The value of cheque transactions across the country plunged to N842 billion in the first quarter of this year. This represents a 29 per cent decline year-on-year compared with N1.08 trillion recorded in the same period of 2020 as the downturn in the use of the paper- based channel continued. According to data released by Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS), the value was derived from a total of 1.2 million separate deals, which again was a 33 per cent decline from the 1.8 million volume of transactions recorded in the previous year. On annual basis, the value of cheque transactions has been on a steady decline from an all-time high of 17.8 trillion recorded in 2009.
According to the NIBSS data, from N5.4 trillion recorded in 2017, the value of cheque deals came down to N5.03 trillion in 2018. By 2019, it had declined further to N4.5 trillion and in 2020 the figure went down by over N1 trillion to N3.3 trillion. Industry analysts said the 2020 record was worsened by the one-month suspension of cheque transactions by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) during the COVID-19 lockdown. Meanwhile, electronic platforms such as Point of Sales (PoS), mobile transfer, NIBSS Instant payment, E-Bills Payment, among others continue to record increases in volume and value of transactions on monthly basis.
The continued decline in the use of cheques is attributed to the growing embrace of the various electronic pay-ment channels, which are considered easier and faster for transactions. Meanwhile, industry analysts said the recent change in cheque leaflets may force many who had been using their old cheque books not to go for a new one.
Banks had notified customers that effective from April 1, 2021, the old cheque leaflets would no longer be acceptable for clearing. They also urged customers to get the newly revised cheque standard leaflets introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria. Earlier, the Central Bank of Nigeria had extended the phase-out date for old cheque books from January 1 to March 31.
The banking regulator said this became imperative due to the effect of COVID-19. In a circular, CBN stated: “The parallel run, in which old and new cheques are allowed to co-exist, will end on March 31. Only new cheques will be allowed in the clearing system from April 1, 2021. “Full enforcement of the second edition of the Nigeria Cheque Standard and Nigeria Cheque Printers Accreditation Scheme version 2.0 will commence 1st April 2021 and the NCS/NICPAS 2.0. Sanction grid will be fully operational on 1st April 2021.” Fidelity Bank said in a mail to its customers that “following the directive of the Central Bank of Nigeria for banks to implement the revised cheque standard with additional security features, kindly contact your relationship manager or visit our nearest branch for a new chequebook if you are yet to obtain one.
“The new cheque leaflet has the following additional features: Expiry date, two-digit security code, QR code, and standard dating format.” In a mail to its customers, Ecobank said: “We wish to remind you that effective April 1, 2021, the old chequebooks will no longer be accepted through the cheque clearing system, while same will only be accepted for in-branch transaction processing only. “This is further to the revised Central Bank of Nigeria’s circular on implementing the requirements of the Nigerian Cheque Standards and the Nigerian Cheque Printers Accreditation Scheme dated February 28, 2019.
“While we advise you to kindly request for the new chequebook (if you are yet to do so) before the cutoff date of 31st March 2021, we encourage you to use our other digital channels so you can continue to seamlessly carry out your transactions.”