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Thursday, 22 February 2024 05:45

FX crisis: EFCC, CBN should clamp down on crypto platforms, says Onanuga

Bayo Onanuga, special adviser to President Bola Tinubu on information and strategy, says Binance and other crypto platforms should be banned from operating in Nigeria.

In an X post on Wednesday, he also said foreign exchange (FX) aggregator, abokiFX, should be banned again.

Onanuga made the statement while reacting to a comment by Mikael C. Bernard, an X user, who shared posts on cryptocurrency and FX rates.

The presidential aide said Bernard stated in an X post that “Naira is going to zero”.

Onanuga’s statement is coming amid the continuous depreciation of the naira, which fell to N1,900/$ at the parallel section of the FX market on February 20, 2024.

The naira declined by 9.83 percent from N1,730/$ recorded on February 19.

In his post, the special adviser said Binance is “blatantly setting exchange rate for Nigeria,” and hijacking the role of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

He said the cryptocurrency trading platform is facing restrictions in multiple jurisdictions, such as the United States, Singapore, Canada and the United Kingdom.

“According to Data Wallet, Binance is prohibited in the United Kingdom by the Financial Conduct Authority from conducting any regulated activities. In Japan, the Financial Services Agency (FSA) banned Binance for operating without the necessary regulatory approval,” the presidential aide said.

“Ontario, Canada, has also suspended Binance services following its inability to meet the province’s securities regulation criteria. The Monetary Authority of Singapore also banned Singaporean investors from accessing Binance’s services.

“Binance, facing regulatory showdown in many countries, and causing disruptions in the currency market, should not be allowed to dictate the value of the Naira, not on its crypto exchange platform.

“Other crypto platforms such as Kucoin, Bybit should be banned from operating in our cyberspace. FX platform Aboki should be re-banned.”

Onanuga called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the CBN to move against the platforms, adding that the firms are trying to “manipulate our national currency to ground zero”.

He also said crypto should be banned in the country “or else this bleeding of our currency will continue unabated”.

Onanuga’s call for a ban on cryptocurrency trading platforms followed the directive of the CBN on February 5, 2021, to banks, non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs), and other financial institutions (OFIs), to close accounts of persons or entities involved in crypto transactions.

The regulator also warned local financial institutions against dealing in crypto assets or facilitating payments for crypto exchanges.

CBN cited concerns over money laundering, terrorism financing, cybercrime, and the volatility of cryptocurrencies as reasons for the ban.

In a report on April 7, 2022, CBN fined six banks N1.31 billion for flouting the directive on crypto accounts.

However, on December 22, 2023, CBN lifted the ban on cryptocurrency transactions and issued operational guidelines on virtual assets service providers (VASPs) to all banks and other financial institutions (OFIs).

Also, on September 17, 2021, Godwin Emefiele, former CBN governor, said the financial regulator was investigating abokiFX, a forex rates tracker, and Oniwinde Adedotun, the founder.

Emefiele alleged that Oniwinde uses his website for forex manipulations and speculations by purchasing forex to make a profit.

CBN, however, on July 25 2023, asked banks to vacate a post-no-debit restriction placed on AbokiFX account.

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