A Week in Nigeria: 19 September

Highlights from Reuters coverage of Nigeria over the last seven days

Some houses were destroyed following heavy rains in the northwestern state of Kebbi

In this week’s round-up: Nigeria plans agency to manage seized assets, cryptocurrency regulation to be introduced, plus floods and maize shortages create looming food security crisis.

  • Nigeria plans to form an agency to manage the hundreds of millions of dollars in assets seized domestically or returned from abroad following anti-corruption probes, according to the justice minister. The oil-producing nation has repatriated more than $300 million this year that officials determined were the proceeds of corruption. Last year, it seized $40 million worth of jewellery and a gold iPhone from a property in Nigeria belonging to a former oil minister. The anti-graft agency in the past has also seized an ill-gotten apartment block and other real estate. Justice Minister Abubakar Malami said the plan would create a one-stop shop to manage seized assets in an open and accountable way. He called the plan the “next level of transparency,” and said the agency could also give the Finance Ministry a budget for recovered assets. Nigeria has struggled for decades with endemic corruption, and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley raised concerns this year about the return of money due to worries over whether there were “proper safeguards to prevent the further misuse of funds”. Currently, seized or returned cash and assets go to whichever agency got them, be it the police, state security service or the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. In July, Nigeria suspended the EFCC chief after the justice minister accused the agency of diverting funds that had been recovered during investigations into corruption allegations.
  • Nigeria will begin regulating trade in crypto-token or crypto-coin investments, the financial watchdog said in a statement. Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission said regulation was essential to protect investors and ensure market integrity and transparency. “The position of the Commission is that virtual crypto assets are securities, unless proven otherwise,” the SEC said in a statement. “Thus, the burden of proving that the crypto assets proposed to be offered are not securities and therefore not under the jurisdiction of the SEC, is placed on the issuer or sponsor of the said assets.” The statement said any crypto assets that are not structured to be exclusively offered through crowdfunding portals or “other exempt methods” would be regulated. In 2018, the Nigerian central bank warned cryptocurrencies were not legal tender, and that investors were unprotected. Still, monthly cryptocurrency transfers to and from Africa of under $10,000 jumped more than 55% in a year to reach $316 million in June, data from U.S. blockchain research firm Chainalysis showed. In Nigeria, the data showed small cryptocurrency transfers totalled nearly $56 million in June, almost 50% more than a year before.

Nigeria bureau chief for Reuters. Ghanaian family, British accent. Ex-BBC, before that newspapers.