operators may not have been let out in the Foreign Exchange Sales arrangement . Okorafor, the CBN, Spokesperson disclosed that the bank had made a complete arrangement to resume Foreign Exchange sales to the BDC, segment of the market for business travels, personal travels, and other designated retail cases as soon as international flights resume.
Going by the decision of the apex Bank to resume sales of Forex to the Banks and the BDC, many believe that it has given an insight that the five International Airports in the country located at Ikeja, Abuja, Enugu, Kano, and Omagwa, Rivers state may soon been be reopened for International flights.
Indeed, the apex Bank may have intervened to save the naira from imminent collapse as it is currently exchanging far above N460.00 to a dollar, on the Parallel market. The DMBs, fear that as most end users of Forex, had resorted to patronising unofficial sources of the market to source their Forex need in the recent time and it is meeting their dollar needs, there is need for people to panic He is right. Only recently, the Board of Directors of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, approved a $3.4 billion loan facility to help in curbing the spread of the disese in the country.
Aware of the feeling of Forex end users across the country, Emefiele, the CBN, governor, had said that there was no basis for such fears as it is capable of adequately meeting the needs of all Legitimate Forex end users. This may have informed why the CBN has declared war on Speculators and a renewed Crackdown on illegal activities on the Forex market.
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