At least three Nigerian fintech startups—Moniepoint, Paga and Palmpay—will block the accounts of customers dealing in cryptocurrency and report those transactions to law enforcement after Nigeria’s National Security Adviser (NSA) classified crypto trading as a national security issue. 

That designation means a new crypto regulation that will ban peer-to-peer trading of cryptocurrencies is in the works, said Tosin Eniolorunda, the CEO of Moniepoint. 

Another person with knowledge of the conversations told TechCabal that a regulation to ban p2p trading will soon be made public. 

If the ban happens, it will represent a major regulatory shift after the Bola Tinubu administration initially softened its stance on crypto. In December 2023, the Central Bank lifted a two-year ban on cryptocurrency transactions, and at least three crypto exchanges were in talks with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over a crypto license. 

Yet, the early successes have been reversed and in the past two months, authorities have blamed a volatile FX regime on crypto speculators.

The rationale for a ban on p2p trading is linked to the Central Bank’s belief that crypto traders use peer-to-peer trading to manipulate the naira via a pump-and-dump strategy. In February 2024, the Central Bank Governor, Olayemi Cardoso, claimed $26 billion in untraceable transactions were processed by Binance. 

It led to a crackdown on the global exchange Binance and the freezing of over 1,000 bank accounts involved in peer-to-peer transactions. Yet authorities have gone even further. 

Last week, TechCabal exclusively reported that four prominent fintechs were directed to stop opening new customer accounts. At the time, it was unclear if the directive was from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission or the NSA. A spokesperson for the NSA denied any connection with the incident. 

On Thursday, Tosin Eniolorunda, the CEO of Moniepoint, confirmed that the NSA ordered the pause in new customer signups. 

“Customers can easily open Tier 3 accounts on fintech platforms in seconds,” he said at the TMT Business Law conference in Lagos.

“The NSA found a lot of accounts [that were involved in crypto trading] and blocked the accounts. They were worried that fintechs are rapid [in opening accounts] and told us to stop onboarding.”

A spokesperson for the NSA declined to comment. 

These easy-to-open accounts, made possible by relaxed rules to enhance financial inclusion, have come under scrutiny in the last year. Traditional banks claimed that these accounts were often conduits for money fraudulently obtained by bad actors. 

In December 2023, the Central Bank amended those rules, giving fintech startups a deadline of March 2024 to request identification for all classes of accounts. 

Olumuyiwa Olowogboyega Newsroom Editor

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