Decries proliferation of crypto-currency in Nigeria

 By Damilola Oyedele in Abuja  

The Senate Tuesday directed its Committee on Banking to investigate illegal deductions and arbitrary charges on depositors’ funds by commercial banks.

The committee was mandated to invite the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and officials of the central bank, forensic auditors, managing directors of commercial banks and other stakeholders, to a public hearing to harmonise and amend laws that do not adequately protect customers from illegal banking practices.

The resolution followed a motion sponsored by Senator Magnus Abe (Rivers APC) and 22 others, who accused commercial banks of actions contrary to tariff stipulations, credit and monetary guidelines issued periodically by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

He cited a CBN report that about N2.6billion was recovered from banks as excess charges imposed on customers in 2015 alone, following investigation of about 6000 cases.

“Concerned that several of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s applicable rules that should remedy such hardship and discourage sharp practices by the commercial banks are conflicting, vague and unjust, thereby causing the commercial banks to frequently short change their customers,”

“Further concerned that requests made by Bank Customers to the Central Bank of Nigeria for clarification of the rules are largely ignored,” Abe said.

He warned that banks would continue to declare huge profits at the expense of innocent Nigerians if the practices are not stopped.

Contributing to the debate, Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi APC) said the practice had continued for years, because the deductions are usually too little to attract attention.

Millions of naira have however been stolen by the banks this way, he alleged.

“How many Nigerians actually probe their bank statements?” Melaye queried.

He also accused the banks of trading with funds of deceased customers, instead of contacting the next of kin of such persons to recover the deposited funds.

 

Presiding, Senate President Bukola Saraki said there was need to protect the banking rights of Nigerians.

“Particularly at these difficult times, every naira is important and we must be seen to be defending the interests of Nigerians who don’t have the voice to defend themselves,”

“Again, the issue here is to get to the bottom of what the laws and guidelines are, and to be sure that they are in line with the laws and have the powers to make such pronouncements” Saraki added. 

The Senate yesterday also decried what it said, was the proliferation of crypto-currency, particularly Bitcoin, as a form of investment in Nigeria leaving citizens vulnerable to unverified and risky investment schemes. 

It directed its Committee on Banking to investigate the viability of Bicoin as a form of investment and proffer recommendations on how to control its uses and trade.

The upper legislative chamber also urged the CBN and the Nigerian Stock Exchange to make an unequivocal statement on the dangers of Bitcoin as a store of value in Nigeria.

Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu, (Imo APC), who raised the issue before the lawmakers, lamented that cryptocurrency was being openly marketed across the country with Nigerians unaware of the consequences since they are promised quick returns. 

“Observes with concern, that Google, quoted; one (1) Bit coin to be the equivalent of N5, 706, 713.20 (Five Million, Seven Hundred and Six Thousand, Seven Hundred and Thirteen Naira, Twenty Kobo) as at 10″‘ December 2018,”

“Aware that JP Morgan, the world renowned investment bank, in a conference held in New York City USA, and reported in the US guardian, noted that ”the digital currency (bit-coin) was only fit for drug dealers and would eventually blow up”, this reaffirmed the advice of the German Central Bank and the Reserve Bank of India against investing in Bit-coin,” he added.

The senator further noted that the Bit-coin, is not recognised by the Central Bank, does not exist in any tangible form and is also not subject to any international or local monetary regulations, or backed up by any established government institution for that matter.

He recalled that the MMM Ponzi scheme left millions of Nigerian families broken and devastated while many business men lost all their capital in the phony scheme.