CBN, NFIU Urged to Track Illicit Transactions in Cryptocurrency, Bitcoins

Ugo Aliogo

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) have been urged to effectively engage with the centralized exchange agencies such as Bundle, Binance, and Guider, to ensure that if anyone uses crypto for illicit transactions, they would be able to track it and also get data from these agencies for investigations and regulation purposes.

Giving the advice in Lagos yesterday, at the 2022 Legal Business Conference with theme: ‘Regulating Blockchain and Fintech Innovations: Finding the Balance’ organized by Legal Business Network, the President, Stakeholders in Blockchain Technology Association of Nigeria (SIBAN), Senator Ihenyen, noted that in 2017, the CBN disclosed that there was a lot of risks involved in the cryptocurrency space, but wanted all banks to conduct KYC through compliance and transaction monitoring, adding that in 2021 the apex bank changed that policy.

He also said banks and other financial institutions should conduct more Know Your Customer (KYC) processes and procedures for every person that transacts in crypto using their bank accounts, in order to have their data, from binance, guider, and bundle, “this brings a level of transparency and traceability.”

He further explained that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which is the global body already evaluated Nigeria in terms of compliance with global standards in the areas of money laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT)compliance in August, 2021 and our scorecard was poor.

Ihenyen revealed that FATF ranked Nigeria poor in seven sectors because the global body concluded that the country doesn’t have adequate or effective mechanism to checkmate money laundering and financial terrorism in the financial services sector and other sectors, including the virtual asset sector as well. 

He hinted that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a regulation to ensure that virtual assets providers are registered and licensed to ensure that they are AML/KYC compliance mechanisms. 

On her part, the Convener of the conference, Ifeoma Ben, said the recent unveiling of the eNaira by the CBN has exposed many legal issues and the inherent opportunities in the burgeoning blockchain and financial technology ecosystem. 

She stated that technology is the future, adding that there is need for regulators to strike a balance between regulation and innovation hence the theme of the conference.

Ben disclosed that the advent of technology has revolutionized the way lawyers sell legal services, while adding that lawyers must keep up with technological changes that impact the practice of law. 

She remarked that there are opportunities for lawyers in the blockchain space so there is a need for lawyers to acquire the skills needed to create legal solutions for their clients in the technology space.

According to Ihenyen, “There is a new money laundering act which was issued recently. Everything is happening so fast because the FATF has given Nigeria up to October 2022, to ensure that it complies with the global standards otherwise, Nigeria will end up in the grey list. The grey list is a list where you find countries that have been rated poorly in terms of KYC, countries that are believed to be aiding or financing terrorism. So, what we are saying is that we need to engage every stakeholder, this is not the time to say one regulator has all the answers. This is the time to ensure that Nigeria have safe and sound financial system, but it also has an inclusive financial system that ensures that players and innovators play in that space.

“It is important to note that virtual assets such as bitcoin, can be used by bad actors to carry out illicit transactions. There is no questions about that. The issue is that how do we approach these issues where people use virtual assets to carry out these transactions. We should examine what is the role of CBN in ensuring that the financial and banking systems is not being used as corridor for perpetuating these acts. It is noteworthy to state here that the CBN has responded in February, 2021, by saying that we have to block or stop all crypto currency transactions in the banking and entire financial systems, that is the temporary solution that the CBN has provided. Over the last one year, how has that solution ensured that this issue is nipped in the bud. If you check all facts and data, you will realize that since that pronouncement was made, there has been more adaption of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies by Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike.”

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