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Graft: Osinbajo calls for regulation of cryptocurrency

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday called for the regulation of cryptocurrency operations by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Osinbajo stated this in a keynote address delivered virtually at a one-day economic summit organised by the CBN’s Banker’s Committee and the Vanguard Newspaper, themed “Bankers’ Initiative for Economic Growth”.

In a statement by his spokesman, Laolu Akande, the Vice President said the government’s plan to build 300,000 units of houses from the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) was a laudable and attainable project. Commenting on cryptocurrency prohibition, Osinbajo cautioned that the nation must act with knowledge and not fear and develop a robust, thoughtful and knowledge – based regulatory regime. He said: “I fully appreciate the strong position of the CBN, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and some of the anti-corruption agencies on the possible abuses of cryptocurrencies and their other well-articulated concerns. But I believe that their position should be the subject of further reflection.

“There is a role for regulation here. And it is in the place of both our monetary authorities and SEC to provide a robust regulatory regime that addresses these serious concerns without killing the goose that might lay the golden eggs. “So, it should be thoughtful and knowledge-based regulation not prohibition.

The point I am making is that some of the exciting developments we see call for prudence and care in adopting them, but we must removact with knowledge and not fear.” While emphasising the need for monetary authorities to rethink their stand on cryptocurrencies, the Vice President said: “There is no question that blockchain technology generally and cryptocurrencies, in particular, will in the coming years challenge traditional banking, including reserve (Central) banking, in ways that we cannot yet imagine. “So, we need to be prepared for that seismic shift. And it may come sooner than later. Already, remittance systems are being challenged.

Blockchain technology will provide far cheaper options to the kind of fees being paid today for crossborder transfers. “I am sure you are all aware of the challenge that the traditional SWIFT system is facing from new systems like Ripple which is based on the blockchain distributed ledger technology with its own crypto tokens.

“There are, of course, a whole range of digital assets spawned daily from blockchain technology. Decentralised finance, using smart contracts to create financial instruments, in place of central financial intermediaries such as banks or brokerages is set to challenge traditional finance.

“The likes of Nexo finance offer instant loans using cryptocurrency as collateral. Some reserve banks are investigating issuing their own digital currencies.” On the task of national development and the public and private sector interventions, the Vice President said: “In order to engender sustained economic growth, we must think in terms of scale.

“I am quite concerned when I hear that national interventions are classified as pilots involving sometimes no more than 1000 people. Given the size of our population, we cannot afford the luxury of pilot projects. We should design our interventions very carefully and then go big.”

“It was quite puzzling to me when people said that our plan to build 300,000 houses under the ESP was too ambitious a target. After all, this just amount to 400 houses per local government yet many of our local governments are larger than some African countries who would not consider building 400 houses in one year as too onerous a task.”

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