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Nigeria Embraces Crypto: From Ban to Regulation

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Nigeria Embraces Crypto Revolution with Central Bank Reversing Ban

  • The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) lifts its 2021 ban on cryptocurrency transactions, aligning with global financial trends and regulatory practices.
  • Banks are now permitted to facilitate crypto transactions under strict KYC and anti-money laundering regulations, while still being barred from direct trading or holding of cryptocurrencies.
  • This move is set to significantly impact Nigeria’s crypto landscape, encouraging innovation and growth in the digital currency space, especially among its tech-savvy population.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has recently made a significant move in the crypto space by lifting a ban that was previously placed on cryptocurrency transactions. This decision, announced in a circular dated December 22, 2023, marks a pivotal shift in Nigeria’s approach to digital currencies and represents a broader trend of regulatory adaptation to the evolving global financial landscape.

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The Reversal of the 2021 Ban

In February 2021, CBN imposed a ban on banks and other financial institutions from dealing in or facilitating transactions in cryptocurrencies, citing concerns about money laundering and terrorism financing. This ban was part of a broader skepticism towards cryptocurrencies, shared by many regulators worldwide, over the potential risks they pose to the financial system.

However, recognizing the growing global trend towards the adoption and regulation of cryptocurrencies, CBN has now reversed its stance. The new guidelines aim to regulate the activities of virtual asset service providers (VASPs), which include cryptocurrencies and crypto assets. These regulations are in line with recommendations from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which issued rules on the issuance, offering, and custody of digital assets in May 2022.

Under the new guidelines, banks and financial institutions are still prohibited from holding, trading, or transacting in virtual currencies on their own accounts. However, they are now allowed to facilitate cryptocurrency transactions for customers, provided they adhere to strict customer KYC (Know Your Customer) and anti-money laundering checks.

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Impact on Nigeria’s Crypto Landscape

This policy shift is expected to have a significant impact on Nigeria’s cryptocurrency landscape. The country’s young, tech-savvy population has eagerly adopted cryptocurrencies, often using peer-to-peer trading to circumvent the restrictions imposed by the financial sector. According to a report by Chainalysis, Nigeria saw a 9% year-over-year increase in crypto transaction volume, reaching $56.7 billion between July 2022 and June 2023.

Buchi Okoro, CEO and co-founder of Quidax, a Nigerian crypto platform, expressed optimism about the new regulations, noting that they would bring more transparency and safety to customers. The regulation requires crypto companies to secure a license from the SEC and adhere to capital requirements, among other measures.

Looking Ahead

As the crypto market continues to evolve, Nigeria’s decision to regulate rather than ban digital currencies reflects a growing recognition of the potential benefits and risks of these assets. By establishing a regulatory framework, Nigeria joins a growing list of countries seeking to balance innovation in the digital currency space with the need for consumer protection and financial stability.

The lifting of the ban by CBN, coupled with the establishment of a regulatory framework, signals a positive development for the cryptocurrency industry in Nigeria. It aligns with global trends and could potentially pave the way for increased adoption and innovation in the country’s crypto market.

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