By Henry Umoru
ABUJA—THE Senate, yesterday began probe into the proliferation of digital currency, bitcoin, and ponzi schemes in Nigeria.
The Senate has mandated mandated the Senator Rafiu Adebayo Ibrahim, APC, Kwara South-led Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions to investigate the viability of bitcoin as a form of investment, come up with recommendations on how to control its uses/trade, and report to the Senate within two weeks.
The upper chamber also asked the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Godwin Emefiele, the Managing Director of Nigeria Deposit Insurance Commission, NDIC and the Management of Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC to make an unequivocal statement across all the news platforms in all dialects on the dangers of bitcoin as a store of value in Nigeria.
It called on the National Orientation Agency, NOA to spread the news against all forms of wonder banks and Ponzi schemes operating in Nigeria.
In a motion titled; ‘Urgent need to investigate the proliferation of bitcoin, a form of Crypto-currency, to ascertain the worthiness of same as a form of investment in Nigeria’, the senate stressed that not only has the proliferation of bitcoin become one of the best forms of investment in the country, it is openly marketed across the country on the local television and radio stations, mostly to Nigerians, “not aware of the consequences.”
A senator, Benjamin Uwaiumogu(APC, Imo North), who sponsored the motion, expressed concern that Nigerians were “freely advised, and even persuaded to invest in crypto-currency as it promises quick returns, in certain instances, a triple or quadruple of the invested sum as profit within days.”
He said Google quoted one bitcoin to be the equivalent of N5, 706, 713.20 as at December 10, 2018.
Acording to him; he said he is aware that ‘’bitcoin is not recognised by the Central Bank of Nigeria, does not exist in any tangible form and is also not subject to any international or local monetary regulations, or backed up by any established government institutions for that matter.’’
The lawmaker also reminded the senate that the MMM bubble of 2016 (ponzi scheme) left millions of Nigerian families broken, devastated and many businessmen lost all their capital in the phony scheme.
A ponzi scheme is an investment opportunity that promises quick returns usually without any identifiable product or service rendered. It usually thrives on network marketing structures.
“As Nigeria is recovering from recession, it will be devastating for our citizens to lose their hard-earned money on schemes they could easily have avoided had they been properly advised by the government,” the lawmaker said.
Mr. Uwajumogu lamented that the Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigeria Stock Exchange, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Commission and the National Orientation Agency are not doing enough to educate Nigerians on the investment risks inherent in Bitcoin.
He expressed worry that wonder banks like Bitcoin traders, Swiss golden traders etc. have carried on their businesses unchecked in Nigeria, mostly to the detriment of the citizens.
Contributing to the motion, Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West) urged Nigerians as well as relevant intelligence agencies to learn from the MMM saga.
“Many lost their lives due to MMM. No country, no intelligence agency will allow financial