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Nigeria approves national blockchain policy following crackdown on digital assets

The Federal Government of Nigeria has approved a national blockchain technology policy to promote digitization.

The policy approval came on May 3 at the Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja, where Federal Communications and Digital Economy Minister Professor Isa Pantami presented the policy before the president. Pantami disclosed that the policy resulted from painstaking consultative work involving over 56 institutions within the country.

Under the policy document, Nigeria will promote the safe use of blockchain to streamline government processes in several sectors, including finance, health, education, and security. Pantami added that the interest shown by the governments of the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates triggered a sense of urgency for Nigerian authorities to begin their exploration.

“The vision of the Policy is to create a Blockchain-powered economy that supports secure transactions, data sharing, and value exchange between people, businesses, and Government, thereby enhancing innovation, trust, growth, and prosperity for all,” read a government statement.

Pantami justified the move as one that has the potential to create a plethora of jobs while improving public services through decentralization. The Minister cited a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) that predicted that blockchain has the potential to add $1.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030.

The task of implementing the blockchain policy lies with the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) under the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy. Pantami confirmed the creation of a steering committee to navigate the peculiarities of enforcing the new policy.

The country’s central bank, securities regulator, National Universities Commission (NUC), and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) have been ordered to establish regulations to assist in blockchain adoption in their various sectors.

A rocky start with blockchain

Nigeria’s first brush with blockchain left a bitter taste among enthusiasts as the central bank ordered banks and financial institutions to stop facilitating digital asset transactions for customers. Commercial banks began closing accounts of individuals engaged in trading digital currencies, to the dismay of stakeholders.

Despite the initial skepticism of blockchain, the central bank turned to the offering for a central bank digital currency (CBDC) that it launched in 2021. Presently, Nigeria is ranked 11th in Chainalysis’ 2022 Global Crypto Adoption Index, with millions of digital currency traders relying on international exchanges like Binance and Crypto.com.

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