By Tonye Bakare
Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey Sunday said “the people of Nigeria will lead bitcoin” despite the Nigerian authorities clamp down on the trading of cryptocurrencies.
Dorsey’s take was a direct reaction to an oped written by NFL star Russell Okung in Bitcoin Magazine.
Okung, a Nigerian descendant and self-acclaimed Bitcoin proponent, advised Nigeria to focus on achieving “economic independence and financial sovereignty” by establishing a Bitcoin Standard
Nigeria is one of the largest cryptocurrency markets in the world. But the country’s central bank prohibited financial institutions from trading in cryptocurrency.
Banks were also ordered to identify and close down all accounts involved in the transfer or exchange of cryptocurrencies.
“The bank hereby wishes to remind regulated financial institutions that dealing with cryptocurrencies or facilitating payments for cryptocurrency exchanges is prohibited,” the CBN said in a statement.
Still, about $400 million worth of cryptocurrencies have been traded in Nigeria in 2021, Statista, a global market data tracker, said. The volume of trading places it behind only the United States and Russia in the world.
Despite the government’s action, many young Nigerians found alternative ways of buying and selling cryptocurrencies as the country’s currency, the naira, continues to slide against the dollar.
“It is no secret that the current global economic environment is worrisome and unsustainable,” Okung wrote in the oped. “Sadly, the fate of the Nigerian economy is in the hands of global central bankers who do not represent the best interests of the Nigerian people. Despite the challenges we face, the resilience of Nigerians continues to inspire.”
Okung insisted that it is “urgent” for Nigeria to act and that the country has a “limited window”. He pointed to the finite supply of the digital currency as one of its main attractions.
He claimed that Iran, Russia, China and Kenya are already “mining or otherwise utilising bitcoin,” partly as a means of circumventing the United States sanctions which prevent them from full participation in the global financial system.null
“Other nations like Barbados, Singapore and Malta have moved to become “bitcoin friendly” in an effort to attract wealth and human capital through migration,” Okung wrote.
El Salvador, last week, became the first country in the world to recognise bitcoin as a legal tender, weeks after China renewed its crackdown on cryptocurrency.
The CBN recently said it was starting a digital currency of its own later this year.
Bitcoin and protest
Dorsey’s tweet on Sunday came a day after Nigeria celebrated Democracy Day, with many people hitting the streets of major cities in the country to protest against bad governance.
Several days earlier, Nigerian authorities suspended the operations of Twitter in the country, citing its “persistent” use for activities that threatened the “corporate existence” of the West African country.
The suspension was preceded by the deletion of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet that referenced the Nigerian Civil War. Twitter said the tweet violated its “abusive behaviour” rule.
But critics said the government’s action was an onslaught against freedom of speech. Twitter plays a major role in voicing criticisms of the government in the country.
It was used to mobilise young Nigerians to join the #EndSARS protests against police brutality last October. The protests gained worldwide attention with world leaders and celebrities tweeting in support.
Dorsey also supported the protests and canvassed donations to be made to protesters in bitcoins.
In the months that followed, Nigeria clamped down on crypto trading, saying “opaque” currencies could be used to launder stolen money and fund terrorism. Nigeria is currently battling Boko Haram insurgency and has one of the most corrupt public institutions in the world.
Dorsey’s interest in Bitcoin is not a secret. Earlier in June, he announced on Twitter that his company Square was considering making a hardware wallet for bitcoin.
“If we do it, we would build it entirely in the open, from software to hardware design, and in collaboration with the community. We want to kick off this thinking the right way,” he said.