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Central Bank of Nigeria Lifts Ban on Transacting in Crypto

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has lifted a ban on transacting in cryptocurrencies.

At the same time, the bank said there is a need to regulate virtual asset service providers (VASPs), including cryptocurrencies and crypto assets, Reuters reported Wednesday (Dec. 27), citing a Friday (Dec. 22) circular issued by the bank.

The CBN imposed a ban on banks and financial institutions dealing in or facilitating transactions in crypto assets in February 2021 due to concerns over money laundering and terrorism financing, according to the report.

However, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Nigeria published regulations in May last year that aimed to find a middle ground between an outright ban and unregulated use of crypto assets, the report said.

In its circular dated Dec. 22, the CBN outlined guidelines for banks and financial institutions regarding the opening of accounts, designated settlement accounts, settlement services, and acting as channels for foreign exchange inflows and trade for firms transacting in crypto assets, per the report. The guidelines emphasize the need for VASPs to obtain licensing from the Nigerian SEC to engage in crypto business.

The circular also states that banks are still prohibited from trading, holding or transacting cryptocurrencies, according to the report.

Nigeria has witnessed a surge in cryptocurrency adoption, particularly among its young and tech-savvy population, the report said. Many individuals have turned to peer-to-peer trading offered by crypto exchanges as an alternative to traditional financial services.

The volume of crypto transactions in Nigeria grew by 9% year over year to $56.7 billion between July 2022 and June 2023, per the report, which cited data from blockchain research firm Chainalysis.

It was reported in October 2021 that despite the ban from their country’s central bank, people in Nigeria had turned to cryptocurrency to conduct business, send payments and guard their savings.

In November 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Nigeria said that it had no plans to make crypto part of its digital asset trading goals until regulators agree to standards that keep investors safe.

The commission said at the time that it would promote investment in “sensible digital assets,” with investment protection while also looking into blockchain technology to drive virtual and traditional investment products.