BY NIYI JACOBS
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has stated that cash withdrawals will not be possible from accounts opened for virtual and digital assets transactions.
According to the apex bank, withdrawals from these accounts will only be possible by transfer or through a manager’s cheque.
It revealed this in a new ‘Guidelines on Operations of Bank Accounts for Virtual Assets Service Providers.’
The apex bank said an account opened under its new guidelines will only be used for transactions on virtual/digital assets and not for any other purpose.
“No cash withdrawal shall be allowed from the account. No third-party cheque shall be cleared from the account. Except for settlement of a virtual/digital assets transaction which shall be done through a transfer to another designated account, the withdrawal shall be only through a managers’ cheque or transfer to an account,” the guideline reads in part.
In a December circular titled, ‘Circular to all banks and other Financial Institutions guidelines on operations of bank accounts for Virtual Assets Service Providers,’ with reference number FPR/DIR/PUB/CIR/002/003, and signed by the Director, Financial Policy and Regulation Department, Haruna Mustafa, the banking regulator announced a policy change on crypto assets and directed banks to begin to aid crypto transactions.
In its new policy direction, the bank stated that it was more open to the idea of regulation rather than its earlier position of the restriction of crypto assets from the formal banking sector.
The guideline, published alongside the circular, is meant to serve as the framework for the reintroduction of crypto into the formal banking sector.
Commenting on the guideline, the CBN said, “The Guidelines shall apply to banks and other financial institutions under the regulatory purview of the CBN.”
Part of the objectives read, “Provide minimum standards and requirements for banking business relationships and account opening for Virtual Assets Service Providers in Nigeria.”
Based on the guidelines, financial institutions are now allowed to undertake the following activities in their operations of accounts for Virtual Assets Service Providers including, opening designated accounts, the provision designated settlement accounts and settlement services, acting as channels for FX flows and trade, and any other activity that may be permitted by the CBN from time to time.
Commenting on how virtual asset providers can open accounts, the apex bank noted, “From the commencement of these Regulations, financial institutions shall not open or permit the operation of any account by any person or entity to conduct the business of virtual/digital assets unless that account is designated for that purpose and opened in line with the requirement of these Guidelines.
“The designated account shall only be opened with the approval of senior management of the FI.”
The new CBN guideline further provides an extensive list of other requirements aimed at protecting the financial system and customers from uncertainty and fraud risks.
Hammering on the need for financial institutions to adhere to its guidelines, the apex bank highlighted that erring banks could get their licence suspended.
The document read in parts, “Notwithstanding the powers of the CBN under the BOFIA 2020 and in addition to the use of remedial measures in these Guidelines, the CBN may take any or all of the following sanctions against a Fl, its board of directors, officers or staff for failure to comply with any of the requirements of these Guidelines:
“Prohibition from opening any further designated account; Monetary penalty not below the sum of 2,000,00O.00 against the FIs, members of its board, senior management, and any staff, for any infraction. Suspension of the operating licence of a Fl.”