Emefiele, others appear at the Senate, defend ban on Cryptocurrency




    The Governor of the Nigerian Central Bank, Godwin Emefiele says the Apex Bank’s decision to prohibit Deposit Money Banks, non-banking institutions and Other Financial Institutions from facilitating trading and dealings in cryptocurrency is in the best interest of Nigerian depositors and the country’s financial system.

    Emefiele made the declaration on Tuesday, February 23, 2021, while briefing a joint Senate Committee   on  Banking,  Insurance  and   Other  Financial   Institutions;   ICT  and Cybercrime; and Capital Market, on its directive to institutions under its regulation.

    Describing   the   operations   of   cryptocurrencies   as   dangerous   and   opaque,   the   CBN Governor said the use of cryptocurrency contravened an existing law.

    He said the fact that cryptocurrencies were issued by unregulated and unlicensed entities made it contrary to the mandate of the Bank, as enshrined in the CBN Act (2007) declaring the Bank as the issuer of legal tender in Nigeria.

    Emefiele, who also differentiated between digital currencies, which Central Banks can issue and cryptocurrencies issued by unknown and unregulated entities, stressed that the anonymity, obscurity and concealment of cryptocurrencies made it suitable for those who indulge in illegal activities such as money laundering, terrorism financing, purchase of small arms and light weapons and tax evasion.

    Citing   instances   of   investigated   criminal   activities   that   had   been   linked   to cryptocurrencies, he  stated that the legitimacy of  money and the safety of  Nigeria’s financial  system was  central  to the mandate of  the  CBN, even as  he declared  that“ Cryptocurrency is not legitimate money” because it is not created or backed by any Central Bank.

    “Cryptocurrency has no place in our monetary system at this time and cryptocurrency transactions should not be carried out through the Nigerian banking system,” he added.

    The CBN governor also emphasized that the Bank’s actions were not in any way, shape or form inimical to the development of FinTech or a technology-driven payment system.

    On the contrary, he noted that the Nigerian payment system had evolved significantly over the past decade, surpassing those of many of its counterparts in emerging, frontier and advanced economies boosted by reforms driven by the CBN.

    While urging that the issue of cryptocurrency be treated with caution, the CBN Governor assured that the Bank would continue its surveillance and deeper understanding of the digital   space,   stressing   that   the   ultimate   goal   of   the   CBN   was   to   do   all   within   its regulatory powers  to  educate   Nigerians   on   emerging   financial   risks   and  protect  Nigeria’s

    financial   system   from   the   activities   of   currency  speculators,   money   launderers,  and international fraudsters.

    Also   speaking,   the   Director-General   of   the   Securities   and   Exchange   Commission, SEC,  Lamido Yuguda clarified that there was no policy contradiction between the CBN   directive   and   the   pronouncements   made   by   the   SEC  on   the   subject   of cryptocurrencies in Nigeria.

    He explained that the SEC made its pronouncement at the time to provide regulatory certainty within the digital asset space due to the growing volume of reported flaws.

    Prior to the CBN directive, he said the SEC had, in 2017, cautioned the public on the risks involved in investing in digital and cryptocurrency, adding that the CBN, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation, NDIC, and the SEC between 2018 and 2020 had also issued warnings on the lack of protection in investments in cryptocurrency.

    Yuguda further disclosed that following the CBN directive, the SEC had put on hold the admittance   of   all   persons   affected   by   CBN   circular   into   its   proposed   regulatory incubatory framework in order to ensure that only operators that are in full compliance with extant laws and regulations are admitted into the framework for regulating digital assets.


    Similarly,   the   Chairman   of   the   Independent   Corrupt   Practices   and   Other   Related Offences Commission, ICPC, Bolaji Owasanoye highlighted the risks inherent in investing in virtual assets and cryptocurrencies in Nigeria.

    He explained that cryptocurrencies posed serious legal and law enforcement risks for Nigeria due to its opaque nature and illicit financial flows, adding that the current move by   the   Federal   Government   to   link   National   Identification   Numbers   with  SIM   cards attested to the fact that terrorists, kidnappers, bandits and perpetrators in illegal acts had relied on the shield provided by anonymity to commit heinous crimes.

    Earlier  in   his  welcome   remarks,  the   Chairman   of  the   Joint   Senate   Committee,  and Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions,  Uba   Sani,   said   the   committee   was   on   a   fact-finding   mission   and   had   no preemptive recommendation or stand and would make its position known only after it had reviewed the submissions made by stakeholders.



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