The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Friday called on banks to close accounts using cryptosystems, saying they are not allowed in the country where their users are among the most numerous in the world.
In a note published on its website, the CBN « reminds financial institutions that the use of cryptography or facilitating payments involving cryptography is prohibited » in Nigeria and asks them to « identify persons or entities using cryptography » in order to « immediately close their accounts ». Violations of this directive « will result in severe sanctions, » the CBN added.
In 2017, Nigeria had claimed that virtual currencies were not legal in the country, but this announcement did not prevent some of its citizens from investing heavily in these currencies, which have been tolerated until now. The country has one of the largest numbers of users of cryptomoney in the world, according to Chainalysis.
With the economic crisis triggered by the drop in oil prices in 2016, then aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic, many Nigerians see Bitcoin as a safe haven currency. The youth of Africa’s most populous country is also known for its dynamism, particularly in the new technology sector, and many start-ups using these currencies have been created in recent years.
Last October, the cryptomoney was also used to raise funds to support the youth protest movement against police violence, called #Endsars. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey even shared the call for donations of Bitcoin to support protests calling for the dismantling of a police unit, the Special Anti-Theft Squad (SARS), accused of abuses.
On Friday afternoon, the hashtag #Crypto was the most shared on Nigerian Twitter. Several figures of the #EndSars movement denounced on the social network a new blow dealt by the Nigerian government to the country’s youth.