On February 11th, 2021, the Nigerian Senate, in a plenary session, examined the decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to prohibit banks and other financial institutions from dealing with cryptocurrencies or facilitating payments for cryptocurrency exchanges. This was made public by the CBN through a reminder letter on friday, 5th of February, 2021.
In response to the announcement by the CBN, many Nigerians expressed great displeasure towards the directive of the CBN, sparking a fierce opposition to the ban on crypto. This, in turn, warranted the senate to table a motion on CBN’s decision to stop financial institutions from transacting in cryptocurrencies. The motion was sponsored by Senator Dung Gyang, representing Plateau North.
Senator Bassey Akpan, representing Akwa-Ibom North-East, expressed the need to adapt to the evolving tides of technology, which has birthed cryptocurrencies, and harness it for the nation’s good. “Technology has changed the manner businesses are conducted globally. We started from barter and migrated to credit card. The next level is cryptocurrency and we can’t run away from it. It is CBN responsibility to bring Nigerians to the next level not discouraging it. It is the simplest way of exchange. I strongly believe that as Senate, we should be interested in how businesses are conducted,” the senator said.
Supporting Senator Akpan’s disapproval on CBN’s action to discourage Nigerians from the use of cryptocurrencies, Lagos West Senator, Solomon Adeola, expressed that he is strongly against the outright ban of cryptocurrencies by the CBN. According to him, the CBN should rather be putting regulations in place to guide crypto-related activities in the country. He also stated that the Senate should hear the perspective of the regulators on cryptocurrency operations. “I would indulge this Senate to allow the regulators also to be invited so that they can also tell the Committees their own position concerning the operation of cryptocurrency in Nigeria,” Senator Solomon Adeola said.
Speaking on the need to regulate cryptocurrencies, Senator Tokunbo Abiru, representing Lagos East senatorial district, stated that “Even our Security Exchange Commission (SEC) also recognized cryptocurrency as a financial asset they need to regulate. What we should do is to invite the major stakeholders to a public hearing.”
Recognizing the impact of cryptocurrencies on the businesses and financial condition of many Nigerians, and also the fact cryptocurrency was not created by the government and cannot be “killed” by the government, Senator Biodun Olujimi of Ekiti South senatorial district suggested that the government should implement regulations to curb inappropriate and criminal activities with cryptocurrencies. “What we can do is ensure bad people must not use it. This motion is most important to us. The time has come for us to harmonize all the issues concerning cryptocurrency,” the senator said.
However, some senators contributed to the motion by expressing their concerns against the legalization of cryptocurrencies. Senator Sani Musa, representing Niger East, commented that “Cryptocurrency has become a worldwide transaction of which you cannot even identify who owns what. The technology is so strong that I don’t see the kind of regulation that we can do. Bitcoin has made our currency almost useless or valueless. If we have an economy that is very weak and we cannot regulate cryptocurrency in Nigeria, then I don’t know how our economy would be in the next seven years.”
Following the diverse contributions of the members of the house on the issue of cryptocurrencies, the Senate mandated the committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, joined by the committees on ICT and Cybercrimes, and Capital Market, to invite the CBN Governor for briefing on the opportunities and threats of cryptocurrency on the nation’s economy and security. The Senate expects to receive a report on the findings within two weeks.