Despite warnings by regulators and legislators, Nigerians have continued to invest in crypto currency, trading up to N1.38 billion across 13 local crypto-currency exchanges in the country.
However, analysts have urged government to embark on smart regulatory tactic in controlling the surge in the trend.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP at the weekend, software developer and chief architect at Cymantiks Nigeria Ltd, Emeka Okoye, urged the government, particularly the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Deposit and Insurance Corporation (NDIC), which have been at the forefront in the fight against crypto currency in the country, to do a rethink on the way to regulate the use of crypto currency.
Noting that crypto currency will not take the place of fiat money, he said the criticism against crypto currency will further fuel speculation and encourage its use by outlaws.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) had last week urged governments to look into the regulation of crypto currencies in the fight against money laundering and financing terrorism.
Many countries in recent times are coming up with stronger regulations for the trading of crypto currencies. Although the value of Bitcoin, which is the most popular and most traded crypto currency, has been down since December 2017, interest in the currency is yet to wane in Nigeria.
Having seen the highest weekly trading average of N1.94 billion in mid-December last year, weekly average turnover had dropped to N1.299 billion at the end of December before rising to N1.817 billion in January.
As at February 12, 2018, which is the latest data on Coin.dance, a global crypto currency tracking website, weekly average of Bitcoin trading on the exchanges in Nigeria was at N1.389 billion. This is aside the investments of Nigerians in other crypto currencies such as Ethereum and Billioncoin among others.
Okoye advised regulators in the country to adopt "smart regulation" rather than outright ban of crypto currency.
He said: "It is an attitude of allowing innovation to move forward and let regulation follow, because at the end of the day, it is about the consumers and not about the players.
"If they ban crypto currency, it means they are outlawing a tech tool and when you outlaw a tech tool, outlaws will use the tools, and when they use them, you have no control - people will have to live with the consequences.
"Right now we do $4.7 million weekly and we are expecting more. Now we have more exchanges; by count we should have up to 13 crypto exchanges in Nigeria. If you really want to see its implication in Nigeria, think of MMM.
"MMM was a pointer that things are not all right. We cannot continue to regulate things. It is not going to work if we keep regulating things to work against the desires of the people. It should be about the people. When you talk of innovative products and services, we cannot use the same tactics we use in the old economy. This is a new economy. The power has gone to the consumer."
According to him, regulators need to understand the situation properly before applying bans.
"First of all, do they understand how it works? I can build a crypto exchange and it is not domiciled in Nigeria; they cannot regulate it. Secondly, do they understand that I also have a foreign card and they cannot control what I do with it?" Okoye queried.
He, however, noted that there was no way crypto currency will replace fiat money, saying it will only complement its use and make it easier to move wealth around more conveniently.
He also noted that the current trend of speculation driving the value of crypto currency is a distraction from the real value.
"Speculation of crypto currency is a big distraction and it is turning the internet to be an internet of money rather than being an internet of value. This speculation has nothing to do with the value we can derive from it," he said.