The Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) and Precise Financial Systems (PFS) have collaborated to unveil a new National Automated Clearing System (NACS), which allows all the Deposit Money Banks in the country to clear cheques within hours.
The banks have been test-running the infrastructure for 11 weeks and a total of N5 trillion worth of cheques from 10 million transactions has been processed through the new platform.
At the post go-live session in Lagos at the weekend, with representatives of the banks, the Managing Director of NIBSS, Ade Shonubi, explained that the institution had been on the project for over 18 months.
He added that the infrastructure would allow all the banks to achieve several payment and non-payment transactions.
NIBSS' boss said that as at today there are four clearing sessions. According to him, the advantage of having multiple clearing sessions was that the net amount against each bank is smaller so that risks are managed.
"With the new system, a cheque can be cleared within six hours, four hour or at whatever duration we agree", he said.
The Managing Director of PFS, the software firm behind NACS, Dr. Yele Okeremi, at the session, said the process of clearing cheques in all Nigerian banks has been simplified with the launch of NACS and that the successful completion of the project has the door for more Nigerian firms to take on more national challenges.
Okeremi commended the collaborative effort that exists between NIBSS and PFS, saying that the partnership has given birth to the new system that "allows bank customers to experience the benefits of shorter cheque clearing cycles, as it reduces operational cost of the banks because the clearing departments of the bank can work smarter and close earlier."
Expatiating on the reasons for the innovation, he said NIBSS needed a future proof system that would help the institution to realize its vision of a faster and more efficient clearing system that would be less resource intensive and accommodate various new requirements and practices in the clearing system.
"NIBSS wanted a system that can be incorporated with the Bank Verification Number (BVN). They also wanted a situation where they would have a session-less system that would always be online such that banks could transmit their transactions as soon as they happen rather than a batch system that opens up at specific times and closes after stipulated time frames", he said.
Head, Domestic Payments and Collections, Union Bank, Kolawole Aminu, described the new platform as user-friendly.
He added that "over N5 trillion that has been processed on the new platform just within 11 weeks. We are talking of over 10 million in terms of the volume of cheques. That tells you how much we do with this mode of payment."
Okeremi said, "As MD of NIBSS have explained, what we have given the country is an infrastructure. It is a switch. It can switch anything. I look forward to when that infrastructure can be used for other transactions. When a country talks about independent, sovereignty, these are some of the things that matter.
"How much of your services are internal to you? Are you breathing through the nose of other countries and you claim you are independent? These are some of the things that make one happy and we can say that Nigeria's problems are being gradually solved.
There is a big road ahead."
According to him, whenever Nigerian government request foreigners to "do what we could have done for ourselves, we export prosperity and import poverty," saying that "there is a national and sovereign security issue.
"If you go to any developed country, they would not allow foreigners to have access to certain critical infrastructure in their country. So why do we keep exposing our country to such sovereign risks. I think the fact that NIBSS has led the way in this direction, I expect other organizations to follow suit", he said.
He expatiated that the Nigerian economy would benefit immensely from the new solution because it is "conceived and developed by Nigerians thereby saving some capital flight for the country."