Image of digital banking, Source – Getty Images/iStockphoto
Claim: A WhatsApp broadcast message, shared, multiple times, states that banks are shutting ICT services due to the election.
Verdict: FALSE. Our findings show this is false. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) also debunked it.
Nigerians remain caught in the web of naira scarcity due to the currency redesign and reeling in the pain of being unable to carry out financial activities on the heels of a crucial electioneering season (February 25, 2023, general elections).
There has been a high level of uncertainty as citizens flock to the banks to access cash, especially with the epileptic digital banking services.
Thus, messages have been circulated across different WhatsApp groups that network providers or bank transfers and all relevant ICT units will be halted.
Angela George, a Facebook user with over 12,000 followers, has also shared the message with her followers.
DUBAWA is fact-checking this claim due to the importance of the assertion and the reach and level of engagement it has garnered so far, especially when many Nigerian citizens are currently in a pensive mood due to the cash crunch and with the general elections close by.
False and misleading information about voting and elections hurts both individuals and institutions of a nation, be it financial or politically related, because, in most cases, good economics translates to good politics. It is, therefore, imperative to put out the right information for the nation’s electorate.
With an increased spate of complaints from Nigerians across social media platforms like Twitter about how digital platforms of banks have further deepened, an already existing trust deficit is aggravated by the inefficiencies of these platforms.
To verify the authenticity of the WhatsApp claim, DUBAWA reached out to the corporate communications department of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). According to the spokesperson, Osita Nwasinobi, the message is untrue. He said the bank did not send out such information, whether by anonymity or otherwise, as it has been suggested in the original claim and should be disregarded.
He further disseminated a picture to journalists, tagging the message as “Fake News.”
The official handle of the Central Bank of Nigeria (@cenbank) also shared a tweet warning Nigerians that the information is false.
Some part of the message also further posits that network providers will shut down operations for the digital platforms and Information Communication Technology units of these banks. On the back of this, DUBAWA’s researcher sent a message to the head of media relations at the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), Omoniyi Ibietan, who said the message had been forwarded to the NCC boss and further correspondence would be communicated.
Likewise, according to news reports from (February 11, 2023) on Vanguard, Dailypost and Businessday, the spokesperson of the CBN, in a statement, debunked messages making the rounds about plans to shut down banks.
The statement states in part: “Similarly, there is a misleading voice note trending in social media alleging that the CBN planned to shut down some banks, particularly in a particular geo-political region of the country.
“We wish to state unequivocally that there is no such plan and that the claims are illogical and do not comply with the workings of the Nigerian banking system.”
DUBAWA also discovered that some domestic banks, such as Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), have sent messages via email to customers indicating the early closure of branches on Friday, (February 24, 2023).
GTB, however, assured its alternative channel is always available for any banking needs.
Additionally, the verified Twitter account of United Bank of Africa (UBA) in a direct message on Twitter, dismissed the claim as false.
However, other deposit banks have not communicated any message related to communication shutdown or closure as of the time of filing this report.
Although there is a high level of apprehension due to the cash-strap situation in Nigeria with the count down to the general elections, DUBAWA’s findings show that the purported message telling Nigerians to withdraw their monies from banks until after the election is False.
The researcher produced this fact-check per the Dubawa 2023 Kwame KariKari Fellowship partnership with Summitpost News to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.