I must start by thanking God for seeing us through the year 2021, arguably a most challenging year in all ramifications—from the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic that has ravaged humanity to the CBN pandemic that has ravaged the blockchain & crypto industry in the country. With resilience, we haven’t just made it to 2022, but we are also stronger, together.
It has been one year in office as SiBAN President. During my electoral campaign, I described 2021 as the year of regulation. It was one of the reasons I offered myself to help the SiBAN community navigate the expected policy & regulatory hurdles in Nigeria’s uncertain and unclear crypto business environment.
In January 2021, I led SiBAN’s collaboration with Blockchain Nigeria User Group (BNUG), Cryptography Development Initiative of Nigeria (CDIN), and some independent stakeholders to form the intercommunity working group, Blockchain Industry Coordinating Committee of Nigeria (BICCoN). In February 2021, BICCoN collaborated with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to inaugurate the Anti-Scam Taskforce in order to sanitize Nigeria’s blockchain & crypto industry. In February 2021, in response to the CBN directive on cryptocurrencies in Nigeria, SiBAN, with the support of some players in the community, responded to the issues raised by the CBN action by engaging stakeholders, including the media and members of the public. With the support of the Executive Council, I also led SiBAN to collaborate with Fintech Association of Nigeria (FintechNGR) in March 2021 when we contributed to a comprehensive industry paper, and had the paper circulated to over 15 government ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) in the country. Unfortunately, the National Assembly, which was to invite us to also have a say on the issue, did not do so after hearing from the CBN Governor who continues to demonize cryptocurrencies as tools predominantly used by criminals, a position that is, with due respect, contrary to facts. We continue to responsibly engage the government and other stakeholders on this matter.
From the MoU SiBAN signed with the Global Digital Asset & Cryptocurrency Association (Global DCA) to founding the global Blockchain Associations Forum (BAF) in collaboration with the British Blockchain Association (BBA) and other leading blockchain associations across the globe; from being admitted as a member of the Centre for Evidence-Based Blockchain (CEBB) to other steps we took towards helping us pool knowledge and experience together from various markets and jurisdictions to benefit the educational, policy, and regulatory efforts of the Nigerian blockchain & crypto industry and jurisdiction, these steps are well documented in my earlier speech, ‘The End of the First Half of the Year and Our Unflinching Commitment to a Bigger, Stronger, and Greater SiBAN’.
At the tail end of the first half of 2021, with the support of the Executive Council, I led SiBAN to found Fintech Alliance Coordinating Team (FACT) in collaboration with BICCoN, the Fintech Association of Nigeria, and other stakeholders in Nigeria’s FinTech space. Through FACT and BICCoN, SiBAN engaged the CBN’s Technical Working Committee on CBDC. We used the opportunity of this engagement to not only present a paper on eNaira adoption but also pointed out the need for the CBN to consider introducing substantive regulation for cryptocurrencies rather than shy away from its growing adoption. We also emphasized the need for eNaira to encourage a multi-stakeholder approach as well as ensure a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity and privacy.
In July 2021, we collaborated with the Institute For the Future (IFF) of the University of Nicosia (UNIC) on blockchain education and its adoption, having identified blockchain adoption and education as a critical need for the growth and development of the emerging blockchain industry. I believe we are yet to maximize the opportunity provided by this collaboration. In 2022, as we deepen and expand SiBAN membership, our collaboration with UNIC’s IFF will become more vital.
Following the eventual launch of the eNaira by the CBN in October 2021, the blockchain & crypto industry witnessed a fresh clampdown based on the CBN circular on cryptocurrency in Nigeria’s banking and financial system. SiBAN worked closely with other industry stakeholders at BICCoN level to issue a press statement on the matter and also introduced the industry’s 5-point Crypto Advocacy Agenda in Nigeria (5 CAAN!). As earlier communicated in the press release, the central idea of 5 CAAN! is engagement with the Nigeria presidency; the Finance Minister with the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning; law enforcement agencies, and the National Assembly. Seeking legal redress is not left out. We continue to seek support for 5 CAAN! so we can, together, support individual efforts in crypto advocacy in Nigeria.
While we continue to engage as responsibly as we can with the resources at our disposal, I strongly believe that we can do more to secure the future of Nigeria’s blockchain & crypto industry.
In 2022, we remain committed to SiBAN’s mission to promote blockchain education and adoption in Nigeria; self-regulate the blockchain and cryptocurrency space for consumer protection and investor confidence in the country; and champion blockchain advocacy, regulations, and reforms towards ensuring that both private and public sectors embrace blockchain technology to transform lives, businesses, and governance in Nigeria. To help us achieve this mission sustainably, I will be leading SiBAN to drive the following programs and projects in 2022:
- Self-regulation: Adoption of codes of conduct and model policies for self-regulation towards a safer Nigeria blockchain & crypto industry in accordance with global best practices. In the absence of blockchain & crypto regulation in Nigeria, we cannot continue to watch consumers and investors exposing themselves to avoidable risks. Though SiBAN has always embraced self-regulation, I have sought the approval and support of the Executive Council to take this to another level. With the technical support of SiBAN’s Policy & Regulations Committee and the work of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) SRO Consultative Committee on self-regulation, I am happy to announce that in the first quarter of this year, SiBAN will be introducing codes of conduct and model policies for various segments of the blockchain & crypto industry. I am presently leading SiBAN’s efforts at collaborating with the leading global digital assets group on practice codes, Global Digital Finance (GDF) to enable us adopt codes that are consistent with global best practices in the digital assets industry.
- SiBAN Community Engagements: In July 2021, we announced a new membership structure in order to build a SiBAN that is more responsive to the needs of its members and the industry at at large. We introduced SiBAN Village Square, SiBAN Market Square, and SiBAN Exclusive Square. But in the last 6 months, we have struggled to implement this new SiBAN community-engagement structure, largely due to administrative lapses and the seemingly unending issues that the present hostility from CBN’s anti-crypto policy has caused us. In 2022, we have created a calendar of events and I will use my office to ensure that we follow the calendar, subject to any necessary reviews or changes. I use this opportunity to encourage all members and nonmembers SiBAN to support us by participating in these community and industry engagements. An industry that does not meet to talk can neither meet its goals nor talk of growth. The SiBAN Media & Publicity Unit will be better mobilized to ensure adequate publicity for each engagement.
- Membership Mobilization, Growth, and Expansion: While the last one year has been mainly dedicated to internally strengthening SiBAN particularly with strategic collaborations and partnerships locally and internationally, I am going to be leading SiBAN to mobilize more resources for membership mobilization, growth, and expansion. I envision a SiBAN where every virtual asset service provider (VASP) in the Nigeria blockchain & crypto space is a member of SiBAN. For this purpose, I will be rejigging the SiBAN Membership Committee and the Membership Registration Unit (MRU) so we can deliver on this in a specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely (SMART) manner. We are introducing, finally, a membership certificate for all our registered members. This SiBAN membership certificate will be issued by the SiBAN Secretariat to only registered members who have completed their KYM (Know Your Members) requirement. This is part of our effort at ridding the space of bad actors. As soon as practicable, SiBAN will introduce and maintain a publicly-accessible membership directory for all registered members. We are also reviving Pizza, SiBAN’s newsletter, as a quarterly publication. The January edition and subsequent editions will now be available via pizza.siban.org.ng. If you are not already a SiBAN member, join us today.
- Constitutional Amendments: Based on the recommendations submitted to my office by the SiBAN Policy & Regulations Committee last year, I will be finally setting up a Constitutional Amendment Committee to review and amend the SiBAN Constitution. From leadership structure to membership structure, voting rights to disciplinary measures, we are looking at a SiBAN Constitution that will make the association stronger.
- Blockchain Conference: For the first time in the life of our association, I am happy to announce that SiBAN will be having its annual conference, P2P Conference. The 2-day P2P Conference is scheduled to hold in Lagos, June 2022. As soon as the dates are finalized and the details of participation are ready, this would be announced. Sponsors and partners are welcomed to project their brands at SiBAN’s first-ever annual blockchain conference. I use this opportunity to encourage players who will be invited to join the Blockchain Conference Committee that would be set up to kindly give us their time and support towards making the P2P Conference a resounding success. I am particularly excited about the window of opportunities and possibilities P2P Conference will open up for the SiBAN community and the blockchain & crypto industry at large, both in Nigeria and Africa.
As SiBAN President, I envision a SiBAN that is responsive to the needs of its members and the blockchain & crypto industry. While we are faced with limited resources at the Executive Council, I believe that I am doing my best to fulfil my promises as your President. By the end of my 2-year tenure which ends in November 2022, I look forward to handing over a better, bigger, and stronger SiBAN that everyone would be proud to associate with.
Long live SiBAN! Long Live the blockchain & crypto industry! Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Senator Ihenyen , SiBAN President
Updated to include SiBAN’s collaboration with UNIC’s Institute For the Future (IFF)