Nigerians left in shock as CBN, FG clamp down on crypto market

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A growing number of Nigerian residents are raising concerns following clampdown on crypto assets via the financial industry

 

Following the classification of cryptocurrency trading as a national security issue by Nigeria’s National Security Adviser (NSA), at least four fintech startups operating in the country—Opay, Moniepoint, Paga, and Palmpay—will block the accounts of customers engaging in cryptocurrency transactions and report those transactions to law enforcement agencies.

 

Nigerian fintechs close shop on crypto industry

 

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) barred prominent fintech companies, including Kuda, Opay, PalmPay, and Moniepoint, from accepting new clients last week.

 

The apex bank’s action was related to a continuous assessment of the fintech companies’ Know-Your-Customer procedures. These companies have been under investigation in recent months due to worries about money laundering and financing of terrorism.

 

The African most populated country comes in second for Bitcoin interest globally, even though the FG had forbidden banks from providing services to cryptocurrency customers. The African country, which has long struggled with high inflation, has held the crypto sector party responsible for the recent naira’s depreciation.

 

Consequently, a court order had been obtained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to freeze at least 1,146 bank accounts belonging to different people and businesses that were allegedly engaged in illicit foreign exchange dealings.

 

OPay warned in a notification on Friday that it would impose severe penalties on users who disobey its policies, which are in line with the CBN’s position on cryptocurrency trading.

 

“Please be aware that OPay forbids the trade of any virtual money, including cryptocurrencies, under the instruction issued by the CBN. Any account that engages in these kinds of activities will be closed, and regulatory authorities will receive access to client information.” the fintech firm said.

This looks like a contradiction from the CBN’s previous stance. It had earlier instructed financial institutions to assist with account opening, offer certain settlement services, and serve as middlemen for businesses that transact in cryptocurrency assets in a circular that was published late last year.

 

Conflicting signals

A two-year restriction on crypto transactions was lifted by the CBN last year, and discussions regarding cryptocurrency licenses were underway between the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and at least three cryptocurrency exchanges.

 

CBN had previously refuted a report claiming that it had issued an order mandating that all banks and financial institutions identify people or organizations transacting with cryptocurrency exchanges and make sure that those accounts are placed on “Post No Debit” instructions, which are orders from banks or other financial institutions to limit specific transactions on a customer’s account, for six months.

 

Market leaders see this move as counterproductive as most P2P transactions occur in opaque channels. Most P2P transactions, according to Ray Youssef, CEO of NoOnes, take place on WhatsApp, Telegram, coffee shops, and public spaces rather than on Binance or any other platform.

 

“On Binance P2P, NoOnes, or any of these other platforms, the majority of peer-to-peer activity does not occur. They take place in coffee shops, on the streets, on Telegram and WhatsApp, and everywhere else.

” Most peer-to-peer communication takes place there. And $60 billion, if I may estimate, passing through the centralized exchanges. Because Nigerians are so resourceful and can find uses for things that weren’t necessarily intended for them, I believe that the majority of that is a peer-to-peer volume that they are also sort of hiding,” he continued.

The FG had previously accused Binance of encouraging currency speculation that caused the naira to plummet in value. It then invited two of Binance’s executives to the nation, whereupon they were detained and one of them managed to flee.

 

Nigeria has the largest crypto economy in Africa in terms of trade volume, and many of its people use crypto assets amid its very young and vibrant population

 

However, the newly appointed Director-General of SEC has garnered optimism and confidence from Nigeria’s blockchain community. The pro-crypto history of the new SEC Chair is considered as an additional benefit for the regional crypto sector.

 

Emomotimi Agama, a former managing director of the Nigerian Capital Market Institute (NCMI), has been named by Nigerian President Bola Tinubu as the new chair of the SEC.j

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