On Friday 22nd December 2023, the Central Bank of Nigeria (“CBN”) lifted its hitherto ban restricting banks and financial institutions from dealing in or facilitating cryptocurrency related transactions through its recently published “Guideline on Operations of Bank Accounts for Virtual Assets Service Providers (VASPs)” which now authorizes Banks and other Financial Institutions to provide banking services to virtual asset service providers (VASPs) in compliance with relevant anti-money laundering laws issued by competent authorities. VASPs, Digital Assets Custodians, Digital Assets Offering Platforms, Digital Asset Exchanges, Digital Asset Exchange Operators, and any other entity that may be categorized by the CBN who are licensed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, can now legally operate a designated account with banks and financial institutions subject to the conditions stipulated in the Guideline.
The CBN’s earlier directive of February 5th, 2021, had excluded cryptocurrency transactions from the scope of transactions permitted to be facilitated or processed by financial institutions operating within Nigeria’s mainstream banking system. The 2-year ban which was the Apex Bank’s response to global concerns around money laundering and terrorism finance risks underlying the very opaque and unregulated cryptocurrency market has set the country back significantly from harnessing the benefits of the early adoption of digital currencies as a viable financial asset class.
The Guideline signals a positive change for Nigeria’s hitherto comatose digital assets ecosystem as financial institutions can now outside of their primary activity; facilitate the opening and operation of accounts for VASPs whilst being mandated to establish adequate risk management systems for combating money laundering, financing of terrorism and countering proliferation financing and to ensure adequate activity monitoring/tracking and customer protection. It is worthy of note that this guideline still prohibits banks and other financial institutions from holding, trading and/or transacting in virtual currencies on their own account.
The Guideline prescribes strict requirements for the onboarding of VASPs and operation of bank accounts by VASP account holders – including protocols for customer onboarding/due diligence in a bid to entrench transparency and effective reporting. Also, it sets operational and transactional limit for all VASP accounts whilst… Click here to download article
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