Nigeria’s interest in Bitcoin unfazed by regulatory restrictions

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Despite President Tinubu’s administration’s crackdown on peer-to-peer (P2P) cryptocurrency trading, which has sparked outrage among many young Nigerians, their enthusiasm for Bitcoin remains unabated.

According to Google Trends statistics, Nigeria, Africa’s largest cryptocurrency market, is currently the country with the highest interest in Bitcoin (BTC), followed closely by El Salvador.

Geographic analysis reveals that Delta state leads the pack in Bitcoin interest, trailed by states like Anambra, Ekiti, Enugu, Ondo, Ebonyi, Bayelsa, Osun, Edo, and Imo. Notably, Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial nerve center, falls outside the top 15 cities regarding Google search interest for Bitcoin.

The data suggests that areas characterized by insecurity, low bank penetration, and a high proportion of millennials are likelier to adopt Bitcoin as a trusted means of storing value and facilitating payments.

Nigerians have turned to stablecoins, mainly tied to the U.S. dollar, as a hedge against inflation and currency fluctuations. Tether (USDT)  dominates the market as the most popular stablecoin, and its use is becoming increasingly practical for local businesses and the diaspora to conduct transactions.

According to a United Nations study, Nigeria is currently one of the youngest countries in the world and one of the fastest-growing in Africa. The age group under 15 makes up 43% of the population.

Clampdown on crypto market

The Nigerian government has recently taken some questionable actions in an effort to address economic woes and prevent a currency collapse.

In May 2024, the government of Nigeria began preparing to introduce new regulations banning P2P cryptocurrency exchanges using the Nigerian naira, the national currency.

Nigeria’s Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has also accused the Binance crypto exchange of engaging in currency manipulation and speculation, which they claim led to the naira’s devaluation and necessitated government intervention

Related: Nigeria’s foreign investment at risk due to Binance bribery allegations

The regulatory body’s firm stance was shown earlier this year when it imposed a ban on Binance’s operations in Nigeria, followed by the arrest and detention of its top executives, Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, in a demonstration of its resolve to uphold regulatory standards.

While Anjarwalla managed to escape custody, Gambaryan was taken into custody in Abuja and now faces trial on charges of money laundering and tax evasion.

In January 2024, the Central Bank of Nigeria released initial guidelines for banks opening cryptocurrency accounts, though banks are still not allowed to trade or hold virtual assets within their own portfolios

Magazine: Cleaning up crypto: How much enforcement is too much?

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