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CBN Offers Detailed Justification for Crypto Currency Ban

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in a 5 page statement signed by Osita Nwanisobi, the acting Director of Corporate Communications, provided some clarity following its recent reminder to Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) to desist from transacting in / and with entities dealing in cryptocurrencies.

According to Nwanisobi, a perfunctory reflection on the definition of cryptocurrencies can already reveal several problems.

“First, in light of the fact that they are issued by unregulated and unlicensed entities, their use in Nigeria goes against the key mandates of the CBN, as enshrined in the CBN Act (2007), as the issuer of legal tender in Nigeria. In effect, the use of cryptocurrencies in Nigeria are a direct contravention of existing law. It is also important to highlight that there is a critical difference between a Central Bank issued Digital Currency and cryptocurrencies.

Nwanisobi said while Central Banks can issue Digital Currencies, cryptocurrencies are issued by unknown and unregulated entities.

Second, the very name and nature of “cryptocurrencies” suggests that its patrons and users value anonymity, obscurity, and concealment. The question that one may need to ask
therefore is, why any entity would disguise its transactions if they were legal. It is on the
basis of this opacity that cryptocurrencies have become well-suited for conducting many
illegal activities including money laundering, terrorism financing, purchase of small arms and light weapons, and tax evasion. Indeed, many banks and investors who place a high value on reputation have been turned off from cryptocurrencies because of the damaging effects of the widespread use of cryptocurrencies for illegal activities. In fact, the role of
cryptocurrencies in the purchase of hard and illegal drugs on the darknet website called “Silk Road” is well known.

They have also been recent reports that cryptocurrencies have been used to finance terror plots, further damaging its image as a legitimate means of exchange.

More also, repeated and recent evidence now suggests that some cryptocurrencies have
become more widely used as speculative assets rather than as means of payment, thus
explaining the significant volatility and variability in their prices. Because the total number of Bitcoins that would ever be issued is fixed (only 21 million will ever be created), new
issuances are predetermined at a gradually decelerating pace.

This limited supply has created a perverse incentive that encourages users to stockpile them in the hope that their prices rise. Unfortunately, with a conglomeration of desperate, disparate, and unregulated actors comes unprecedented price volatility that have threatened many sophisticated financial systems.

In fact, the price of ether, one of the largest cryptocurrencies in the world,
fell from US$320 to US$0.10 in June 2017. The price of Bitcoins has also suffered similar

Given that unlike Fiat Money which accompanied by full faith and comfort of a country or
Central Bank, cryptocurrencies do not have any intrinsic value and do not generate returns
by themselves.

When one buys a stock, say of a conglomerate in the Nigeria Stock
Exchange, its price reflects the activity and production of that conglomerate and the value
people place on their goods and/or services. This price may rise as the conglomerate
produces better goods/services and probably gains greater market share.

The reverse would be true if the conglomerate does not innovate to improve the quality of its goods/services. In other words, the price of that stock reflects market fundamentals. In contrast, cryptocurrencies do not have fundamentals and would never have fundamentals.

Investors only buy in the hope that its use and acceptability will rise, thereby pushing up its demand  and price.

But since new versions of cryptocurrencies come on stream with new
mathematical models, an infinite supply may someday crash the price to zero.

At this juncture, the CBN would like to assert that our actions are not in any way, shape or
form inimical to the development of FinTech or a technology-driven payment system.

To the contrary, the Nigerian payment system has evolved significantly over the last decade, leapfrogging many of its counterparts in emerging, frontier and advanced economies propelled by reforms driven by the CBN. This is evident from the variety of participants, products, channels, cutting-edge technology in the payments system. It is also validated by the astronomical growth of volume/value of transactions and the fact that

Nigeria is an investment destination of choice for international financial technology companies because of CBN’s policies that have created an enabling investment environment in the payments system.

These developments in the payments and settlements space has helped to grow the financial system, improving financial inclusion, the quality and convenience of financial services and has also created millions of direct and indirect jobs for teeming youth population.

The innovations in Nigeria’s payment system were catalyzed by regulatory reforms driven by the CBN which entailed the issuance of a raft of guidelines and regulations on Operations of Electronic Payments Channels in Nigeria; Transaction Switching; Card Issuance and Usage, Licensing of payment service providers; Mobile Money Services, Electronic Payments of Salaries, Pensions, Suppliers and Taxes, Licensing Super Agents in Nigeria; and use of USSD for Financial Services in Nigeria, Super Agents and Agent Banking Operations and Payment Service Banks to mention a few.

The robust regulatory framework put in place by the Bank opened up the payment system to innovation with several new players across in the following licensing categories- Payment
Terminal Service Providers (PTSPs), Payment Solution Service Providers (PSSPs), Mobile
Money Operators (MMOs), Payment Terminal Application Developers (PTSAs), Switches,
Super Agents, Agents and Payment Service Banks (PSBs) This has created both direct
and indirect jobs for Nigeria’s youth population.

Several other initiatives are being implemented to further support FinTech development and
creation of jobs. These include regulatory sandbox and open banking principles that the Bank recently implemented.

The recent regulatory directive became necessary to protect the financial system and the
generality of Nigerians (including the youth population) from the risks inherent in crypto
assets transactions, which have escalated in recent times, with dire consequences for the
integrity of the financial system and financial stability.

Due to the fact that cryptocurrencies are largely speculative, anonymous and untraceable they are increasingly being used for money laundering, terrorism financing and other criminal activities.

Small retail and unsophisticated investors also face high probability of loss due to the high volatility of the investments in recent times.

In light of these realities and analyses, the CBN has no comfort in cryptocurrencies at this
time and will continue to do all within its regulatory powers to educate Nigerians to desist
from its use and protect our financial system from activities of fraudsters and speculators.”

See Full Release Below:

CBN Press Release Crypto 07022021 (1)

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