Jack Dorsey Advocates Ending Police Brutality In Nigeria Through Bitcoin
Jack Dorsey, the CEO of social media giant Twitter, has joined the drive directed at dispersing the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and putting an end to Nigerian police brutality. Jack Dorsey Advocates Ending Police Brutality In Nigeria Through Bitcoin
In a tweet on October 14, 2020, Jack requested all concerned Twitter users to make contributions via Bitcoin to help a feminist coalition that aims to end injustices in Nigeria through fundraising, non-violent protests, and social media activism.
The Twitter CEOs request is one of many made by several international groups, institutions, and personalities from around the world.
The donation website he connected to is managed by a group of Nigerian feminists currently focusing on protests against the police’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) through rallies, fundraising, and social media.
Ray Youssef, CEO of popular African Peer-to-peer Bitcoin marketplace Paxful, also supported the #endSARS hashtag. He has condemned the Nigerian police for brutally targeting young people for simply using cryptocurrency. He tweeted:
This is a real crisis of human rights happening now! Police are targeting young entrepreneurs for using crypto currency. Nigerians brilliantly adopted crypto early and used it legitimately to rise out of poverty and restore honor to Nigeria and this is their reward?
— Ray Youssef (@raypaxful) October 11, 2020
Demonstrations Began In Nigeria On October 4
The demonstrations started in Nigeria on October 4 with many young people taking to the streets to oppose police brutality in the country and call for the dismissal of SARS, with the trending #endSARS hashtag.
The protest in Nigerian cities had spread after weeks of online complaints posted by young people in the country over claims of kidnapping, harassment and extortion by police units identified as SARS. Protests recapitulated after the inspector general of police declared on Sunday that the unit was being dismissed and its officers transferred.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has always been a notable supporter of Bitcoin. In fact, his payment company, Square, had recently purchased $50 million worth of BTC, which coincided with a price increase for the digital currency.
In the month of September 2020, Jack had said that the internet is something that is consensus-driven and is developed by everyone and allows anyone to modify its content and direction. Bitcoin has the same patterns as it was developed on the internet and anyone with a brilliant conception can join in its development, Jack told Reuters in an interview. In the past, he has also said that Bitcoin is “probably the best” primary currency of the internet since it also “consensus-driven” and “built by everyone.”
Nigerian Protesters Shut Down Africa’s Largest City, Escalating Standoff With Government
Authorities vow to restore order as demonstrations grow across Nigeria.
Tens of thousands of protesters brought the largest city in Africa to a standstill on Monday, mounting the biggest demonstration in a two-week campaign against police brutality and escalating a standoff with a government that has pledged to restore order.
Groups of placard-waving protesters blocked major roads across Lagos, Nigeria’s sprawling commercial capital and home to an estimated 20 million people. The city’s Ibadan expressway, the country’s busiest road, was blocked by groups chanting: “We want change.” Protesters closed off the city’s airport and stormed the terminal.
In a city infamous for hourslong traffic jams, columns of Lagos residents could be seen walking along emptied streets and causeways.
The Lagos protests were the largest of a series of demonstrations on Monday across the West African nation of 206 million people that appeared to significantly raise the temperature between demonstrators and the government.
Nigeria’s army deployed to several intersections in the capital, Abuja, at sites of a planned protest, while police fired tear gas, days after local authorities issued an executive order banning demonstrations in the city.
Over the weekend, Defense Minister Bashir Magashi warned protesters against breaching national security and the information minister, Lai Mohammed, said the government wouldn’t “fold its arms and allow the country to descend into anarchy.”
Protesters in Lagos accuse the government of deploying agitators to create a pretext for a crackdown, a charge the government denies.
“I know they will try to bring the military to make us scared,” said Gbenga Abioye, a student taking part in a Lagos protest blocking access to Murtala Muhammed airport, where young people sang with raised fists as the national anthem blared through tinny speakers. “We aren’t going to fight. But we will stay on the streets.”
The escalating rhetoric raises the prospect of a showdown between President Muhammadu Buhari and a protest movement that has evolved from a single-issue campaign into a more diffuse protest against alleged government corruption, economic mismanagement and nepotism.
More than 90% of Nigerians work in the informal sector, meaning the government’s lockdown of major cities to slow the spread of the new coronavirus deprived tens of millions of people of the cash they need to survive.
Mr. Buhari, a former general who briefly ruled Nigeria at the head of a military junta in the 1980s before returning as elected civilian president in 2015, has deployed the army against other protests in recent years, including in 2018, where government forces killed 45 Shiite Muslims marching to support a jailed cleric. He has urged the protesters to give the government time to address their concerns.
The current protests began with demands to ban a notorious police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, or SARS, which was long accused of extortion, torture and extrajudicial killings.
The largely peaceful protests, organized under the hashtag #EndSARS, won the backing of celebrities and business leaders around the world, including the rapper Kanye West and Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey, who urged people to support protesters by donating bitcoin.
Nigerian diaspora communities in the U.S. and Europe have attended street protests in solidarity with a movement that has sought to bridge the country’s traditional sectarian and economic divides.
“This protest is different because it is the first time Nigerians are speaking with one voice and the government cannot find anything to divide us,” said Chalse Inoji, a popular Nigerian comedy actor, who was marching wrapped in a Nigerian flag. “EndSARS is a rallying point for all of the years of bad governance, maladministration and institutional highhandedness. We are asking for a total reformation of our political system.”
Nigeria’s government agreed to disband the police unit and establish a new elite police force—SWAT—whose officers would be trained by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
But tensions have continued to rise on the streets across the country, as protesters vow not to withdraw until promises are delivered and the government releases those arrested at the recent demonstrations.
In Edo state, authorities imposed a curfew after hundreds of prisoners escaped from a jail in the melee of protests. Elsewhere, groups of men armed with clubs and bats attacked groups of protesters camped at strategic intersections.
The protests are being driven by the youth in Nigeria, a country with an average age of 18 and one of the world’s fastest-growing populations, projected to overtake the U.S. to become the third-largest by 2050. The demonstrations fit into an emerging global pattern of youth-led calls for change from Hong Kong to Sudan and Chile.
Nigeria’s youth-led protests “could start to redraw the political landscape,” said Amaka Anku, an analyst at Eurasia Group, a risk consultancy.
“The current generation of Nigerian youth have paid very little attention to politics to date….That reality is now likely to shift as young protesters grow more conscious of their political power,” she said.
Inside the protest movement, fractures are appearing between those who want to keep the focus on police brutality and those who want more fundamental change.
“The biggest strength of the protests has also become its biggest liability, which is total absence of centralized leadership,” said David Huneydin, a journalist critical of the government who has marched in the protests. “A military intervention is now highly likely.”
The protests were no longer about police brutality and had become political, said a senior Nigerian security official. “This is a platform that is being hijacked by people opposed to the government. It is well funded.”
There were signs that Mr. Buhari’s allies were hardening their position against the protesters. Governors from Nigeria’s majority Muslim north have rejected the total disbandment of SARS, stressing it has been instrumental in fighting the Boko Haram insurgency and should be reformed rather than scrapped.
Nigeria’s army said over the weekend that it would begin a two-month national exercise—Operation Crocodile Smile—the first time the annual exercise, typically concentrated in the oil-producing Delta region, will be nationwide.
As night fell on Monday, thousands of protesters gathered at a bridge toll gate, swaying the lights on their cellphones as musicians sang protest songs through booming speakers. The vast digital advertising banner on the bridge was lit up with the protest slogan “Soro Soke,” or Speak Louder.
Lagos protesters have pledged to continue the citywide shutdown for three days. “These protests are happening in phases and we are not ready to leave the streets anytime soon,” said Uche Nnadi, a 36-year-old Nigerian actor. “We are tired of bad leadership.”
Nigeria Plans To Start A Bridge Bank To Aid Struggling Lenders
Nigeria plans to start a fund that will operate a bridge bank to nurse struggling lenders back to health.
The central bank will inject 10 billion naira ($26 million), or an amount that still needs to be determined by its board, into the so-called resolution fund every year, according to amended banking laws signed by President Muhammadu Buhari. Each lender will make annual contributions equivalent to 10 basis points of their total assets, or a percentage that the Abuja-based regulator still has to finalize.
The new rule is separate to the Assets Management Corp. of Nigeria, or Amcon, which was created to buy bad debts following a banking crisis in 2009, according to the amended laws. Amcon is expected to wind down by 2023.
While Nigeria’s biggest lenders have built strong buffers since the global financial crisis, some small- and medium-sized banks have struggled to ward off shocks arising from a 2016 economic contraction and the coronavirus pandemic. In 2018, Skye Bank Plc collapsed and the central bank established Polaris Bank, a bridge bank to take over its assets and liabilities.
Nigerian Protesters Killed As Soldiers Open Fire In Lagos
Deadly violence comes hours after the announcement of a curfew.
Several people were killed as Nigerian soldiers opened fire at a key protest site in Lagos, witnesses said, as the government sought to end two weeks of marches against police brutality that have mushroomed into broader nationwide demonstrations.
Three witnesses, gathered among hundreds of protesters at Lagos’ Lekki toll gate, said that pickup trucks arrived shortly after nightfall and soldiers began to fire tear gas and then bullets into the crowd. It wasn’t immediately clear how many people had been killed, but each of the witnesses said they saw several bodies on the road. Videos posted on social media showed screaming protesters surrounding bloodied corpses, visible through a haze of yellow tear-gas smoke.
“The Nigerian government sent the army to come and kill us,” said Akinbosola Adeyemi, a talk-show host who ran five-eights of a mile to safety. “A lot of people were hit. You are not meant to shoot live firearms against us.”
Nigeria’s army referred questions about the killings to the civil police, who couldn’t be immediately reached for comment. Nigeria’s national government also couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. The state government said it would open an investigation into the shooting.
The decision to use military force to quell the protests moves politics in West Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer into an uncertain phase. The intervention came just hours after the governor of Lagos declared a curfew across Africa’s most populous city, saying that swelling protests against police brutality had “degenerated into a monster,” setting up a showdown between demonstrators and the government.
Babajide Sanwo-Olu announced on his Twitter feed that a curfew would come into effect at 4 p.m. local time on Tuesday and affect all parts of the state, which is home to more than 20 million people. “Nobody except essential service providers and first responders must be found on the streets” the governor said. “We will not watch and allow anarchy in our dear state.”
Tensions have escalated across the oil-rich West African nation in recent days as violence has flared across several cities across southern and central states. Armed groups—which demonstrators say were government agitators, a charge the government and its allies has denied—have clashed with protesters, property has been vandalized and in the southwestern Edo state, dozens of prisoners were freed in a jail break, prompting the state governor to impose a curfew.
The Lekki toll gate, situated at one of Lagos’ busiest intersections, has become a key rallying point for peaceful demonstrations in recent days, with food stalls, canvas tents and a private security detail patrolling the perimeter. DJs and Afrobeat stars have sung protest songs to young demonstrators waving their cellphones behind a large plasma screen beaming the slogan Soro Soke, or “speak louder.”
The intervention comes after Monday protests where tens of thousands of demonstrators brought swaths of the commercial capital to a standstill, mounting the biggest demonstration in a two-week campaign against police brutality. A city police station was set on fire on Tuesday morning, leading the national police chief to order the deployment of anti-riot police to quell “increasing attacks including acts of arson and malicious damage.”
Lagos has emerged as the epicenter of a protest movement known as #EndSARS—it began with demands to disband a police force called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad that had been accused of extortion, torture and extrajudicial killings—that mushroomed into calls for broader complaints about corruption, poor governance and a weak economy.
Hours before the curfew began, hundreds of protesters remained at the toll gate, pledging not to move.
“This has become about much more than police brutality. It’s about our future,” said Stephen Adedoja, a 35-year old driver. “We have to make a stand before it’s too late.”
President Muhammadu Buhari, a former general, has said little about the protest movement that has evolved from a single-issue campaign into a more diffuse protest against alleged government corruption, economic mismanagement and nepotism. Mr. Buhari agreed in a televised statement last week to disband SARS but has been silent since. Several cabinet ministers and military officials have warned in recent days that the protests had become political and were lurching toward “anarchy.”
A former general who briefly ruled Nigeria at the head of a military junta in the 1980s before returning as elected civilian president in 2015, Mr. Buhari has deployed the army against other protests in recent years, including in 2018, where government forces killed 45 Shiite Muslims marching to support a jailed cleric. He has urged the protesters to give the government time to address their concerns.
Some analysts who have supported the protests said the reports from Lagos were reminiscent of a military dictatorship. “It’s a demonstration of how far the Nigerian government can go to stop Nigerians from exercising their rights. It’s an affront on the constitution and democracy,” said Bulama Bukarti, a human rights lawyer who represented the families of SARS victims.
Inside the protest movement, fractures have appeared between those who want to keep the focus on police brutality and those who want more fundamental change.
In the hours before the incursion, hundreds of #EndSARS supporters on social media urged demonstrators to withdraw from the streets to continue the protest online. “We’ve lost enough people,” one said. Amnesty International said on Monday that at least 15 people have died since the protests began.
Oladotton Collins-Ebiesuwa, 49 years old, was at the toll gate when he heard automatic gunfire begin and began to run amid a crowd of protesters.
“It was chaos. Everybody was running but then some tried to go back,” said the businessman, who has been protesting for days. “But we will continue. These people have been cheating us for so long.”
Nigeria Protests Show Bitcoin Adoption Is Not Coming: It’s Here
As protests sweep across the country, with multiple regions placed under curfew, Nigerians are using social media and bitcoin in their fight against police corruption.
Nigerians called for the disbandment of the special anti-robbery squad (SARS) in 2017, and the government supposedly complied. But after reports of SARS officers allegedly killing a young boy in southern Nigeria surfaced on Oct. 3 of this year, protests erupted again.
The police unit stands accused of illegal killings, extortion and torture of innocent civilians: many of its victims over the years were young men between the ages of 18 and 35.
On Oct. 9, Yele Bademosi, CEO of Binance-backed payments app Bundle, took to Twitter to share his own brutal encounter with SARS. Youths marched through the streets of Lagos while the hashtag #EndSARS went viral on social media, leading to protests in countries with large Nigerian diaspora populations including the U.K., U.S., Canada and Germany.
The next day, Bademosi’s firm set up crypto wallets to help raise funds for the protests, highlighting projects already underway. Local activist groups such as the Feminist Coalition had already started raising funds in multiple fiat currencies to help sustain the protests.
Within days the coalition’s bank accounts were frozen and the coalition asked donors to divert their funds to bitcoin wallets. As of Oct. 18, the group had raised more than 7.2 bitcoin (or $82,000) accounting for 44% of the total funds raised for the movement. The message spread far and wide:
Even Twitter founder Jack Dorsey used his platform to promote bitcoin donations. On Oct. 20, reports surfaced that Nigerian security forces had opened fire on protesters. The coalition announced it was continuing its efforts to support the injured.
“I knew that it was going to kind of snowball into what it has become and it’s kind of crazy that all of this has happened in just, like, six or seven days,” Bademosi told CoinDesk.
This is all part of a larger story. Nigeria’s predominantly young population, its status as a regional tech hub, an inflationary local currency, along with a large diaspora looking to send remittances home have been driving crypto adoption and innovation in Africa’s most populated country. Now, Nigeria’s federal government is making plans to facilitate national blockchain adoption.
A Chainalysis report on the geography of crypto revealed Nigeria ranked eighth (out of 154 countries) in its 2019-2020 global adoption index. The country ranked first among African countries in peer-to-peer (P2P) payments moving $139 million in the past year, the report said.
Scale of Adoption
In late 2018, Ahmed Rasheed, 29, opened a bitcoin wallet for his unborn daughter in Nigeria’s southwestern state of Oyo.
The previous year, after a friend had introduced him to crypto, he quickly amassed $720, the equivalent of his six months of his then-salary as a physics and mathematics teacher. He received the crypto through airdrops, where projects deliver small amounts to wallets for free, usually as a marketing strategy.
With the money, Rasheed bought a laptop, quit his job and immediately opened bitcoin wallets for his wife and elder daughter. He eventually found work in marketing at a blockchain firm and his wife also found work with a blockchain project. Now, when he has to pay his daughter’s school fees, he converts savings from her designated wallet into naira.
“We’re definitely a blockchain family,” Rasheed told CoinDesk.
Rasheed’s enthusiasm for investing in crypto is happening at a national scale. According to Nena Nwachukwu, Nigeria regional manager at peer-to-peer (P2P) bitcoin exchange Paxful, in the period between January and September 2020, new registrations at the exchange rose 137% compared to the same period last year. Now, the exchange has over 600,000 Nigerian users, Nwachukwu told CoinDesk.
“This year cryptocurrency popularity and usage by Nigerians has grown by leaps and bounds,” Nwachukwu said, adding the COVID-19 pandemic and the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) recent devaluation of the naira, are compelling more people to actively search for other means to secure their wealth.
According to Senator Ihenyen, fintech lawyer and general secretary of Nigeria’s blockchain association SiBAN, a self-regulatory body in the industry, adoption trends show that the largest use cases for crypto are in remittances and P2P trading.
Nwachukwu confirmed this, adding that Paxful’s Nigerian customers are very knowledgeable and have evolved from using bitcoin only as a form of speculative investment to making online payments, cross-border remittances, freelancer payments and e-commerce.
According to Ihenyen, there are about 10 international and local exchanges in Nigeria, some of which are currently registered with SiBAN, but he suspects there might be more operating in the country.
Mayowa Tudonu, a software engineer who is building crypto exchange products on the Ethereum blockchain, helped Africa-based digital payments platform InterSwitch to develop a cross-border payments system. Tudonu calls remittances a “core application” of blockchain that can severely disrupt international payments.
“People who have to pay their kids’ school fees, to send money to families, are beginning to adopt bitcoin as a form of remittance. I mean, we are looking at transaction volumes in terms of billions of naira,” Tudonu said.
According to a report from consulting company PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Nigerian migrants sent home a whopping $23.63 billion in remittances in 2018.
Additionally, since bitcoin allows for the quick transfer of large volumes, particularly for international trade deals, intermediaries would facilitate fiat-to-crypto transfers between Nigeria and other countries like China.
Bernard Parah, 28, got started in the crypto space by personally handling large over-the-counter (OTC) transfers on behalf of businessmen.
P2P lending platforms Paxful and LocalBitcoins saw dramatic surges in trading volumes in the first seven months of 2020, which began to decline in the following months. Although Nigerians are looking for a hedge against the continued pressure on the naira, Nwachukwu said the devaluation of the currency meant people had less money to spend.
“We have seen cases of active customers, very much interested in trading but cannot continue due to a lack of sufficient funds or job loss,” Nwachukwu said.
Software developer Tudonu began building Ethereum-based digital payments infrastructure after completing a course on Ethereum development with ConsenSys in 2018. He told CoinDesk he was one of the high scorers, and has since gone on to build a successful career in the industry. Tudonu often mentors Nigerian developers interested in breaking into blockchain.
An underlying reason why blockchain is gaining traction fast in Nigeria is because its young and tech-savvy population is showing an eagerness to learn more about Web3.0, a decentralized internet powered by blockchain technology.
Awosika Israel Ayodeji is a project designer at Web3Bridge, a blockchain education platform created to onboard developers in Africa.
“Blockchain has a lot of potential for us in terms of building system infrastructure, government infrastructure … also, I personally saw how if you are heading into the blockchain space, it’s easier to create a name, brand and niche for yourself,” Ayojedi told CoinDesk.
He acknowledged that airdrops are not necessarily enough. His efforts to teach the “tech behind the airdrops” so far introduced 40 developers to the space in the last year.
SiBAN’s Ihenyen said educators have done great work so far. “Some of them work online. Some of them also go to cities across Nigeria, trying to educate people, especially young people about cryptocurrency and blockchain,” Ihenyen said, adding that some used WhatsApp groups to organize classes and communicate.
In Nigeria’s northwestern state of Kano, 29-year-old Sani Musa Sharu, who is managing his family’s savings in crypto, was excited to find that his government was officially supporting blockchain adoption in the country.
Sharu saw a draft framework that was obtained by a local news outlet last week that revealed key government ministries were involved in developing strategies for nationwide blockchain adoption, which included the creation of comprehensive regulatory oversight.
Before this, the government had left the crypto industry largely alone. Apart from the CBN in 2017 declaring digital currencies are not legal tender in Nigeria, the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission issuing a warning about investing in crypto and later classifying all crypto assets as securities, there had been no major efforts by the government to regulate crypto.
Earlier this year, when Parah decided to launch his crypto payments app Bitnob; he said did not have to obtain a license to launch the app and exchange. He only needed to register his business with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
Earlier this month, while protesting in Lagos, Parah was multitasking by pushing updates for his app, which he says has been gaining traction since May.
“We have to keep things moving as well,” he said.
Nigeria Protests: What’s Happening and Why Are People Demonstrating Against SARS?
Protests against a notorious police unit have mushroomed into a broader movement, posing a challenge to the government of Africa’s most populous nation.
Two weeks of nationwide protests against police brutality in Nigeria turned deadly Tuesday as security forces fired live rounds on demonstrators, killing several people. The decision to use military force to quell the demonstrations shifts politics into an uncertain phase in West Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer.
Why Have Nigerians Taken To The Streets?
Nigerians began demonstrating in early October, calling for the ban of a notorious police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, that has been long accused of violent harassment. The protests erupted after a video showed a SARS officer allegedly shooting a man in Delta state before driving off.
Peaceful protests, organized under the hashtag #EndSARS, spread across the country of 206 million people and to Nigerian diaspora communities in the U.S. and Europe in solidarity with the movement.
Formed in 1992, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad is a heavily armed police unit to fight violent crime including car jackings and armed robbery, and has become synonymous across much of Nigeria with allegations of police brutality and impunity.
Amnesty International and other rights groups have documented the unit’s alleged abuse of civilians including extortion, rape and extrajudicial killings. Many Nigerians complained that SARS frequently extorted young people who appeared to have disposable income. The #EndSARS campaign became a messaging board for harrowing personal tales of violence, theft and intimidation.
The police had repeatedly denied accusations against SARS, but conceded after the protests erupted that there were “unruly and unprofessional” officers and said these people would face disciplinary actions.
Not all Nigerians have the same view of SARS: In the country’s northeast, where the government has been fighting a decadelong insurgency against jihadist group Boko Haram, SARS is seen as an effective fighting force.
Who Is Leading The #EndSARS Protests?
The protests are being driven by the youth in Nigeria, a country with an average age of 18 and one of the world’s fastest-growing populations, projected to overtake the U.S. to become the world’s third-largest by 2050. The wave of protests is the biggest display of people power in years in Nigeria as young people demand more sweeping changes.
The demonstrations fit into an emerging global pattern of youth-led calls for change, from Hong Kong to Sudan and Chile. Protest groups have raised more than $250,000, setting up helplines for protesters in trouble, covering medical aid and providing private security.
How Have Nigerian Authorities Responded To The Protests?
After days of silence, President Muhammadu Buhari, a former general, addressed the nation Thursday evening, calling for protesters to leave the streets but making no mention of Tuesday’s attack.
“This government respects and will continue to respect all the democratic rights and civil liberties of the people,” Mr. Buhari said. “But it will not allow anybody or groups to disrupt the peace of our nation.”
A new unit called SWAT has been formed whose officers will receive training on police conduct and use of force by the international committee of the Red Cross, but protesters fear that SARS officers will simply blend into the new unit without facing accountability.
Several cabinet ministers and military officials have issued hawkish statements in recent days, warning that the protests had become political and were lurching toward “anarchy.”
What Happened At Lekki Toll Gate?
On Tuesday evening, hundreds of Nigerian protesters had gathered for the 13th straight night at Lekki Toll Gate, the intersection in an upscale zone that had become the symbolic home of the protests. Shortly before 7 p.m., the lights went out, plunging the street into darkness, according to the testimony of seven protesters present.
Within 30 minutes, Nigerian soldiers emerged from gun trucks. As demonstrators began to sing Nigeria’s national anthem, “Arise O’ Compatriots,” the army fired live rounds at the unarmed protesters, leaving several people dead, and filling Nigerian social-media feeds with images of bloodstained flags that have prompted international condemnation from around the world.
The number of people killed and wounded in Tuesday’s crackdown remains undetermined. Witnesses have given The Wall Street Journal varying estimates of how many bloodied corpses they saw at the Lekki Toll Gate of between five and 20.
Amnesty International said it had identified at least 10 people who died from their injuries in what it said “clearly amounted to extrajudicial executions.” U.S. officials in Nigeria said they “determined conclusively” that the army was responsible and have called for an immediate investigation.
Several videos that corroborated the witnesses’ testimony were verified by the Journal and Storyful, a social-media verification agency. Storyful is owned by News Corp, which is also the parent of Dow Jones & Co., publisher of the Journal.
Nigeria’s federal government has refused to comment on the incursion, pending an investigation. An army spokesman first referred questions about the killings to the police, before denying it was involved.
Where Is The Protest Movement Going?
The military operation at Lekki Toll Gate appears to have deepened the rifts between the government and many of those governed in Africa’s largest oil producer. The series of street protests against police brutality have dissipated and given way to widespread looting and vandalism. Angry mobs have roamed parts of Lagos, torching police stations, killing at least one officer, and attacking the property of government loyalists and looting department stores.
Sporadic gunfire could be heard in the several city districts through Thursday. The Oba of Lagos, the region’s traditional but ceremonial king, was evacuated from his palace by the military. By Thursday evening, 10 states were under 24-hour curfew.
The protests may be fracturing on the streets, but they will have a lasting impact, political and military analysts say, sparking a political awakening of Nigerian youth—a large number of whom didn’t vote in last year’s presidential election.
Could The Protests Spread To Other Countries In The Region?
Nigeria isn’t only Africa’s most populous nation but a cultural and political bellwether for a region where large youthful populations in many countries feel disenfranchised. The economic crunch resulting from the coronavirus is likely to diminish heavily indebted African states’ ability to create jobs—and opportunity—for young people.
Where Does The U.S. Stand?
For the U.S., which considers the country of 206 million its most important military ally in sub-Saharan Africa, the demonstrations and the government’s deadly response have become a policy problem.
In a sign of the complexity of that bilateral relationship, three of the U.S. State Department’s top officials arrived in Abuja in the hours before the Lekki killings on what two U.S. diplomats described as a fact-finding trip to learn more about the drivers of instability in Nigeria.
The U.S. is also hoping to sell Nigeria military attack helicopters, an issue they discussed during the trip. The administration is in the early stages of drafting a plan to help Nigeria confront its security challenges, U.S. officials said.
The U.S. released a statement on Thursday, a day after the U.K., the European Union and other allies did the same.
“The United States strongly condemns incidents of military forces firing on unarmed protesters in Lagos,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “Those involved should be held to account under the law.”
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday called on Mr. Buhari to “cease the violent crackdown on protesters in Nigeria, which has already resulted in several deaths.”
What About The Rest Of The International Community?
The African Union denounced the killing of unarmed protesters and the United Nations called for “root and branch” reform of Nigeria’s security services. “There is little doubt that this was a case of excessive use of force, resulting in unlawful killings with live ammunition, by Nigerian armed forces,” said Michelle Bachelet, U.N. High Commissioner for human rights.
Nigerian diaspora groups, meanwhile, have held large protests in a number of African capitals. The #EndSARS protesters have started petitions for international sanctions against Mr. Buhari’s government.
Nigeria Panel Begins Probe of Police Brutality
A Nigerian judicial panel appointed to probe police brutality in Lagos, the country’s commercial capital and biggest city, started sitting with a brief that includes identifying gunmen in military uniforms that fired on demonstrators last week.
Two youth protesters were appointed into the panel to reflect “the commitment of Lagos to justice and compensation for the victims of police brutality,” said state Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
The body will investigate allegations of abuse, torture and extra-judicial killings by the police Special Anti-Robbery Squad, the unit whose excesses sparked the protests that started Oct. 5. Apart from evaluating complaints, the panel also is expected to recommend officers deserving of prosecution for their crimes, according to the governor.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari expressed support for the establishment of the Lagos panel, saying on Twitter that he expected it to “help ensure justice is done on behalf of the peaceful protesters and law enforcement agents who sadly lost their lives.”
At least 51 civilians and 18 members of the security forces died in protest-related violence. Twelve people died after troops opened fire on crowds that gathered at two sites in Lagos on Oct. 20 in defiance of a state curfew, according to Amnesty International.
Unrest In Nigeria Lifts Lid On Deep-Rooted Social Discontent
Three weeks of protests in Nigeria that provoked a violent response from the military have been followed by a looting spree, highlighting the divide between the nation’s rulers and its poverty-stricken citizens.
The fault lines were evident before the discord surfaced on Oct. 5. About half of Nigeria’s 200 million people live on less than $2 a day despite the nation being Africa’s largest oil producer, and 55% are either jobless or under-employed. Rampant poverty has been exacerbated by the coronavirus and restrictions imposed to curb its spread.
A small political and business elite meanwhile live in opulent mansions, are ferried around in fleets of luxury vehicles and educate their children at top schools and universities abroad. Some federal lawmakers earn more than $1 million a year in salary and allowances. Watchdog Transparency International ranked the nation 146th out of 180 countries on its 2019 corruption-perceptions index.
The risk for investors and political leaders is that long-simmering discontent could escalate into ongoing public rage over an explosive mix of grievances in Africa’s most-populous nation.
“The widespread civil unrest will raise Nigeria’s security-risk profile for investors because it highlights that insecurity can quickly escalate and law enforcement will struggle to contain any widespread breakdown in law and order,” said Bukola Bolarinwa, Nigeria analyst at Control Risks in London. “Rising levels of poverty in particular will sustain popular discontent with the government, businesses and wealthy individuals in the short term.”
The protests were triggered by the circulation of a video on social media purportedly showing the police’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad, or SARS, killing a civilian. Thousands of people took to the streets to express their outrage over police brutality before the authorities cracked down.
The government says 69 people have died in protest-related violence, including 18 security force members. Twelve people died after troops fired on crowds that gathered in Lagos on Oct. 20 in defiance of a state curfew, according to human-rights group Amnesty International.
As the protests abated, shopping malls, warehouses and politicians’ homes in more than a third of the 36 states were ransacked.
Saidu Hamza saw good reason to join both the protests and looting in Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city.
“I was angry with the police who harass us every day and protect the bad people in government,” the 23-year-old, who makes a pittance shining shoes, said as he cradled a wooden box containing his polish, brushes and cloths under his arm. “I also needed food, things were so tough.”
Grocery outlets owned by Spar International and South Africa’s Shoprite Holdings Ltd. were among those targeted, along with warehouses used by the government to store aid earmarked for people who’d been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Hundreds of people were arrested countrywide.
Prosper Okoro witnessed a mob plunder noodles, rice, pasta and other items from a warehouse near his home in Gwagwalada, about 60 kilometers (38 miles) west of Abuja, the capital, despite the presence of soldiers.
“All over the country, youths are taking power into their hands,” he said. “The angry youths are saying they are no longer going to wait for the government because they are going hungry.”
While President Muhammadu Buhari concedes the complaints about police brutality have merit and has pledged to address them, he’s warned the government “will not fold its arms when an otherwise legitimate and peaceful protest is turning into free-for-all vandalism and looting.”
Bolarinwa, the Control Risks analyst, expects the unrest to ease in coming weeks and that it won’t have a lasting deterrent effect on investment.
“The potential reward for investing in Nigeria still remains sizable,” she said. “The large, growing and upwardly mobile population will still remain attractive to investors with a greater risk appetite.”
Idayat Hassan, head of the Abuja-based Centre for Democracy and Development, said the protests, rather than the looting, have rattled the political establishment and are likely to have a more enduring impact.
“It caught the political class unawares,” she said. “The way they banded together, the way they organized and were able to talk about their issues — any political class would become very afraid.”
Nigerian Billionaire Plans To Dig Platinum Mine In Zimbabwe
Bravura Holdings Ltd., owned by Nigerian billionaire Benedict Peters, has $1 billion available for the development of a platinum mine in Zimbabwe, its country manager said.
The 3,000 hectare (7,413-acre) concession where it plans to dig the mine is in Selous, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare and close to existing platinum mines.
“From where we are now, we will go to resource definition, after that we will go to resource modeling, after mine development and then mine construction,” Lionel Mhlanga, Bravura’s manager in the southern African country, said in an interview at the mine on Nov. 6. “Those are all things that should happen in the next 18 months.”
Bravura is one of a number of little-known companies that have secured platinum concessions in Zimbabwe as the government seeks to kick start its stagnant economy. Still, established platinum miners haven’t announced plans to expand their operations. While Zimbabwe has the world’s third-largest platinum group metal reserves, investors have been deterred by frequent changes to mining laws and currency policies.
In addition to Bravura, Russian and Cypriot companies have announced plans to invest in Zimbabwean platinum mines.
Peters owns Aiteo Eastern E & P Company Ltd., Nigeria’s biggest domestic oil producer, but has little experience in mining.
Still, the group also intends to explore mining lithium, rare earth minerals and tin in Zimbabwe, Mhlanga said.
It’s also seeking to mine cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo, copper in Zambia, gold in Ghana and iron ore in Guinea, he said. Namibia and Botswana could also be options for the company, he said.
Decentralized VPN Sees Increased Use In Nigeria Amid #EndSars Protests
* Nigerians are adopting more VPNs, including decentralized VPNs.
* The adoption comes as #EndSARS protestors are concerned the government may limit access to parts of the internet.
* Mysterium, a decentralized VPN, is trying to reach crypto users in parts of the world that grapple with actual and potential internet censorship.
The decentralized virtual private network (VPN) Mysterium is seeing an increase in users in Nigeria over the last few weeks as protests have roiled the African country.
Nigerians are protesting police corruption and specifically calling for the end to the special anti-robbery squad (SARS). In 2017, following protests, the government supposedly disbanded the police unit. But early in October, as reports emerged of SARS allegedly killing a young boy, protesters have again taken to the streets.
As CoinDesk’s Sandali Handagama wrote in October, “the police unit stands accused of illegal killings, extortion and torture of innocent civilians. Many of its victims over the years were young men between the ages of 18 and 35.”
The user increase seen by Mysterium comes at a time when concerns over a partial shutdown of the internet in Nigeria has given rise to more interest in VPNs overall. After government security forces opened fire on unarmed protestors in Lagos on Oct. 20, killing 12, VPN searches in Nigeria went up 239% compared to the previous 30 days, according to digital research firm Top 10 VPN.
What A VPN Offers
A VPN lets its users create a secure connection to another network and is often used to access restricted websites and content, shield their browsing activity from public WiFi and provide a degree of anonymity by hiding their locations.
ISPs (internet service providers) can see all browsing history of its users, according to Mysterium Product Head Jaro Satkevic. This may allow oppressive governments to either censor internet access or punish some citizens for political reasons. VPNs encrypt all the traffic and hide any information from ISPs. They also hide the user’s IP address from websites he or she is browsing.
“I first discovered Mysterium on airdrop.io, was curious and read about the project. Before then I used other conventional VPN,” said Ian, a Nigerian man who has supported the #EndSars protests online and in person. (“Ian” is a pseudonym. He asked to remain anonymous for his safety.)
“I believe VPN use has increased in part due to the #EndSARS protest. Recently, more people saw the need to use VPN in Nigeria for safety on social media, Twitter especially.”
The Benefits Of Decentralization
Mysterium is a decentralized VPN, meaning it’s not controlled by a central company. As Top 10 VPN has regularly reported, nearly three-quarters of free VPNs on the market have some level of vulnerability, share or expose customer data, or even contain malware.
Mysterium’s decentralized architecture means that, by design, it cannot log users’ activity, and is resistant to being shut down. The more nodes that join, the faster, stronger and more censorship-resistant it becomes.
“The biggest issue of centralized VPN companies is that they can also collect logs of their consumer browsing history,” said Satkevic. “Most of them have a ‘no-logs policy’ but it is really hard to recheck, and there are many stories when hackers got access into user browsing logs collected by VPN companies.”
Technically, it is relatively easy to detect that traffic is coming from a VPN server because they’re hosted at a datacenter, according to Satkevic. In the Mysterium network though, most of the exit nodes are residential (hosted by people in their homes), which makes it much harder to detect. This allows users to get access to a bigger array of geoblocked services.
Since the exit nodes are hosted by a decentralized community it’s not possible for one centralized authority to hold users browsing history.
Paying For Mysterium
“On top of that, in Mysterium we’re using P2P [peer-to-peer] crypto payments (using payment channels) which adds an additional privacy layer,” said Satkevic. “The Mysterium team has no information on our consumers (no names, no email, no credit card information).”
Their payment model is pay-as-you-go in crypto VPN, where you essentially rent someone else’s IP address for whatever rate they choose to charge. So, for example, a U.S. resident could rent out their home IP address to someone in Iran. They could even choose to do so for free.
Mysterium emphasizes that due to its pay-as-you-go structure there are no lock-in fees, contracts or subscriptions associated with it.
Mysterium’s native token is MYST. As a dapp, Mysterium needed a token, and while the company originally allowed people to pay in ether, they had to switch plans as ETH’s transaction fees rose. At the time of writing, CoinGecko lists MYST at about $0.11.
From Testnet To Mainnet
Right now, while Mysterium is running on a test net, it’s free. The company is battle testing the code in real-world environments and configurations, giving away MYSTT (testnet tokens) to users, and also paying out bounties to node providers with real MYST.
Savannah Lee, a communications manager at Mysterium, said the main payment mechanism in the core network will be crypto P2P, using a pay-as-you-go model.
“But Mysterium is open source, so anyone is invited to create their own commercial application on top of it,” said Lee. “This was done by Portals Network, who accepts credit card payments and even provides a subscription-based service.”
Lee said Mysterium was ready to deploy its P2P infrastructure on the Ethereum mainnet, but due to the crazy-high transaction fees it needed to move from a L2 to an L3 solution. A solution is in development, according to Lee, with the goal being to have P2P payments live onthe Ethereum mainnet or some of its sidechains by the end of the year.
In the meantime, Mysterium has been working to attract users, targeting groups of people who have limited internet access in their countries.
Before the #EndSARS protests, it had increased user activity in places like Pakistan and India. In recent months, India has banned various apps from the country and placed other restrictive measures on the internet.
Why Nigerians Are Using VPNs
Ian said he uses Mysterium to give himself a degree of anonymity online. As a data analyst, he said he has an idea of how easy it is to get people’s information and personal data on the internet.
He was drawn to Mysterium because he’s enthusiastic about blockchain technology in general.
“I have read about a lot of other projects and adopted some I found valuable,” he said. “Knowing that I can pay for a VPN service using a utility token and stay secure online made me interested in Mysterium, so I decided to give it a try.”
Gabriel Olatunji came to Mysterium in a more streamlined way – to watch one of his favorite shows that was not available in Nigeria, “The Tudors.” He moved over from another VPN after he found it was blocking certain IPs.
“Initially, there were issues with the service, especially random disconnections, but the issues have been resolved with the new updates,” he said. “I found MysteriumVPN because of Netflix, but rising concerns of a possible internet regulation made me use the product more.”
Preserving Social Media For Social Activism
Olatunji sees the increase in VPN use as directly linked to the #EndSARS protests, in part because since the onset of protests there have been concerns the government would “pull the plug” on parts of the internet.
Even prior to the protests there was talk of a bill to regulate social media, which he said was apparently “aimed at suppressing the voice of the masses.” At that time, VPNs were seen as a way to protect against the impact of the prospective bill had it been passed.
“The government in Nigeria sees social media as a threat that challenges their dubious acts,” he said. “The #EndSARS protest started on Twitter, and people were attacked, arrested and had their human rights violated for protesting on Twitter.
The government threatened to shut down social media because obviously they saw it as a threat. The CEO of Twitter was sued for actively supporting the #EndSARS protest. That’s when people saw the need to have VPNs for privacy and security.”
He, too, has taken part in the protests.
“Although I have never been a SARS victim, one of my dad’s friends was framed for an offence he didn’t commit and money was extorted from his family before he was released,” said Olatunji.
This experience, and seeing other experiences shared on social media, encouraged him to get involved.
Considered a tech hub with a young population and a rising aptitude for cryptocurrencies, countries like Nigeria are the kinds of areas Mysterium wants to support, and where it sees itself as a useful tool.
“There are a lot of decentralized VPNs out there, and we’re all trying to work together or work on the same kind of solutions,” said Lee. “But I think the thing about Mysterium is we’re very much research and community driven. So we really do want to reach people in places like Nigeria, where people have cryptocurrency already, because we think that these people are already ahead of the curve when it comes to tech.”
Discovering Bitcoin Through The #EndSARS Movement, Feat. Yele Bademosi & Akin Sawyerr
When the Nigerian government shut down EndSARS protestors’ bank accounts, bitcoin and crypto became a way around.
Yele Bademosi is CEO at Bundle social payments app and the founder of investment firm Microtraction. Akin Sawyerr is involved across the industry and leads operations at BarnBridge.
Over the course of October 2020, the world’s attention became firmly fixed on a growing movement in Nigeria. With the hashtag #EndSARS, the movement was, on the one hand, about addressing police brutality. On the other hand, as our guests discuss, it was a broader awakening and a demand for generational economic opportunity. At one point, even Twitter founder Jack Dorsey called for people to donate bitcoin to help the movement.
In This Conversation, Yele And Akin Discuss:
• The State Of The Economy In Nigeria Leading Into The Protests:
• Generational Differences In Political Action
• Why The #EndSars Protests Exploded Into Action In October
• Why The Movement Turned To Bitcoin To Avoid Bank Confiscation
• How Crypto Can Play A Role In A Brighter Future
Find Our Guests Online:
World’s Outlier On Remittances Has Currency Woes To Blame
Nigerians living abroad could be sending more money home than authorities realize, bypassing official channels so their families can get more naira for their smuggled dollars on the black market.
Remittances to Africa’s biggest oil producer plunged by about 40% in the second quarter to the lowest level in at least a decade. That’s more than a drop of about 20% in Egypt and contrasts with improvements seen in Kenya, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Morocco, according to central bank data compiled by EFG Hermes.
Changing a greenback on Nigeria’s streets puts about a quarter more naira in the pockets of struggling Nigerian households than what they’ll get at the official rate.
The central bank of Africa’s biggest economy uses multiple exchange rates and a raft of regulations to try and protect the local currency from further devaluations amid lower oil prices and a plunge in foreign investment.
“When you have such divergent foreign-exchange rates, many expats will find ways to get money into Nigeria at the best possible rate,” Renaissance Capital’s Chief Global Economist Charlie Robertson said in an email. Currencies in countries including Kenya and Pakistan trade at about the same value in formal and informal markets, “so there is no reason to use backdoor channels.”
The sharp downturn in Nigerian remittances is in contrast with most other frontier and emerging-market countries that look poised to defy World Bank predictions for a 20% decline this year. Remittances may look better than they should because foreign workers are sending money back home as they lose their jobs and leave for good — especially for countries that rely on Gulf Arab states for their income.
While the cost of job losses might start mounting next year, the hit to remittances may be offset by improvements in tourism and export income, Robertson and a team of Renaissance Capital analysts said in a Nov. 17 report.
As the worst of lockdown restrictions that took hold between March and May lifted, more money has been sent home. Kenya reported a 9% improvement for the first 10 months of 2020 compared with a year earlier, while Pakistan has seen a 16% increase, according to the latest data from those central banks.
Nigeria’s massive shadow economy makes tracking inflows difficult, Robertson said.
Another contributing factor is the oil producer’s decision in August last year to shut its land borders to curb smuggling and boost local production, which chopped off a vital source of foreign-exchange supplies, Mohamed Abu Basha, the head of macroeconomic analysis at Cairo-based EFG, said by email. Inflows from the rest of the continent account for 25% of Nigerian remittances.
Nigeria’s economy contracted 3.6% in the third quarter from a year earlier after crude output dropped to the lowest since 2016. Central bank Governor Godwin Emefiele said earlier this week that the naira’s official rate shouldn’t be determined by the parallel market, where the currency has weakened to a three-month low.
The drop in remittances “will further weigh on Nigeria’s already weak growth outlook,” Abu Basha said. It would have “negative connotations for foreign-exchange liquidity and disposable incomes.”
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Has Fired Up A Full Bitcoin Node
Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey has fired up his own Bitcoin (BTC) node. On Feb. 5, the tech billionaire posted a screenshot of the Bitcoin node software Bitcoind running on his computer, meaning Dorsey now lends a hand in validating Bitcoin transactions.
Dorsey posted the screenshot along with the words, “Running #bitcoin”. The photo shows Dorsey’s computer in the midst of synchronizing with the Bitcoin blockchain, which requires that a user download the entire history of the chain to date. The Bitcoin blockchain is around 325GB in size at time of writing.
The synchronization process can take weeks depending on the computer and internet speed, and Dorsey’s screenshot shows that he’s only managed to synch up 2% of the chain so far.
When asked if he was running the node on a dedicated Raspberry Pi, Dorsey revealed he had set it up using an M1 Macbook chip — the latest in Apple’s line of laptop processors. Dorsey tweeted, “Starting from a scratch build on M1 first.”
Bitcoin nodes are different from Bitcoin miners in that they don’t compete for a share of the block rewards. Rather, each node hosts yet another immutable copy of the blockchain, helping increase overall network security. The number of full Bitcoin nodes in operation has fluctuated of late, landing somewhere between 7,000 and 11,000, according to recent data.
Bitcoin’s node-count recently surged to an all-time high. As reported by Cointelegraph, 11,613 Bitcoin nodes were in operation on Jan. 20. That number had dropped to 7,260 by time of writing.
Nigeria Central Bank Says Cryptocurrencies Were A Threat
Nigeria’s central bank said it ordered deposit-taking banks and other financial institutions to close accounts dealing in cryptocurrencies because it was threatening the country’s financial system.
“The recent regulatory directive became necessary to protect the financial system and the generality of Nigerians from the risks inherent in crypto assets transactions,” the central bank said in a statement Sunday.
Cryptocurrencies are increasingly being used for money laundering, terrorism financing and other criminal activities due to the anonymity that they provide, the regulator said in the statement signed by its spokesman Osita Nwanisobi.
The central bank said it finds “no comfort” in the use of cryptocurrencies and will “do all within its regulatory powers to educate Nigerians to desist from its use and protect our financial system from activities of fraudsters and speculators.”
Bitcoin ‘Can’t Be Stopped’: Nigerians Look To P2P Exchanges After Crypto Ban
Some Nigerians plan to continue using bitcoin (BTC) and other cryptocurrencies despite a directive issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) last week ordering banks to close down accounts associated with cryptocurrencies.
“There’s no stopping crypto, [it’s] the future and we won’t let some old fools take our future from us,” one Nigerian bitcoin user who wished to remain anonymous told CoinDesk. “We’re Nigerians. Using the crypto is a way out of poverty for the youth.”
Last week, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) ordered banks to close down accounts associated with cryptocurrencies. But this will not be enough to shut down Nigeria’s cryptocurrency market.
CBN clarified on Sunday that this is not a new order, but a reminder of a directive published in 2017. However, whether old or new, it’s having an impact. In response, banks quickly cut ties with cryptocurrency companies, such as the Binance exchange and social payments app Bundle, which in turn stopped accepting deposits.
Nigeria has become a hot spot for cryptocurrency as an alternative to the naira, a national currency prone to depreciation.
Nigerians have found various use cases for decentralized digital currencies, from trading bitcoin (BTC, +2.43%) to make a living to using it to dodge trade restrictions with China.
During protests against police corruption in the country last October the Feminist Coalition was one activist non-profit accepting donations going toward the protests. When the group’s bank accounts were frozen and it couldn’t accept funds, it switched to bitcoin donations because the payment method could not be frozen.
Some Nigerian cryptocurrency users aren’t happy about the directive and have said they plan to continue using cryptocurrencies by using methods that are harder to detect and stop.
Moving To ‘Peer-To-Peer’
Some users think they can get around them by not using centralized exchanges.
“Bitcoin is peer-to-peer, meaning that it can be transacted without intermediaries. Your bank may be able to shut down your account but no one can shut down your bitcoin wallet. This development, while concerning, will not be the end of bitcoin in Nigeria,” said Nigerian Bitcoin Core contributor Tim Akinbo on Twitter.
Exchanges such as Binance have been affected because payment partners that store the naira are no longer willing to deal with them due to the directive, putting an indefinite pause on naira deposits to exchanges.
But there’s an alternative: peer-to-peer transactions, where two users connect directly to each other to trade cryptocurrency. In return for bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, a user might make a bank transfer directly to the other user, or pay that person with cash. Platforms such as Paxful and a Binance’s peer-to-peer platform help connect users to other users so they can coordinate these transactions.
“As we all know, [peer-to-peer] can’t be stopped,” one trader in Nigeria, Lucky, told CoinDesk.
Despite CBN’s directive, several sources in Nigeria told CoinDesk they plan to continue trading bitcoin via peer-to-peer exchanges, and more aired similar conclusions on social media.
“Most people will return to [peer-to-peer] transactions, some will leverage several alternatives that connect crypto to legacy financial systems, like reloadable Visa or Mastercard. Most will simply use crypto as a choice reserve asset. […] A lot of activities will also go clandestine, or underground,” said developer and cryptocurrency educator Chimezie Chuta.
He added he plans to use “alternative channels” to remain a part of the cryptocurrency community.
Crypto exchange Bundle made a similar comment in a statement to its customers about moving to “alternative channels” to ensure they can still buy and sell cryptocurrency. The email stated the exchange will provide more information about how this will work in the coming days.
CBN did not respond to an inquiry from CoinDesk by press time about whether these alternatives are lawful.
The CBN order for banks to close accounts associated with cryptocurrency is supposed to curb criminal activity and risky investments. In its clarification, it also listed several reasons why it considers cryptocurrencies dangerous and noted that other central banks and international financial institutions have warned against their use.
“They have all made similar pronouncements based of the significant risks that transacting in cryptocurrencies portend – risk of loss of investments, money laundering, terrorism financing, illicit fund flows and criminal activities,” the letter reads.
Bitcoin Has Made The Naira Almost Useless, Says Nigerian Senator
A cross-section of Nigerian senators have reacted to the recent Bitcoin ban enacted by the country’s central bank.
As previously reported by Cointelegraph, the Central Bank of Nigeria issued a circular banning banks from servicing crypto exchanges.
Reacting to the news during the Thursday plenary session, Senator Sani Musa of the Niger East Senatorial District remarked:
“Cryptocurrency has become a worldwide transaction of which you cannot even identify who owns what. The technology is so strong that I don’t see the kind of regulation that we can do. Bitcoin has made our currency almost useless or valueless.” – Senator Sani Musa
— The Nigerian Senate (@NGRSenate) February 11, 2021
For Senator Musa, Bitcoin (BTC) and not mounting foreign debt, decades of poor economic policies, and corruption are to blame for the naira’s decline. Meanwhile, Bitcoin adoption has been on the rise in the country amid questionable monetary policies adopted by the CBN.
Other senators who made their voices heard during the plenary session argued against the CBN ban. According to Sen. Biodun Olujimi of the Ekiti South Constituency, the goal of crypto regulation in Nigeria should be focused on preventing its use by rogue actors, adding:
“We didn’t create Cryptocurrency and so we cannot kill it and cannot also refuse to ensure it works for us. These children are doing great business with it and they are getting results and Nigeria cannot immune itself from this sort of business.”
The Nigerian Senate has resolved to invite the CBN governor to a hearing before the appropriate committees to discuss issues related to future crypto regulations in the country.
The CBN ban has been met with criticism from several stakeholders in the Nigerian crypto scene. Many exchange platforms have taken steps to disable fiat funding while encouraging their customers to utilize peer-to-peer channels for the time being.
Meanwhile, reports have begun to emanate of bank customers receiving notices of account closures for previous crypto activity. Indeed, the CBN directive did mandate banks to shut down accounts involved in crypto trading.
Nigeria’s SEC Suspends Planned Crypto Regulations Amid Central Bank Ban
Nigeria’s securities regulator has backed the central bank’s crypto ban by suspending its planned regulatory framework for digital assets.
The Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission has put its plans for regulating cryptocurrencies on hold following the recent ban by the central bank prohibiting financial institutions from servicing crypto exchanges.
In An Emailed Statement Quoted By The Daily Post On Friday, The SEC Stated:
“For the purpose of admittance into the SEC Regulatory Incubation Framework, the assessment of all persons (and products) affected by the CBN Circular of February 5, 2021, is hereby put on hold until such persons are able to operate bank accounts within the Nigerian banking system.”
As previously reported by Cointelegraph, the commission recognized digital assets back in September 2020. At the time, the SEC said it was set to create a regulatory sandbox for cryptocurrencies as part of efforts to fully regulate the market.
For the SEC, its latest statement is in response to inquiries from stakeholders as to the perceived policy conflicts between its September announcement and the central bank circular. According to the commission, the regulatory sandbox proposal for non-crypto fintech firms focusing on the capital market will still continue as planned.
Reactions to the central bank’s crypto ban have seemingly been split along ethnic and geopolitical lines across the country with the more progressive-minded elements in the polity arguing against the move. The central bank for its part has said the move was taken to combat the use of virtual currencies by criminal elements in Nigeria.
The Senate plenary session on Thursday saw some senators calling for a more nuanced approach by the central bank in regulating cryptocurrencies. However, Senator Sani Musa of the Niger East Senatorial District claimed that Bitcoin had made the naira “almost useless.”
As part of its deliberations, the Nigerian Senate resolved to invite the CBN governor to appear before the appropriate committees to discuss possible mechanisms for future cryptocurrency regulations in the country.
Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission has suspended previously announced plans to regulate cryptocurrencies, until those dealing in them are able to open bank accounts in the West African nation.
Last week, the Central Bank of Nigeria ordered financial institutions to close accounts dealing in cryptocurrencies, saying the transactions posed risks to the economy, but those measures are now on hold.
“For the purpose of admittance into the SEC regulatory incubation framework, the assessment of all persons and products affected by the CBN circular of Feb. 5, 2021 is hereby put on hold until such persons are able to operate bank accounts within the Nigerian banking system,” the Abuja-based SEC said in an emailed statement.
The agency said in September it viewed cryptocurrencies as exchangeable securities and would regulate them to provide protection for investors and to ensure the transactions are transparent.
Following risks identified in the transactions by the central bank, the SEC “engaged with the CBN and agreed to work together to further analyze, and better understand the identified risks to ensure that appropriate and adequate mitigants are put in place, should such securities be allowed in the future,” it said in its latest statement.
Jack Dorsey And Jay-Z To Set Up 500 BTC Blind Bitcoin Trust In India, Africa
Just hours after an anonymous source claimed India would issue a blanket ban on all cryptocurrencies, Jack Dorsey and Jay-Z announced a 500 Bitcoin development trust.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has announced the creation of a blind Bitcoin (BTC) development trust worth 500 BTC ($23.7 million), along with rapper Jay-Z, for teams working on the project in India and Africa.
Dorsey revealed the creation of the trust on Feb. 12 while sending out a call for three board members to oversee the blind trust initially.
JAY-Z/@S_C_ and I are giving 500 BTC to a new endowment named ₿trust to fund #Bitcoin development, initially focused on teams in Africa & India. It‘ll be set up as a blind irrevocable trust, taking zero direction from us. We need 3 board members to start: https://t.co/L4mRBryMJe
— jack (@jack) February 12, 2021
Dubbed the ₿Trust, the application form for board members reveals the mission statement, “Make Bitcoin the internet’s currency.”
The Twitter CEO’s tweet appeared just hours after news broke concerning India’s alleged plans to completely ban the use of cryptocurrencies within its borders. The world’s second-most populated country could soon move to ban all crypto-assets, giving users a 3–6 month grace period to liquidate their holdings, according to an anonymous source who spoke to Bloomberg.
On Feb. 10, Jack Dorsey donated $1 million to the Washington D.C-based nonprofit organization Coin Center which also received a $2 million donation from asset management firm Grayscale. Dorsey’s ongoing infatuation with Bitcoin recently saw him set up a Bitcoin full-node from his Macbook, meaning he now has a hand in verifying the Bitcoin blockchain.
Nigeria’s Senate Summons Central Bank Chief To Explain Crypto Ban
The Nigerian Senate wants Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele and chief securities regulator Lamido Yuguda to testify about cryptocurrencies.
Nigeria’s Senate has summoned the country’s top financial regulators for a briefing after the central bank ordered local financial institutions to stop providing services to crypto companies and users last Friday.
The Nigerian Tribune reported Thursday the Senate has mandated its banking committee to invite the governor of the central bank (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, and the director general of the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission, Lamido Yuguda, to appear at a time to be determined and explain the opportunities and threats of cryptocurrency. The Senate session discussing the issue was live-tweeted on the Senate’s official Twitter page.
Last week’s CBN directive caused an uproar on social media, while local crypto advocates wrote to the bank asking for clarification on the order. In response, the CBN published a five-page statement that included a pledge to protect Nigerian citizens from the risks of cryptocurrencies.
“[The CBN] will continue to do all within its regulatory powers to educate Nigerians to desist from its use and protect our financial system from activities of fraudsters and speculators,” the statement said.
But a number of senators opposed the CBN move and an outright ban on crypto, though they spoke in favor of regulating the industry.
“The next level is cryptocurrency and we can’t run away from it. It is CBN’s responsibility to bring Nigerians to the next level, not discouraging it. It is the simplest way of exchange,” Sen. Bassey Akpan said.
Despite its risks and dangers, crypto has its merits, Sen. Dung Gyang said, adding that the lawmakers want the CBN governor to brief them on the risks and opportunities that crypto offers the nation so that Nigeria won’t “miss out.”
Another senator, Solomon Adeola, said he is “strongly against” the CBN’s outright ban on crypto and that the bank should instead be regulating the space.
According to the Nigerian Tribune report, the Senate will be taking an informed position on the issue after the briefing.
Sen. Adetokumbo Abiru, who co-sponsored the motion, said cryptocurrency is a major transaction tool and an employer of “teeming youths” in the country.
“So I am not sure the CBN can ban it,” Sen. Abiru said.
Nigerian crypto users seemed largely undeterred after the CBN directive took effect, turning to peer-to-peer exchange platforms to continue trading. Nigerian peer-to-peer trading soared past two of Africa’s largest crypto markets, Kenya and South Africa, since the announcement.
Bitcoin Selling At 36% Premium In Nigeria
In the wake of the recent ban on Nigerian banks’ servicing of crypto exchanges, Bitcoin’s price in the country has seemingly spun out of control.
It’s been roughly 11 days since the Central Bank of Nigeria banned all regulated financial institutions from providing services to cryptocurrency exchanges in the country. At the risk of stiff penalties, all banks and institutions were directed to close crypto-related firms’ accounts immediately.
In the wake of the controversial move, public interest in Bitcoin (BTC) in Nigeria continues to outstrip other countries, according to the latest available data from Google Trends. Even more stark is the hefty 36% premium on Bitcoin’s price as of the time of writing, Feb. 16.
The premium translates into a $71,150 price tag per Bitcoin, as compared with the average spot market price of $51,314 calculated in Cointelegraph’s price index. The premium is also incomparable to the five next largest premiums globally at present: 3.24% in South Africa, and between 1% and 3% in Argentina, Peru, Malaysia and Vietnam.
As a Cointelegraph analysis outlined last week, the immediate impact of the central bank ban appears to have done little to quell what its author dubbed the “hyperbitcoinization” of retail trading culture in the country. Blockchain.com published a report back in Aug. 2020 revealing that Nigeria had been the best-performing country on its platform since April of that year. Google Trends at the time likewise reflected the country’s persistent top ranking in terms of global search interest in Bitcoin.
Citing the consequences of the central bank ban, Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission halted its planned regulatory sandbox for crypto firms last week.
Nigeria senator Sani Musa remarked during a plenary Senate on Feb. 11 that Bitcoin posed a significant threat to the national fiat currency, the naira, although other lawmakers countered his argument with an argument in favor of cracking down on rogue actors using crypto, rather than preventing citizens from doing “great business” and benefiting from opportunities in the cryptocurrency industry.
Representatives from one cryptocurrency business in Nigeria declined to comment to Cointelegraph on the premium, citing a sensitive climate following the Central Bank of Nigeria’s ban on bankings services to crypto firms.
Nigeria And South East Asia Led Global Crypto Adoption In 2020
Statista has found that one-in-three Nigerians held or used crypto assets during 2020.
Data published by statistics firm Statista has revealed Nigeria is the leading country per capita for Bitcoin and cryptocurrency adoption, with nearly one in three survey respondents indicating they used or owned crypto assets in 2020.
According to the survey, the pre-existing prevalence of mobile phone based peer-to-peer payments has led many Nigerians to explore cryptocurrency. Statista noted that many Nigeria responded they had recently installed crypto payment applications on their devices.
The findings also note that many Nigerians are exploring crypto assets for international remittances.
Adoption in the country shows no signs of slowing, with demand for crypto assets booming among Africa’s largest population despite the Central Bank of Nigeria enacting a ban on banks providing financial services to crypto exchanges in the past fortnight. On Feb. 17, Cointelegraph reported that BTC was trading at a 36% premium in Nigeria.
According to Google Trends, Nigeria also dominates search traffic for the keyword “Bitcoin”.
Crypto adoption is also strengthening in South-East Asia, with 21% of Vietnamese and 20% of Filipino participants responding they had used crypto last year. As in Nigeria, Statista attributes much of the Vietnamese and Filipino demand for crypto to remittances.
Notably, Vietnam ranks second by adoption despite its central bank refusing to recognize crypto assets as a legitimate means of payment. In May 2020, Vietnam’s government established a research group tasked with developing and scrutinizing policy proposals concerning digital currencies, suggesting the nation may soften its stance at some point in the future.
Turkey and Peru were found to be the third and fourth-ranked nations for adoption, with 16% of respondents from each country directly engaging with crypto last year. Switzerland ranks fifth with 11%.
The findings were based on Statista’s Global Consumer Survey, which queried respondents based in 74 countries.
Despite its highly permissive crypto regulations, Japanese respondents ranked as the lowest worldwide for digital asset adoption — tying with Denmark with just 4%.
Nigeria Unemployment Rate Rises To 33%, Second Highest On Global List
Unemployment in Africa’s largest economy surged to the second highest on a global list of countries monitored by Bloomberg.
The jobless rate in Nigeria rose to 33.3% in the three months through December, according to a report published by National Bureau of Statistics on its website Monday. That’s up from 27.1% in the second quarter of 2020, the last period for which the agency released labor-force statistics.
A third of the 69.7 million-strong labor force in Africa’s most-populous nation either did nothing or worked for less than 20 hours a week, making them unemployed, according to the Nigerian definition. Another 15.9 million worked less than 40 hours a week, making them underemployed.
The oil producer surpassed South Africa on a list of 82 countries whose unemployment rates are tracked by Bloomberg. Namibia still leads the list with 33.4%.
Nigeria’s jobless rate has more than quadrupled over the last five years as the economy went through two recessions, casting a shadow over the efforts to implement policies to drive growth and create jobs by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
The lack of jobs adds to pressure on consumers in a country where food prices rose more than 20% year-on-year in January and authorities struggle to bring insecurity driven by violent insurgency attacks and kidnappings under control. Nigeria’s finances were knocked by last year’s drop in the price of oil, which account for 90% of foreign-exchange earnings and about half of government income.
More than 60% of Nigeria’s working-age population is younger than 34. Unemployment for people aged 15 to 24 stood at 53.4% in the fourth quarter, and at 37.2% for people aged 25 to 34. The jobless rate for women was 35.2% compared with 31.8% for men.
The recovery of the economy with 200 million people will be slow, with growth seen at 1.5% this year, after last year’s 1.9% contraction, according to the International Monetary Fund. Output will only recover to pre-pandemic levels in 2022, the lender said.
The number of people looking for jobs will keep rising as population growth continues to outpace output expansion. Nigeria is expected to be the world’s third most-populous country by 2050, with over 300 million people, according to the United Nations.
Nigeria’s Central Bank Not Discouraging People From Trading Crypto, Says Governor
The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria has seemingly softened his stance on crypto for individuals, if not banks.
Godwin Emefiele, governor of Nigeria’s central bank which previously banned banks from servicing crypto exchanges, has reportedly clarified the bank’s position on the use of cryptocurrencies in the country.
According to local news outlet TodayNG, Central Bank of Nigeria, or CBN, deputy governor Adamu Lamtek said on behalf of Emefiele that the bank had not banned Nigerian residents from buying, trading, or selling crypto, but “[protected] the banking sector from the activities of cryptocurrencies.” Lamtek spoke at a seminar for the Finance Correspondents and Business Editors in the capital, Abuja.
“The CBN did not place restrictions from use of cryptocurrencies and we are not discouraging people from trading in it,” said Emefiele. “What we have just done was to prohibit transactions on cryptocurrencies in the banking sector.”
The statement follows the CBN announcing last month in a circular that it had placed a ban on all regulated financial institutions from providing services to crypto exchanges in the country.
The ban directed all commercial banks to close accounts belonging to crypto exchanges and other businesses transacting in cryptocurrencies in Nigeria, warning of “severe regulatory sanctions” for any institution in breach of the rule. Some account holders at Nigeria’s Access Bank have already reported their accounts have been closed.
Emefiele previously referred to cryptocurrencies as “not legitimate money” with no place in Nigeria’s monetary system. The governor said at the time the central bank was doing its due diligence to better understand the implications of the emerging space.
However, many regulators and crypto enthusiasts in Nigeria have criticized the ban. Some lawmakers in the Nigerian Senate have proposed inviting the CBN governor and major crypto stakeholders to a hearing to discuss issues related to crypto regulations in the country.
Since the CBN introduced the crypto ban, the price of Bitcoin (BTC) has been trading at a premium in the country. Valued at $57,349 in the United States, data from crypto exchange Luno currently shows BTC has risen to a more than 70% premium in Nigeria at a price of $97,509.
Nigeria’s SEC Says Central Bank’s Crypto Ban Disrupted The Market
The Securities and Exchange Commission of Nigeria says it is working with the central bank to create a legal framework for cryptos and digital assets.
Lamido Yuguda, the director-general of Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission has said the central bank’s crypto ban has caused significant disruptions to the market.
According to a report by The Guardian, the SEC director-general made this assertion known during a press conference organized after the meeting of the Capital Market Committee on Thursday.
As previously reported by Cointelegraph, the Central Bank of Nigeria barred commercial banks from servicing crypto exchanges back in February.
According to Yuguda, the commission has been forced to pause its planned cryptocurrency regulatory framework announced in September 2020.
The SEC director-general also maintained that the suspension of the commission’s crypto regulatory plans will remain in place until exchanges can operate bank accounts in the country.
As part of his address, the SEC chief maintained that the commission was working with the CBN to create an optimal regulatory regime for cryptocurrencies in the country. According to Yuguda, the crypto ban aside, the SEC continues to make strides in supporting the growth of fintech in Nigeria.
Following the CBN crypto ban, cryptocurrency buying and selling are only possible via peer-to-peer channels leading to massive premiums on digital currency prices. In March, the central bank governor remarked that the CBN was not against crypto trading in the country but that such transactions cannot occur through commercial banks.
In a previous statement shared with Cointelegraph, crypto exchange platform Lumo reacted to the CBN ban stating that “blanket bans push people underground,” adding:
“Pushing people underground also makes it easier for scammers to exploit Nigerians, and we are already seeing Bitcoin trade at huge premiums in the country as a result of the ban. Other companies have made the choice to find workarounds that are less visible for regulators — for example, peer-to-peer trading. Our view is that P2P trading would go against the spirit of the CBN’s directive.”
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, has previously called on regulators to adopt a nuanced approach to regulating crypto and blockchain. According to the vice president, cryptocurrency will challenge traditional finance in the coming years.
Nigerian Hotel Becomes Country’s First To Accept Bitcoin Payments
George Residence in Lagos has announced plans to start accepting BTC payments. The company has already converted 50% of its balance sheet to Bitcoin.
A luxury hotel in Lagos, Nigeria will reportedly accept Bitcoin (BTC) as a form of payment and adopt the digital asset as its primary reserve currency as concerns about inflation continue to grip Africa’s largest economy.
George Residence confirmed its intent to begin accepting Bitcoin this weekend, according to 1st News, a Nigerian news publication. George Residence, which offers luxury hotel and premium apartment suites, will accept BTC through Coinvest Africa, a regional cryptocurrency brokerage.
“We have allocated around 50% of our cash reserves to Bitcoin. […] We hope to increase that as time goes on,’’ said ‘Yanju George, the company’s CEO. “Bitcoin is the currency of the future and it is only right that we are strongly positioned so we do not get left behind.”
“Bitcoin permits our guests a faster and more secure way to enjoy the comfort we offer. Our residents desire simplicity, and we are excited to be able to offer that to them.”
Nigeria’s inflation rate has been in the double digits since 2016. Recently, it peaked at 17.33% — the highest since February 2017 — as the economic impacts of COVID-19 and a weakening local currency continue to take their toll.
Inflation is one of the reasons why Nigeria has become the bastion of crypto adoption in Africa. Since 2015, Nigerians have traded over 60,200 BTC on Paxful, a crypto peer-to-peer trading platform, second only to the United States.
The legal status of cryptocurrencies is being disputed in Nigeria after the central bank banned financial services companies from servicing digital currency exchanges. However, Adamu Lamtek, deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, later clarified that the regulator didn’t ban Nigerians from trading or holding cryptocurrencies.
As Cointelegraph recently reported, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Nigeria is working with the central bank to develop a new legal framework for digital assets.
Jack Dorsey Says Bitcoin Changes Everything ‘For The Better’
Square Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey said Friday that the payment processing company would “forever work” to make Bitcoin better.
Bitcoin changes everything “for the better,” Dorsey said in a tweet in an apparent response to Square Chief Financial Officer Amrita Ahuja who said the company’s strategy with the cryptocurrency hasn’t changed.
Financial News had earlier cited Ahuja as saying that Square has has halted its Bitcoin purchases after a $20 million loss in the coin last quarter.
#bitcoin changes *everything*…for the better.
And we will forever work to make bitcoin better. https://t.co/wssrF2U0P0
— jack (@jack)
May 14, 2021
Dorsey, who is also the CEO of Twitter Inc., said in a follow-up tweet that he agreed with the premise that no single person or institution would be able to change, or stop, the cryptocurrency.
Yes, and I agree: no single person (or institution) will be able to change it, or stop it.
— jack (@jack)
May 14, 2021
Bitcoin’s Usefulness Is On A Whole Other Level, Depending On Where You Live
One Nigerian explains the benefits of Bitcoin from an alternate angle.
A versatile asset, Bitcoin can wear multiple hats, including its function as a currency. One Nigerian on Twitter recently detailed how Bitcoin has helped him overcome a slew of monetary difficulties.
“Growing up in Nigeria, I see #Bitcoin with a different lens than you do if you grew up in the US for example,” said the CEO of Bitnob, Bernard Parah, in a tweet on Thursday. His tweet was part of a thread detailing a bevvy of monetary difficulties, pointing toward Bitcoin as a solution.
“You cannot spend more than $100 on international sites using your card – You can’t spend your own money, you can’t buy that PS5 if you wanted to because of monetary controls,” Parah explained as one difficulty.
“You got lucky to go abroad, find some work and want to send money home to mom but have to pay ridiculous fees to do that. If it’s an emergency, those funds might not get there on time,” he noted as another example.
Money in the world can be siloed, especially when it comes to crossing borders. Sending bank wires requires transacting during banking hours, while other forms of money transfer take time to settle on the backend and may require personal information in the process. Bitcoin, on the other hand, works pseudonymously, without regard for borders or hours of operation.
Inflation can also be a problem in some countries, so storing native currency can be an issue, which Parah also mentioned in one of the tweets. Parah also pointed toward the control financial institutions have if money is stored with them.
“Having your bank accounts blocked because you took part in or donated to a protest,” he posted as a difficulty suffered by younger folks. “If they own the money, they own you.”
After noting the internet’s improvements on the world, as well as the existence of web-based currency, he added: “This allows us to be global citizens from day 1, to trade with the world, to enjoy the prosperity being shared on the internet.” He also noted: “While you see magic internet money, what we see is a shot at freedom, a shot at prosperity and we don’t plan to stop going for this.” Parah covered a number of other points in his tweet thread.
#Bitcoin allows us to build a future for where one might never need to open a bank account in order to participate in commerce with anyone around the world.
The internet has changed our lives, mostly for the better. Now we have money that works on the internet
Jack Dorsey Notes Lobbying Efforts To Get Ethiopian Gov’t To Embrace Bitcoin
Ethiopian-based group Project Mano is lobbying the government to mine, hold, and link Bitcoin to the ETB or other legal tenders.
In our research, through the mining initiative, Ethiopia could easily multiply its export earnings without third-party involvement. Billions more in short term with minimal investment. The project aims to publish more detailed plans both for the government
— Project Mano | ማኖ (@projectmano) June 15, 2021
Twitter CEO and crypto proponent Jack Dorsey has highlighted the efforts of a lobby group pushing the Ethiopian government to embrace Bitcoin (BTC).
In a June 16 Tweet, Dorsey shared a Twitter thread from Project Mano, an Ethiopian-based lobbying group that is trying to get the government to consider mining and storing Bitcoin.
Dorsey appears to have given the project some helpful exposure, with Project Mano’s Twitter followers bumping up from 500 when he shared the thread, to around 1000 at the time of writing.
Project Mano noted in its June 15 Twitter thread that “for the last 6 months or so” the group has been working to push the Ethiopian government to “combat the rising inequalities and global inflation,” by adopting Bitcoin.
The project’s website outlines three Bitcoin-based initiatives that it is urging the Ethiopian government to adopt: mining, hodling and linking Bitcoin to the Ethiopian Birr (ETB) or other legal tenders.
In our research, through the mining initiative, Ethiopia could easily multiply its export earnings without third-party involvement. Billions more in short term with minimal investment. The project aims to publish more detailed plans both for the government.
The project notes that if the proposed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is successful, not only will it be able to provide Ethiopian residents with round the clock electricity, but if also repurposed for Bitcoin mining, it could potentially “produce billions of dollars a year,” for the economy.
Interestingly, Project Mano proposes that if Bitcoin mining was successful in Ethiopia, the government could also leverage DeFi lending protocols to increase the buying power of its Bitcoin holdings.
According to Project Mano, hodling Bitcoin could also be used as a hedge as the inflation rate of ETB, and notes the only way they see Ethiopia increasing the nation’s gross domestic product is by outpacing the U.S. dollar’s inflation rate:
“Given Ethiopia’s economy is not growing remotely near 25% year after year, our buying power is naturally depleting quickly against scarce assets. “
“If the Ethiopian economy is only growing 7% a year, we are not catching up to the rate we need to break even,” they added.
According to the World Bank Group, Ethiopia is the fastest growing economy in the African continent, however, it is also “one of the poorest, with a per capita income of $850.”
It appears that crypto regulation hasn’t been of primordial importance to Ethiopia in the past, however, it has taken a proactive approach in some instances.
In particular, the Ethiopian government signed an agreement with Charles Hoskinson’s Cardano that enabled Ethiopian developers to apply blockchain tech to the country’s agri-tech industry back in 2018.
In April 2021, the government began working with the research and development arm behind Cardano, Input Output Hong Kong, to create a tamper-proof record of the educational performance of five million students across 3,500 schools in Ethiopia.
Nigeria Is The Lion Of Africa In Bitcoin P2P Trading
Nigeria’s crypto industry is growing fast despite the government’s efforts to stunt bitcoin adoption, says a local trader.
Many young Nigerians are adopting bitcoin (BTC, +0.12%) amid the crypto ban put in place by the Nigerian Central Bank. In fact, since the start of 2021, peer-to-peer bitcoin trading has grown to $204 million, the largest amount in Africa.
Data collated from Usefultulips, a Bitcoin analytic provider, shows Nigeria dwarfs the rest of Africa combined on the use of bitcoin for peer-to-peer transactions. For instance, in the last 180 days, its closest rival in P2P BTC transactions, Kenya, totaled $84.3 million. In Ghana, the total was $59.8 million.
A significant number of young, internet-savvy Nigerians are using crypto to move capital, amid a period of great technological and sociological change in Africa’s largest country. A declining local currency and antagonistic government have made Nigeria into a proving ground for Bitcoin’s big ideals.
Chinedu Obidiegwu, business development lead in Nigeria for Luno, a P2P crypto platform, spoke on the growing use of bitcoin amid its price volatility and the crypto ban put in place by Nigeria’s central bank:
“The restriction of banks by the Nigerian regulators in February 2021, came as a considerable shock to the cryptocurrency ecosystem. Notwithstanding, Nigerians have rather increased their use and deepened knowledge as seen in the numbers across platforms offering alternative funding options even through a recent market switch from bullish to bearish,” he said.
Data collated from Binance showed growth in the company’s P2P users across Africa from January to April surged by a whopping 2,228.21%. Nigeria, of course, played a major role. Other top crypto brands like Paxful, FTX and Crypto.com are also entering the fold. P2P transactions have skyrocketed as the central bank has banned the country’s banks from handling crypto transactions.
“We’ve experienced a 23% increase in our trading volumes since the new [central bank’s] policy,” Nena Nwachukwu, Nigeria’s regional manager for Paxful, said.
Bitcoin’s ascent is rooted in a sharp fall in remittances through traditional channels during the pandemic. The World Bank said remittances to Nigeria declined by 27.7% in 2020.
The Nigerian local currency hasn’t helped everyday people either. Rising inflation (17.93% in May) has eroded the purchasing power of many Nigerians who seek alternatives like bitcoin to preserve their wealth. The country has one of the highest youth poverty rates in the world.
These growing economic challenges help explain why the crypto industry is growing despite the government’s efforts to stunt bitcoin adoption. Despite its benefits, bitcoin is not a magic pill.
Luno’s Obidiegwu spoke to the premium costs and high-risk exposure to fraud many young Nigerians face when buying the crypto asset:
“The unfortunate effect, however, is that many Nigerians have had to depend on the less secure and transparent OTC (over the counter) channels, exposing many to a higher risk of being defrauded and reducing visibility to the financial activity which should be a bigger concern compared to the reasons given for the ban.”
Still, Enakirerhi Ejovwoke, the founder of Abokie.com and thebittle.com, spoke to the opportunities still in play, despite a government ban.
“I see the ban was received more as an opportunity rather than a hindrance to crypto advancement in Nigeria, and I believe that other countries facing similar situations now or in the future can use Nigeria as a model of hope.”
Bitcoin Is Key To The Future Of Twitter, Jack Dorsey Says
The Twitter CEO sees opportunities to integrate Bitcoin into services such as commerce, subscriptions and new features such as Twitter Tip Jar and Super Follows.
Bitcoin (BTC), the world’s largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, will be one of the key trends for the future of Twitter, CEO Jack Dorsey declared.
The Twitter CEO said that Bitcoin would be a “big part” of the company’s future at the second-quarter earnings call, outlining the digital currency’s potential to further transform Twitter products and services.
Referring to Bitcoin as a native currency of the internet, Dorsey described opportunities to integrate BTC into existing Twitter services including commerce, subscriptions and new features such as Twitter Tip Jar and Super Follows.
The CEO explained to investors that a lot of Bitcoin-enabled innovation is “above just currency to be had,” as Twitter is committed to decentralize social media and provide more economic incentives.
He noted that Bitcoin is one of three key trends for Twitter’s future alongside artificial intelligence and decentralization. “I think it’s hugely important to Twitter and to Twitter shareholders that we continue to look at the space and invest aggressively in it,” he said.
Dorsey emphasized that Twitter is not alone in its commitment to crypto, citing aggressive digital currency development by social media giant Facebook, which expects to pilot its Diem cryptocurrency later this year. But unlike Facebook, Twitter will one day focus on BTC as a native internet open standard. Dorsey stated:
“There’s an obvious need for this and appreciation for it. And I think that an open standard that’s native to the internet is the right way to go, which is why my focus and our focus eventually will be on Bitcoin.”
Dorsey’s latest Bitcoin call is reportedly the first time when the CEO has spoken publicly about how Twitter could integrate BTC into its products. The new remarks came shortly after Dorsey had discussed Bitcoin at the virtual BTC event “The ₿ Word” alongside Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Ark Invest’s Cathie Wood.
Dorsey said that many existing business models would be much different if Bitcoin existed before Twitter or Facebook. “We would certainly not have the dependency that we have on the advertising business model,” he noted.
Dorsey is known as a major early Bitcoin believer, repeatedly arguing that Bitcoin is poised to be the single currency of the internet since at least 2018. His crypto-friendly digital payments firm Square is a solid Bitcoin investor, purchasing $50 million in BTC in late 2020 and then buying an extra $170 million in BTC in February 2021.
Nigerian Crypto Adoption Rises Despite Gov’t Crackdown
Nigerians are still hungry for crypto despite the central bank’s efforts to quash it.
Nigerian cryptocurrency adoption continues to rise despite a government crackdown, with peer-to-peer (P2P) trade volume for Bitcoin (BTC) posting its second strongest week on record last month.
According to data from Google Trends, Nigeria still ranks No. 1 by search interest for the keyword “Bitcoin” as of this writing. P2P Bitcoin trading denominated in the Nigerian naira has also steadily increased in 2021, with Nigeria ranking behind only the United States as the second-largest market for peer-to-peer BTC trading, according to Useful Tulips.
The growing Bitcoin adoption in Nigeria has helped Sub-Saharan Africa emerge as the leading region by P2P volume, with the region posting $18.8 million in weekly volume to beat out North America’s $18 million this past week.
A confluence of political and economic crises has spurred local crypto adoption, including social repression, currency controls and rampant inflation.
Tensions in Nigeria have escalated since October after massive public protests opposing police brutality and the infamous “Sars” police unit swept the nation.
The EndSars protests saw protestors attacked with tear gas and water cannons, with more than 50 civilians killed in total, including a dozen who were shot dead by police armed with live ammunition on Oct. 20.
The government crackdown saw economic repression, too, with social organizations supporting the protestors with food and medical aid quickly finding their bank accounts frozen. Amid the violence, protestors increasingly turned to cryptocurrency in order to place their economic activity outside of the government’s reach.
Adewunmi Emoruwa, the founder of Gatefield — a public policy organization whose accounts were suspended for providing grants to journalists covering the protests attributed Nigeria’s recent hostility regarding crypto assets to October’s protests, telling The Guardian:
“I think that EndSars is like the key catalyst for some of these decisions the government is making. It caused fear. They saw, for example, that people could decide to bypass government structures and institutions to mobilize.”
An anonymous source claiming to represent a social organization whose bank accounts were targeted during the turmoil also told the publication that their group has been able to pay members’ salaries with crypto despite the financial embargo.
“We keep some securities in crypto — not too much but enough, sort of as an insurance policy,” they said. “When the ban happened we were, thankfully, able to pay salaries.”
In February, the government banned licensed banks from processing cryptocurrency transactions in an attempt to crack down on digital asset adoption.
However, Nigeria’s steadily rising P2P Bitcoin volumes suggest the country’s growing crypto user base has largely been driven underground in a bid to access crypto assets from outside of the government’s purview.
Marius Reitz, the Africa general manager of crypto trading platform Luno, told The Guardian that Nigeria’s ban has only made cryptocurrency trading harder to monitor, stating:
“A lot of trading activity has now been pushed underground, which means many Nigerians are now depending on less secure, less transparent over-the-counter channels, as well as Telegram and WhatsApp groups, where people trade directly with each other.”
The government’s moves to repress crypto have also received internal criticism, with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo publicly rebuking the ban in February.
Despite the country’s hostility toward decentralized crypto assets, Nigeria is currently exploring the development of a central bank digital currency (CBDC).
In late July, Nigeria’s central bank revealed plans to begin trialing its CBDC from Oct. 1 of this year.
Nigeria Approves $15.4 Billion Refinery, Railway Projects
Nigeria’s government approved major transport and energy investments, including a stake in a giant private refinery, that are expected to cost $15.4 billion.
Ministers in the West African nation signed off Wednesday on the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp.’s proposed purchase of a 20% stake in a refinery being built by Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest person, for $2.76 billion. They also agreed to the rehabilitation of two other NNPC-controlled refineries and the construction of a 1,400-kilometer (870-mile) railway.
The decisions were taken at a meeting of the Federal Executive Council and disclosed at a briefing. Further details weren’t provided.
The investments could help boost output in the nation, which has underinvested in infrastructure and where economic growth has lagged behind the pace of population expansion every year since Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015, leading to a decline in average income per capita.
The NNPC said in June that the African Export-Import Bank is raising a $1 billion loan to help the firm buy shares in Dangote’s 650,000 barrel-a-day complex near Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub. It’s unclear how the company intends to fund the rest of the acquisition, although one option could be through the supply of crude.
The FEC also authorized the NNPC’s plans to spend $1.48 billion on repairing and upgrading its refineries in the cities of Warri in southern Nigeria and Kaduna in the north, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Timipre Sylva said. The facilities, which aren’t operational, will be fully rehabilitated in 33 months, he said.
The NNPC has already started work on a $1.5 billion revamp of two refineries in the southeastern city of Port Harcourt.
The FEC gave its approval to a standard-gauge railway that will run from Lagos in the southwest of Nigeria to the city of Calabar in the southeast, said Information Minister Lai Mohammed. The contract, which is worth $11.2 billion, was awarded to state-owned China Civil Engineering Construction Corp. in 2014.
Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi said in June that the government is in talks with Standard Chartered Plc about arranging financing for the so-called “Coastal Line.” Nigeria had initially expected Chinese lenders to back the project.
Buhari told Nigeria’s National Assembly in 2017 that the state-owned Export-Import Bank of China was soon going to approve a $3.5 billion loan to help start construction.
Three Reasons To Be Worried About Africa’s Progress
Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa were supposed to be the economic engines of an entire continent, but conditions in all three countries have recently taken a turn for the worse.
One of the saddest stories of the year has gone largely unreported: the slowdown of political and economic progress in sub-Saharan Africa. There is no longer a clear path to be seen, or a simple story to be told, about how the world’s poorest continent might claw its way up to middle-income status. Africa has amazing human talent and brilliant cultural heritages, but its major political centers are, to put it bluntly, falling apart.
Three countries are more geopolitically central than the others. Ethiopia, with a population of 118 million, is sub-Saharan Africa’s second-most populous nation and the most significant node in East Africa. Nigeria has the most people (212 million) and the largest GDP on the continent. South Africa, population 60 million, is the region’s wealthiest nation, and it is the central economic and political presence in the southern part of the continent.
Within the last two years, all three of these nations have fallen into very serious trouble.
The most obvious disaster is Ethiopia, where a civil war is worsening by the day. Recently Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed called for all eligible citizens to enter the armed forces. That is a sign of desperation, not imminent resolution of the conflict.
Abiy had promised a rapid victory, but in June the Tigrayan forces won some battles against the national Ethiopian army, taking over significant parts of the country. The Tigrayan rebels now control even the famed city of Lalibela, a major tourist center and home of Ethiopia’s UNESCO-designated stone Christian churches. It is not clear what will happen next.
Keep in mind that until the recent conflict, Ethiopia was enjoying years of double digit economic growth, unprecedented in modern African history. The country’s industrial policy and economic reforms were considered marvels for other developing nations to emulate. Those views may still be valid, but the good news has been overwhelmed by longstanding ethnic conflicts that have broken out into the open. It was just two years ago that Abiy was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.
The situation is Nigeria is perhaps less dire, but the country’s politics clearly are moving backwards. There is a longstanding rebellion in the Northeast, a business shutdown in the Southeast, and a notable increase in kidnappings for ransom. A Council for Foreign Relations publication describes a “growing separatism” in the country.
The rise in kidnappings is alarming in its own right, but it is also a broader sign of the weakness of the national government. The country is undergoing what some call a “kidnap epidemic,” with the true number of abductions remaining unreported.
On the economic front, Nigeria just exited its second recession in four years, and growth has not exceeded 3% since 2015.
As for South Africa, a recent New Yorker feature article noted that “Mandela’s dream” is “in ruins” and spoke of the “mob violence” that is “threatening the country’s constitutional order.” Some 40,000 businesses have been looted, vandalized or burned amid mass riots and unrest. The country has seen its worst violence since the end of apartheid. South Africa also has been experiencing major Covid waves and lockdowns. The measured unemployment rate is 33%, and that does not count those who have stopped looking for work.
These three countries were supposed to be the economic engines of an entire continent — a continent that, according to the United Nations, will be home to some 2.5 billion people by 2050, or a quarter of the world’s population. But now their economies are ailing. And while South Africa is making some strides in holding former President Jacob Zuma accountable, it’s hard to say these countries are political models for stable democratization.
Based on size and historical and cultural import, Democratic Republic of the Congo ought to be another contender as an influential African nation. But the country has been wracked by conflict for decades. It is not in a position to fill the void created by the failings of Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa.
The last few decades have been a relatively propitious time for Africa. There have been a minimum of major wars in the world, and a dearth of major new pandemics (until recently). China was interested in building up African infrastructure, and across the continent countries made great advances in public health.
Could it be that this window has shut, and the time for major gains has passed? And that is not even reckoning with the likelihood of additional damage from Covid on a continent with a very low level of vaccination.
These sub-Saharan political regressions might just be a coincidence in their timing. But another disturbing possibility is that the technologies and ideologies of our time are not favorable for underdeveloped nation-states with weak governments and many inharmonious ethnic groups. In that case, all this bad luck could be a precursor of even worse times ahead.
Jack Dorsey Discusses Plans To Build A Decentralized Exchange For Bitcoin
First announced in July, Square’s “TBD” unit is developing a “non-custodial, permissionless, and decentralized financial services” business whose “primary focus is Bitcoin.”
Square CEO Jack Dorsey said that the platform’s latest Bitcoin (BTC) venture would be to develop a decentralized exchange.
In a Friday tweet, Dorsey said that “TBD” — either referring to the fact the business’ name has yet to be determined or simply the name itself — would be focused on building a decentralized exchange for Bitcoin.
According to project leader Mike Brock, TBD, a unit of Square, aims to “make it easy to fund a non-custodial wallet anywhere in the world through a platform to build on- and off-ramps into Bitcoin.” The business said it wants the decentralized exchange to be “Bitcoin-native, top to bottom,” as well as completely open-source and permissionless, with “no foundation or governance model that TBD controls.”
“Our idea for the fiat DEX is something the enduser shouldn’t even need to know is there, and any wallet or service can integrate with,” said Brock, adding the exchange would be in compliance with Anti-Money Laundering and Know Your Customer laws.
Dorsey announced in July that Square was developing a “non-custodial, permissionless, and decentralized financial services” business whose “primary focus is Bitcoin.” The unveiling of the TBD project came after Square sai it would be exploring the development of an open-source BTC hardware wallet.
Court Paves Way For Nigerian States To Collect Billions In Taxes
A court ruling in one of Nigeria’s oil-producing states may cost the federal government control of a major source of tax revenue, to the detriment of the West African nation’s poorer regions.
A judge on Monday dismissed an application by the Federal Inland Revenue Service to delay the execution of an order issued last month that allows the government of the southern Rivers state to collect value-added tax within its territory. FIRS said it’s appealing the ruling.
VAT accounted for 1.53 trillion naira ($3.7 billion) of the federal government’s 4.95 trillion tax take last year, data from the National Bureau of Statistics show. The kind of VAT that the nation’s 36 states could administer following the ruling would account for almost half that amount.
The federal court decision will help Nigeria’s states “reduce the outdated over-reliance on pitiable federal allocation and other handouts,” Nyesom Wike, the Rivers state governor, told a media briefing. “The benefit derivable from this case by all the states in the long run far outweighs the immediate revenue loss that some states may presently suffer.”
The commercial hub of Lagos, the country’s wealthiest region, plans to follow Rivers’s example, with its legislature in the process of passing a law enabling the state government to take control of VAT collection, Gbenga Omotoso, the state’s information commissioner, said by phone.
“We are putting everybody on notice about the law,” he said. “We are going to obey the court order.”
FIRS currently manages VAT in Nigeria, distributing 85% of the funds to state and local governments. As long as the judgment isn’t overturned, “it will apply to other states and not just Rivers state,” accounting firm PwC said in a note last month.
The “biggest losers” of any permanent change will be the 30 states that cumulatively generate less than 20% of Nigeria’s VAT and “will suffer significant revenue decline,” PwC said. While Lagos is by far the largest contributor, a few other states including Rivers and the northern trading hub of Kano “may experience minimal impact,” it said.
Consumers and businesses in Rivers state are caught between the directives of the federal and local authorities.
FIRS urged taxpayers to continue paying their VAT to the agency “until the Court of Appeal, or even the Supreme Court, determines the matter,” according to a statement Monday. “Failure to do this would put them on collision course with the law,” it said.
Rivers state’s government “will not tolerate any further attempt by the FIRS to sabotage or undermine our authority to freely administer our tax,” Wike said.
Website Blamed By Nigeria For Naira Fall Suspends Rate Tracking
A website that publishes exchange rates for Nigeria’s naira is “temporarily” suspending the service after the African nation’s central bank accused it of manipulating prices.
Abokifx, which has become known as a reliable source for exchange rates in Nigeria’s unauthorized parallel currency market, will no longer track rates “until we get better clarity of the situation,” it said in a statement.
The Central Bank of Nigeria on Friday accused Abokifx of manipulating prices in the unofficial market. Abokifx denies the allegations.
Naijabdcs.com, an alternative platform owned by the Association of Bureau De Change Operators in Nigeria, also suspended publication of market rates.
“The central bank has outlawed the publication of any parallel market rates,” Aminu Gwadabe, president of the association, said in a text message on Saturday. The group published its most recent rate on Sept. 16 with the naira quoted at 570 naira to the dollar on its website. No quotes were shown for Sept. 17.
Nigeria’s central bank recognizes only the exchange rate at the investors and exporters window, Governor Godwin Emefiele said on Friday, adding, “I do not intend to recognize that there are any other rates in the market.”
The naira has lost 13% of its value since July 28 after the central bank stopped sales of the U.S. dollar to money traders. It closed at a record low of 570 naira to the dollar on Friday on the parallel market compared to its largely unchanged average rate of 411 naira to dollar at the controlled central bank window.
Individuals and businesses usually monitor the Abokifx platform to guide them on the dollar exchange rates in the informal market, which the central bank deems illegal.
Before the platform started operating in 2014, rates were obtained mainly through direct phone calls to street sellers in Lagos, the commercial center; Abuja, the capital; and the oil hub of Port Harcourt. That situation is now likely to return, creating multiple exchange rates.
Africa’s largest crude producer has been forced to devalue its currency three times since March 2020 after lower oil prices put pressure on dollar reserves.
The central bank rationed supply of the greenback, forcing many individuals and firms to turn to unauthorized dealers to meet their needs above what the central bank was willing to provide. That’s put pressure on thin supply in the parallel market, widening the gap from the official rate to a record 39%.
“We sincerely hope that this suspension will lead to the naira appreciation from next week,” Abokifx said.
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