Kuda Bank, Moniepoint, OPay and Palmpay have paused account opening for new customers following a directive from the Central Bank of Nigeria. The directive came two days after the EFCC blocked 1,146 bank accounts involved in unauthorised forex dealings. 

“We’ve temporarily paused new signups on our platform. This means that you’ll be unable to open a new account at the moment. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause,” read a notice on the website of a prominent fintech startup. 

At the time of this report, TechCabal could not open new accounts on the affected fintech apps.

Customer deposits and banking activities are not affected.

In the past year, fintechs have faced increased scrutiny over their account opening processes. In October 2023, Fidelity Bank blocked transfers to OPay, Palmpay, Kuda, and Moniepoint over concerns that lax KYC processes led to an increase in fraud incidents. One month after that incident, the Central Bank shared new KYC rules for all financial institutions that appeared targeted at fintech startups.

Last week’s directive to pause account opening is linked to an ongoing audit of the KYC process of these fintechs, one executive at an affected fintech claimed. The same person described the pause as “temporary.”

On April 26, the Central Bank and the National Security Agency (NSA) held talks with representatives of the affected fintechs on Friday, a person with knowledge of the meeting told TechCabal.

“The CBN feels like a lot of crypto traders were leveraging the fintech platforms to disrupt the FX market,” another person with knowledge of the conversations said.

“The banks also have a better relationship with the regulator while fintechs are yet to build that type of relationship and help their perception with the CBN.”

An executive at one of the affected fintechs told TechCabal that the directive is linked to the EFCC’s ongoing investigation into bank accounts involved in unauthorised FX dealings.

An analysis of the 1,146 accounts blocked by the EFCC shows that only 10% are operated by fintechs, with the majority being commercial bank accounts.

An NSA spokesperson denied any link with the directive to stop opening new accounts.

The CBN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Screenshots from some of the affected fintechs

In March, the Central Bank argued that the naira, which experienced record lows in 2024, is being manipulated by speculators after Olayemi Cardoso, the Central Bank’s governor, claimed that $26 billion passed through Binance in a year from “sources and users who we cannot adequately identify.” It informed a crackdown on the global cryptocurrency exchange Binance.

Since then, two Binance executives have also been charged with tax evasion and money laundering and Binance has placed a a restriction on peer-to-peer trading.

In December, the CBN mandated all financial institutions to collect ID cards before creating financial accounts, which contradicts a 2013 central bank rule designed to support financial inclusion that allowed Nigerians to open accounts without identity cards. In the same month, the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) asked banks and mobile money operators to delist unlicenced fintechs from directly accepting consumer deposits. 

Get the best African tech newsletters in your inbox