It has been decades since development of digital assets began, and roughly 13 years since Bitcoin went live. Despite the time that has passed, regulators around the world are still figuring out how they want to approach such assets – with most having failed to establish any clear regulatory guidelines surrounding their use.
With digital assets such as cryptocurrencies beginning to attract mainstream attention over the past year, it would appear as though regulators are finally shifting more of their attention towards an asset class which is clearly here to stay.
Increased attention is not necessarily a good thing though. Although nations like the United States, Canada, Switzerland, etc., have assumed a somewhat receptive stance, there are those like Nigeria and India which appear to be more critical of the burgeoning asset class, resulting in harsh responses.
Bitcoin has found a place in the hearts of Nigerians, as the nation’s FIAT suffers from high rates of inflation every year, being devalued in the process. This increased attention being paid to digital assets has not gone unnoticed by the country’s Central Bank, and Securities and Exchange Commission.
Roughly two weeks ago, the Central Bank of Nigeria reiterated a previous order forcing all bank to close any accounts associated with cryptocurrencies. This decision by the Central Bank is in stark contrast to the Nigerian SEC, with the latter having previously announced that it was actively developing a framework for regulating the digital assets sector – rather than simply ban it.
While reiterating its previously announced stance, the Central Bank of Nigeria was harsh in its commentary, making it clear that it loathes digital assets. Not only are various clichés denouncing cryptocurrencies echoed, such as Silk Road and Warren Buffets ‘rat poison’ commentary, the Central Bank refers to market participants as a ‘conglomeration of desperate, disparate, and unregulated actors’ which threaten ‘sophisticated financial systems’.
While it is the part of regulators to protect investors and ensure fair markets, it would appear as though these recent moves have done anything but that. Rather than stem the tide of digital asset adopters within the country’s borders, the result of these recent moves is a steep premium being paid for assets like BTC. While the figure varies, it is believed that the going price of BTC in Nigeria sits around $85,000 USD – a hefty $30,000 premium over true market prices.
It is perhaps due to this response that the Nigerian SEC has taken the time to readdress the issue at hand. In a recent report, the Nigerian SEC goes on record stating that not only can digital assets not be ignored, but that it has resumed development of regulatory framework, in conjunction with the Central Bank.
“It is our desire that we do more work, collaborate as regulators and analyse to make sure that we provide a level playing field where Nigerians, international investors and whoever is interested in this space will be comfortable and happy.”
While the Nigerian SEC seems to indicate that it is now working WITH the nation’s Central Bank, it should be interesting to see what progress is made moving forward, as the two entities clearly view digital assets in a different lights.
Over the past few years, digital assets in India have seen their fair share of restrictions and harsh crackdowns – the most recent of which is expected to come from the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). It is being reported that the SBI will soon restrict companies looking to promote an IPO from holding and digital assets such as cryptocurrencies on their balance sheets.
This aforementioned restriction expected to be placed on IPO promoters is believed to be the result of a widely-expected ban on cryptocurrencies as a whole in the nation. While not yet official, if this ban were to occur, it would mean that IPO promoters holding cryptocurrencies would be in possession of illegal assets – something SEBI does not condone. These potential moves follow previous bans on cryptocurrencies by the Royal Bank of India, which were then later refuted/clarified by the organization itself when Supreme Courts ruled cryptocurrencies legal.
It would appear as though the various factions responsible for regulating finance in India are at odds with one another. Despite a past blanket ban, and its subsequent overruling, India will soon see its parliament potentially ban crypto again.
If a lack of regulatory clarity wasn’t bad enough, investors which reside in India need to contend with a rulebook constantly being amended. At least if this most recent harsh ban does occur, it is believed that investors will be given adequate time to offload any cryptocurrency holdings.