Splitit Navigating New Norms June 2024 Banner

Nigeria Still Holding Binance Execs Amid Crypto Crisis


Nigeria is still reportedly holding two Binance executives as it deals with a currency crisis.

As The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday (March 11), the detentions are happening as Africa’s largest economy is blaming the world’s largest cryptocurrency company for driving down the value of its currency.

To help solve the problem, Binance Head of Financial Crime Compliance Tigran Gambaryan — an American citizen and former IRS agent — headed to Nigeria last month. Joining him was Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British and Kenyan national and Binance’s regional manager for Africa.

Both men are still under house arrest in Nigeria though they haven’t been charged with any crime, the WSJ said, citing information from the Binance employees’ families.

This report follows a separate one from last month which noted that two then-unnamed Binance executives had been picked up by national security officers after arriving in Nigeria.

That came after the government said Binance was operating illegally in Nigeria, costing the country a key source of tax revenue.

“It is not necessarily arrest per se,” Zakari Mijinyawa, a spokesman for the National Security Adviser told Bloomberg News. “Meetings and discussions are ongoing. It’s a national security issue and an interagency process is on.”

Nigerian Central Bank Governor Olayemi Cardoso cited Binance during a press conference last month after announcing a record interest rate increase to help bolster the country’s currency.

Lambasting “illicit flows,” Cardoso said $26 billion has passed through Binance in Nigeria “from sources and users who we cannot adequately identify.”

Another government official, Bayo Onanuga, an adviser to Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, wrote on X that crypto firms have been “blatantly setting exchange rate for Nigeria,” supplanting the role of the country’s central bank.

This has led the country to ask its telecom companies to block platforms like Binance and Coinbase, a move that marks a shift in attitude by the government.

Just last year, the country’s central bank eased a nearly three-year-old ban on transacting in crypto, though it still called for regulation of virtual asset service providers (VASPs), including cryptocurrencies and crypto assets.

The WSJ report notes that Nigerians had embraced crypto in recent years to protect their savings as inflation ballooned to 30%. The report, citing data from Chainalysis, says that Nigeria has the second-highest rate of crypto adoption in the world next to India, with residents carrying out about $60 billion worth of crypto transactions in the 12 months through June 2023.