Nigeria's Unending Crypto Tussle


Nigeria's apex regulatory organ of the capital market, the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) this week is still debating cryptocurrency regulations with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The apex bank's recent directives rendered pre-existing SEC guidelines irrelevant - With a policy statement that operating in Nigeria's capital market without a bank account is largely impossible. 

The SEC subsequently called the bank's directive "disruptive", in yet another public sign of divergence between the two public institutions on the regulation of digital asset classes. In the meantime, bureaux de change operators have entered the tussle. An industry association christened Asociation Bureaux de Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON) led by Alhaji Aminu Gwadabe has called on the CBN to introduce measures to reduce reliance on cryptocurrency for remittances and in so doing, neutralise its positive impacts. This call was made by ABCON during it's Quarterly Economic Reviewfor the first quarter of 2021 where it commended CBN for the N5/$ rebate scheme introduced to encourage diaspora Nigerians to use official channels to remit their funds.

Nigeria’s haphazard and unclear approach to regulating its cryptocurrency future risks heightening the very fears regulators were concerned about in the first place. The cryptocurrency industry in Africa’s largest economy is one of the world's largest - In October 2020, Nigeria traded $32.3 million worth of Bitcoin, 247% higher than South Africa and 303% higher than Kenya which recorded $9.3 million and $8 million respectively. The end of March 2020, Nigeria ranked second highest in the global adoption of cryptocurrency.

In the first half of 2021 Fiscal Year, Nigeria dominated peer-to-peer trading on the continent. Time would tell when there would be unison in the policy thrust of Nigeria's regulatory agencies on the knotty cryptocurrencies issue that has refused to go away.