The penalties are part of efforts by the central bank to ensure commercial lenders implement a February 2021 order to block trading in cryptocurrencies because of the threat that it says they pose to Nigeria’s financial system. In November, it ordered lenders to close the accounts of two individuals and a company for allegedly trading cryptocurrencies.
The West African nation accounts for the largest volume of cryptocurrency transactions outside the U.S., according to Paxful, a Bitcoin marketplace. Africa’s most populous country also has the largest proportion of retail users conducting transactions under $10,000, according to Chainalysis.
The Central Bank of Nigeria fined Stanbic IBTC Bank, the domestic unit of Standard Bank Group Ltd., 200 million naira ($478,595) for two accounts alleged to have been used for crypto transactions, Chief Executive Officer Wole Adeniyi said Tuesday during an investor conference call in Lagos.
Access Bank Plc, the country’s biggest lender by assets, was fined 500 million naira for failure to close customers’ crypto accounts, according to a filing with the Nigerian Exchange Ltd. United Bank for Africa Plc incurred a 100 million naira penalty for digital-currency transactions by a customer, it said.
While Stanbic IBTC followed the central bank directive, the transactions it was sanctioned for may have passed through its system undetected, Adeniyi said. The central bank was able to detect the relevant transactions using an “advanced capability” that Nigerian lenders don’t have access to, and they’ve asked the central bank to share the technology, he said.
“It doesn’t seem that they are going to entertain a refund, but they are now sharing intelligence with us to be able to kind of deter clients.”