Senate worries over growing popularity of bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies, demands action from CBN

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Noting that cryptocurrencies are now being openly promoted on local broadcast stations, mostly to Nigerians, ”not aware of the consequences”, the Senate has called on the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to make a clear statement on virtual money and other ponzi schemes in the country.

On Tuesday, members of the upper chamber were told during a deliberation on the widespread usage of digital currency, that Google quoted one (1) Bitcoin to be the equivalent of N5, 706, 713.20 as at December 10, 2018.

Sen. Benjamin Uwajumogu (APC, Imo North), who sponsored a motion titled, ‘Urgent need to investigate the proliferation of Bitcoin, a form of Crypto-currency, to ascertain the worthiness of same as a form of investment in Nigeria’ reminded his colleagues that the MMM bubble of 2016 left millions of Nigerian families broken, devastated and many businessmen lost all their capital in the ponzi scheme.

He expressed concern that Nigerians are ”freely advised, and even persuaded to invest in crypto-currency as it promises quick returns, in certain instances, a triple or quadruple of the invested sum as profit within days.”

Uwajumogu said he was aware that bitcoin is not recognised by the Central Bank of Nigeria, does not exist in any tangible form and is also not subject to any international or local monetary regulations, nor backed by any established government institutions for that matter.

“As Nigeria is recovering from recession, it will be devastating for our citizens to lose their hard-earned money on schemes they could easily have avoided had they been properly advised by the government,” he said.

The lawmaker lamented that the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Nigeria Stock Exchange, NSE, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Commission, NDIC, and the National Orientation Agency, NOA, are not doing enough to educate Nigerians on the investment risks inherent in Bitcoin.

He expressed worry that wonder banks like Bitcoin traders, Swiss golden traders etc. have carried on their businesses unchecked in Nigeria, mostly to the detriment of the citizens.

Contributing to the motion, Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West) urged Nigerians as well as relevant intelligence agencies to learn from the MMM saga.

“Many lost their lives due to MMM. No country, no intelligence agency will allow financial scams like MMM, Bitcoin to operate in the borders of their country. Nigeria is so docile that everything comes in.

“If it is a lottery, it should go through national lottery commission, if it is a form of exchange of currency, the CBN can regulate that. The motion is coming because as a senate we need to defend the people,” he said.

Another senator, Bala Na’Allah (APC, Kebbi South) urged the Senate to intervene as he identified himself to be ”an analogue senator”.

“I don’t do internet banking. I like to count my money myself. I’m analogue, I don’t want to go digital. It is safe that way.

“They will just go and pop up something and return them (Nigerians) back to square one. It is not nice, it is not ethical and I think we must intervene in this kind of situation,” he said.

At the end of the debate, the Senate urged the CBN, the NDIC and the NSE to ”make an unequivocal statement across all the news platforms in all dialects on the dangers of bitcoin as a store of value in Nigeria”.

The upper legislative chamber also resolved to “call on the National Orientation Agency to spread the news against all forms of wonder banks and Ponzi schemes operating in Nigeria.”

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