Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, or CBN — which previously banned banks from servicing crypto exchanges — has reportedly clarified the bank’s position on the use of cryptocurrencies in the country.
According to local news outlet TodayNG, CBN Deputy Governor Edward Lamekek Adamu said on behalf of Emefiele that the bank had not banned Nigerian residents from buying, trading or selling crypto but “[protected] the banking sector from the activities of cryptocurrencies.” Lamtek spoke at a seminar for finance correspondents and business editors in the capital, Abuja.
“The CBN did not place restrictions from use of cryptocurrencies and we are not discouraging people from trading in it,” said Emefiele. “What we have just done was to prohibit transactions on cryptocurrencies in the banking sector.”
The statement follows the CBN announcing in February in a circular that it had placed a ban on all regulated financial institutions, preventing them from providing services to crypto exchanges in the country. The ban directed all commercial banks to close accounts belonging to crypto exchanges and other businesses transacting in cryptocurrencies in Nigeria, warning of "severe regulatory sanctions" for any institution in breach of the rule. Some account holders at Nigeria’s Access Bank have already reported their accounts have been closed.
Emefiele previously referred to cryptocurrencies as “not legitimate money” with no place in Nigeria's monetary system. The governor said at the time the central bank was doing its due diligence to better understand the implications of the emerging space.
However, many regulators and crypto enthusiasts in Nigeria have criticized the ban. Some lawmakers in the Nigerian Senate have proposed inviting the CBN governor and major crypto stakeholders to a hearing to discuss issues related to crypto regulations in the country.
Since the CBN introduced the crypto ban, the price of Bitcoin (BTC) has been trading at a premium in the country. Valued at $57,349 in the United States, data from crypto exchange Luno currently shows BTC has risen to a more than 70% premium in Nigeria, at a price of $97,509.