Ahead of Nigeria’s general elections in February 2019, Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which is the country’s largest opposition party has included the creation of a “comprehensive blockchain and digital currency policy” in his policy document.
The move comes as a significant surprise as the country’s regulatory establishment led by the Central Bank of Nigeria has consistently held a very cautious albeit non-hostile line toward cryptocurrency.
Break With Tradition
Atiku, who served as Nigeria’s vice-President between 1999 and 2007 is running on the platform of a moderniser trying to disrupt the status quo and spark Nigeria’s slumbering economy into life. The country is still suffering from the twin effects of a devastating 2016 recession and an accompanying global oil price slump which saw the Naira lose 85 percent of its value in less than 24 months.
Nigeria’s financial regulatory environment has traditionally been perceived as conservative, with banks exerting a significant amount of influence over regulatory processes and decisions. As a result, despite a growing awareness and adoption of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies among the general population, authorities have repeatedly issued statements warning against cryptocurrency investment.
In January, CCN reported that CBN governor Godwin Emefiele described bitcoin investment as a “gamble” that should ideally be regulated. Despite the posturing however, Nigeria has one of Africa’s most vibrant peer-to-peer cryptocurrency trading ecosystems, and providers like PundiX have launched successful bitcoin payment products in the country.
Against this backdrop, Atiku is seeking to present his vision of large scale job creation as necessary for national security. He is also trying to position himself as a leader who is well-positioned for the 21st century,