The Nigerian Senate's Committee on Banking and Other Financial Institutions will examine bitcoin's suitability for investment and recommend measures to protect citizens from suffering financial losses as a result of trading the digital asset.
On January 30, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu told the legislative body that the committee would "investigate the viability of bitcoin as a form of investment" and "come up with recommendations on how to control its uses and trade." He said that the proposals would likely be presented within two weeks.
Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu also put forward a motion expressing a "deep concern" that he shared with some of his colleagues over the way that certain Nigerians have been drawn into cryptocurrency investing with promises of fast, easy money.
Lately, there's been a lot of buzz about virtual currency trading in Nigeria, both among enthusiasts and government officials.
On January 12, the central bank released a circular instructing that financial institutions in Nigeria should follow certain guidelines relating to cryptocurrency trading, until such time as the bank issues "substantive regulation." Institutions have been instructed not to "use, hold, trade and/or transact in anyway in virtual currencies," and to ensure that existing customers who are operating exchanges "have effective AML/CFT controls." They should "immediately" break off relationships with those customers whose AML standards they doubt.
On January 24, the bank's governor, Godwin Emefiele, told a reporter that "Cryptocurrency or bitcoin is like a gamble, and there is a need for everybody to be very careful. We cannot as a central bank give support to situations" in which people wager their savings in such a way. He went on to say that he had asked other officials with the bank "to study the market and get to know what the issues are" so that its leadership can be informed as they consider crafting "some very concrete pronouncements" on the matter.
A Bloomberg article suggests that cryptocurrency's big breakthrough in the country occurred in 2016, when scammers conducting a long-running Ponzi scheme known as MMM began demanding payment in bitcoin because the government had started targeting their bank accounts. Despite having negative experiences with the racket, some Nigerians were left convinced that bitcoin itself was worth investing in.
The cryptocurrency space in Africa's most populous nation is still rife with scams. To avoid falling victim to them, some traders have established informal groups and networks, including several on the messaging platform Telegram. Many currency swaps are conducted in person, in an over-the-counter format. One cryptocurrency consultant interviewed for the story claimed that weekly bitcoin trading volumes in Nigeria had increased by a factor of ten between January 2017 and January 2018.