The Blockchain Industry Coordinating Committee of Nigeria (BICCON), has said it is not lawful for Nigerian financial institutions to arbitrarily freeze or close bank accounts belonging to individuals or entities accused of trading cryptocurrency.
Affected Crypto Entities Told to Seek Legal Advice
In a public statement issued on November 22, BICCON — a coalition of Nigeria’s foremost cryptocurrency and blockchain advocacy groups — advises affected individuals and companies to seek legal advice and redress in courts where appropriate. The body also insists that no Nigerian organization, public or private, should be above the law.
As previously reported by Bitcoin.com News, Nigerian financial institutions have been closing or freezing bank accounts of entities suspected of trading cryptocurrency since November 3. The institutions have claimed they are doing this in order to comply with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) directive that was initially issued on February 5.
However, despite these claims by banks, the blockchain committee insists it is questionable for the financial institutions to block or freeze accounts simply because the account holders are cryptocurrency traders. BICCON’s statement explains:
We consider questionable the actions of deposit money banks (DMBs), nonbank financial institutions (NBFIs), and other financial institutions (OFIs) blocking, closing, and/or freezing the bank accounts of individuals and entities by the mere fact that these individuals and entities are involved in cryptocurrency trading or cryptocurrency-related transactions without more. It is not supported under the current laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The statement also reiterates BICCON’s stance on a CBN directive that was initially used by financial institutions to justify the exclusion of crypto entities from the banking system.
Only Nigerian Legislature Can Criminalize Crypto Trading
Meanwhile, in the same statement, BICCON also uses the renewed spotlight on the Nigerian cryptocurrency industry to restate its belief that the CBN is encroaching on the law-making powers of the legislature. BICCON states:
“Since 5 February 2021, a number of persons and entities accounts have been closed … Though as the regulator, the CBN has the statutory authority to delimit banking operations, but [the] ordering [of] banks and other financial institutions to freeze [or close] accounts suspected to be in use for cryptocurrency may not be supported by law. This is because there is currently no legislation by the National Assembly criminalizing or illegalizing trade in cryptocurrency in Nigeria.”
The statement insists the failure to review the CBN’s circular “will set a dangerous precedent in the country.” The statement also suggests that while BICCON is against the “undue discrimination” against Nigeria’s blockchain & crypto industry, the body is willing to collaborate with concerned regulators, law enforcement agencies, and the government.