From Segun Amure, (The New Diplomat’s Abuja Bureau)
The Federal government of Nigeria through its apex bank, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Friday, directed all banks and other financial institutions operating in the country to close accounts of persons or entities involved in cryptocurrency transactions within their systems.
In a letter to Deposit Money Banks (DMBs), Non-bank Financial Institutions (NBFIs), and Other Financial Institutions (OFIs), the CBN said crypto currencies are not accepted as legal tender in Nigeria.
The CBN in the correspondence dated February 5, 2021 and titled “Letter to All Deposit Money Banks, Non-Banks Financial Institutions and Other Financial Institutions”, instructed all financial institutions in the country to adhere to the directive.
The letter reads, “further to earlier regulatory directives on the subject, the bank hereby wishes to remind regulated institutions that dealing in cryptocurrencies or facilitating payments for cryptocurrency exchanges is prohibited.” The letter was signed by Bello Hassan, Director for banking supervision, and Musa Jimoh, director of the payment system management department.
“Accordingly, all DMBs, NBFIs and OFIs are directed to identify persons and/or entities transacting in or operating cryptocurrency exchanges within their systems and ensure that such accounts are closed immediate.”
The circular stated further that “Please note that breaches of this directive will attract severe regulatory sanction.”
It would be recalled that the CBN in January 2017 had claimed digital currencies such as bitcoin, litecoin, and others are used in terrorism financing and money laundering, considering the anonymity of virtual transactions, however, the basis for this latest action by the CBN remains sketchy as many well-meaning Nigerians trade in cryptocurrencies to support livelihood and investment in the country.
In February 2018, the apex bank had also issued a warning to people who invest in cryptocurrencies, saying they would be unable to seek legal redress in the event of any collapse because they are not protected by the law.