By Philip Nwosu
As issues continue to surround the recent order by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)to banks not to provide financial services to cryptocurrency businesses, some low-income Nigerians have had a life changing experience from trading in the virtual currency within the past few years, despite its volatility
Matthew Ighalo, a 35-year-old graduate of Economics was a Mathematics teacher when the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Nigeria in 2020.
It didn’t occur to him that payment of his N30,000 ($63) a month salary would become difficult for his employer who runs a low-budget private school in a suburban area of Lagos. He kept believing the Federal Government would find a way to keep students in school and teachers like him employed until the lockdown arrived.
Once the notice of movement restriction was made public, his employer sent the teachers a terse email about how the lockdown would affect the running of the school. They were to embark on an immediate leave without payment.
The February salary was yet to be paid, but the school proprietor promised to pay; he never did.
It was in the quest to survive that a friend introduced Matthew to cryptocurrencies. At the time the price of bitcoin was experiencing its usual volatility.
“By February the price rose to over $10,000 only to drop to $9,160 in March and $8,784 in April. I entered the market in March and despite a decline in the market, I still made a profit.
“I like the volatile nature of cryptocurrency and with the help of cryptocurrency trading, I’ve been able to earn money at home, even much more than the salary I earn as a teacher. I have been able to feed my family and conveniently pay my other bills,” Matthew said.
Matthew’s story is similar to hundreds of Nigerians who earn their means of livelihood through cryptocurrency trading.
For 26-year-old John Michael, the choice of trading in cryptocurrencies was easy to make. His father being a retired civil servant and his mother, a petty trader; the burden of completing his education in the university wasn’t an easy one. His redemption came the day a friend invited him to attend a seminar on cryptocurrencies.
Promptly, he downloaded the Binance app, a global crypto exchange, and began a journey that would see him pay his way through school and run a business as a trader.
“I learnt how to trade the right way after which I started trading and began making little income,” he said.
“Now I am a graduate and I’ve paid all my fees in school with crypto currency trading. I’ve paid all my fees in school and I am out of school with crypto currency trading.”
Another trader Ola Adeoye, recalls how he lost his job in 2017 as an account officer in a Public Relations firm and was unable to find a new one. To feed himself and five dependents at a point became very difficult.
He started learning about crypto currency by also attending the Binance Masterclasses that trained over 70,000 Africans in 2020 on how to understand the concept of crypto currency and what to gain from it. Ola thereafter downloaded the Binance app and started trading.
“Today, I am happy I lost the job then, if not maybe I would still not know what cryptocurrency is until now,” he said.
During the lockdown, Luno took a more virtual approach to customer engagement by hosting a series of trading webinars as part of their focus to educate the masses about cryptocurrency and its use cases. Recording over 15,000 concurrent views in total within a quarter.
Indeed there has been a huge spike in crypto currency and blockchain interest among Nigerians because of its educational and career benefits – for traders and non-traders.
While speaking on a National TV Station, (Channels TV), former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Kingsley Moghalu, said “Nigerians have made over $500 million in transactions involving crypto currencies in the past five years.”
Some experts say it could be more than $500 million. Nigeria however is presently the largest peer-to-peer trader on the African continent and the second in the world behind the United States.
The latest order by the Central Bank of Nigeria to banks not to provide financial services to crypto currency businesses limits the ability of these traders to earn income.
Findings reveled that, since the letter went out, global exchanges like Binance and Luno have suspended naira deposits on their platforms.
Local exchanges like BuyCoins, Bundle, and Quidax have done the same. All placing restrictions on naira deposits on their platforms.
Even few fintech firms that do not provide crypto exchange services like Risevest and Bamboo have also suspended deposits on their platforms.
Moghalu also made the point that the crypto currency market has created hundreds of employment opportunities for many Nigerians, hence the need to review the CBN’s position which could potentially threaten these jobs as well.