By Dipo Olowookere
A few days ago, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) introduced some rules to guide the use of cryptocurrency in Nigeria.
The decision by the apex capital market regulatory agency to regulate cryptocurrency in the country was applauded by many, who have yearned for this for a very long time.
For clarification sake, a cryptocurrency is a digital asset used as a form of exchange for goods and services. It can also be called a virtual currency, which is not controlled by any central bank.
SEC, in its Statement on Digital Assets and their Classification and Treatment, said cryptocurrency can be issued in Nigeria, but with specific guidelines.
Explaining why the guidelines were put in place, the Head of Registration, Exchanges, Market Infrastructure and Innovation at SEC, Mr Emomotimi Agama, stated that “the first thing the SEC bothers about is investor protection.”
According to him, “This is no different from what we have been doing. We are looking at investor protection, integrity, transparency and of course we want to make sure that the market is safe and everyone is comfortable with what is going on in the investment climate.”
Mr Agama noted that last year, the commission launched the Fintech roadmap and after that was done, it went ahead to set up the blockchain virtual financial assets committee.
“These committees are both market-wide and principally done to engage the market, to be able to have discussions with the market and get their buy-in into what we are doing,” he said.
“What we found out today is that a lot of persons, youths are all involved in this space and it is important that even as far as that is the case, the SEC lives up to the expectations and making sure that those people that are getting into the business are protected,” he explained.
“Clearly, that is our aim and the market is part of this and indeed the feedback has been wonderful. People are happy with what we are doing, being able to provide some clarity as to where we stand in terms of digital assets regulation,” Mr Agama added.
“Digital assets are the next thing, our idea is not to stifle innovation, but to promote innovation within a reasonable space and that is exactly what we are doing. Section 13 of the ISA empowers us to do this and so we are doing what we have been empowered to do by law,” the SEC executive noted.
On what internal capacities the SEC is developing to meet the challenges of this fast-changing digital financial world, Mr Agama said “the SEC is a knowledge-based institution and before we come out of this kind of initiatives, we would have done so much research.
“I need to tell you that the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance has been partnering with the SEC and up to this point, we have been engaging with them and several of our staff have been part of their programmes.
“The World Bank and other institutions are also working with us on Fintech to see that the Nigerian landscape is not left barren but guided with basic principles, we will not leave any stone unturned, but ensure that everyone within the SEC that has the responsibility to guiding investors and the populace in making sure we have an investment environment that people will be proud of is provided.
“Capacity building is a continuous exercise, we will continue to upgrade ourselves, we will continue to learn because knowledge is for life”.
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