By Ismail Auwal

Banks in Nigeria have begun to close accounts that have traded cryptocurrency in Nigeria.

Inquiries by SAHELIAN TIMES show that some GTBank accounts were closed in accordance with the directive of the Central Bank of Nigeria asking commercial banks to stop facilitating cryptocurrency transactions in Nigeria.

Adamu, an affected customer of the bank, said he did not receive prior notification from the bank, he only noticed nonresponsiveness from his FirstBank mobile application.

“I was trying to make a mobile transfer when I noticed that my mobile app is not responding, upon arriving to the bank on Thursday I was told that, my account was closed.”

While the bank closed Adamu’s account without notification, at least one bank has sent account closure mails with some explanation.

In a screenshot of an email received by an Access Bank customer, the bank said it reviewed the customer’s account activities and “observed that transactions therein have been linked to cryptocurrency trading.”

The email goes on to say “Due to the unregulated nature of Cryptocurrency trading and the further directive from the CBN, we are unable to serve as your organisation’s financial partner going forward.

We have therefore proceeded on the closure of your account and a draft will be issued to you for the equivalent sum in your account.”

Though the language of Access Bank’s email refers to this customer as an organisation, the closed account belonged to an individual, not a business.

Access Bank and GTBank have not responded to multiple requests for comment.

The account closure email advised the affected customer to “visit any of our branches near you to request for your draft.” The accounts closure appears to be the enforcement of a new law on activities that were not illegal when they were performed. Until CBN’s recent circular, it was okay for people to trade crypto with their bank accounts.

CBN’s 2017 circular did not illegalize crypto transactions through Nigerian banks. Instead, it advised banks to be alert to any dangers that may be inherent in facilitating crypto transactions.

In response to the order, crypto exchanges have mostly moved their funds from Nigerian commercial banks.

While the CBN’s main reason is that cryptocurrency trades grant anonymity to people who may have malicious or fraudulent intentions, some observers have pointed out that most crypto exchanges do in fact have ‘Know Your Customer’ procedures aimed at discouraging fraud.

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