Chimezie Chuta speaks on starting BNUG, the dilemma of crypto regulation

Temitope Akintade
Chimezie Chuta started the Blockchain Nigerian User Group (BNUG) after he completed his 3 months Pre-MSC Cryptocurrency and Blockchain programme at the University of Nicosia…

As a community lead organizer, Chimezie Chuta has been involved in a significant number of industrial and governmental projects on cryptocurrency and technology. In addition to being a founder of Blockchain Nigerian User Group, he has authored a series of books on blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Chimezie graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He is a certified tech innovation expert with a strong background in software application development.  He has been in the tech space since 2007 and has grown to become a regular speaker at various blockchain, cryptocurrency and technology conferences and media platforms both locally and internationally. 

He got into Blockchain and crypto in 2016. He admits that although he has been trading and speculating on digital assets since then, his real passion is for the technology behind the blockchain and how it could be leveraged to transform lives and society.

In an interview, the seasoned technology innovator shares with us his background before his advent into tech, and his views on blockchain/cryptocurrency in Nigeria. 

“That was why I founded Blockchain Nigeria User Group (BNUG). I lost a lot of money in those early days because of scams of all sorts. But we have been using BNUG as a platform to teach and empower thousands of Africans on the potentials of this disruptive technology.”

Chimezie Chuta on crypto regulation 

Cryptocurrency is said to be a haven for criminals and money launderers. Going by that fearful industry trend, there have been propositions that the sector needs to be regulated. 

Chimezie Chuta

However, Chimezie thinks that this is a common misconception:

“…findings from globally exposed institutions that track on-chain transactions of crypto such as Chainalysis shows that only about two per cent of financial Crimes are carried out with crypto. The truth is that criminals always go wherever money flows. Agreed that there have been a lot of crypto scams too, but regulations will help to reduce that and also bring much-needed confidence in the sector.”

In a normal setting, regulation of the crypto sector sounds like a great idea. But, the objection by most anti-regulation argumentation holders is that the concept of regulation simply contradicts the notion of decentralisation, which is the foundation of the blockchain. 

Nevertheless, Chimezie Chuta believes they can coexist somehow:

“Blockchain is a technology and is subject to regulation just like other technologies. Decentralisation does not connote freedom to do whatever one likes. We are a community of humans as such live in civilised and organised systems. Regulation is part of that organisation we need for the tech to experience mass adoption. A wide wild west kind of situation does not and cannot encourage institutional participation. Hence, regulating how people use and interact with the technology and ensuring proper ethics and level playing ground cannot hurt the Industry.”

On the Blockchain Nigerian User Group 

Chimezie Chuta started the Blockchain Nigerian User Group (BNUG) after he completed his 3 months Pre-MSC Cryptocurrency and Blockchain programme at the University of Nicosia, Cyprus in 2016.

According to him, his eyes were then open to the huge potential of disruptive technology. He started looking for different ways to share his knowledge with young people, whom he believed could create innovative products and services if properly motivated.

“I used my social media handles, published my first book on Blockchain and Cryptocurrency opportunities, then I formed the group with some of my early associates.”

BNUG brand logo

BNUG has become a global brand associated that is championing Blockchain and crypto adoption in Nigeria and across Africa. The organisation has put in significant efforts to mobilise industry players and the regulators to craft the right framework for a national Blockchain policy in Nigeria as well as other regulatory instruments since 2018. 

Today, BNUG holds national conferences in major Nigerian cities: Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt where it brings stakeholders on board to discuss topical issues and assess opportunities for development in the blockchain industry. 

“We run a very vibrant and educational Telegram Channel. Some years ago, we launched our BlockchainDev1000 initiative. It is aimed at raising at least 1000 Blockchain developers in Nigeria within 3  years. As a community we publish a monthly Blockchain-focused New Magazine. Our membership is free and we simply onboard you into our private telegram group, and subscribe you to our newsletter. Based on the new member’s interest, we can co-opt him into any of our several working groups.”

On the state of cryptocurrency in Nigeria

Cryptocurrency is in a state of confusion in Nigeria. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has continually issued warnings and sanctions on banks, individuals and organizations that engage in crypto activities. 

In the same country, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Nigeria (SEC) released a regulatory framework that recognises crypto and its industry players in May. 

Cryptocurrency in Nigeria. Image source: Technext

As a member of the Fintech Roadmap Committee of The Nigeria Capital Market and Virtual Financial Assets Regulations Working Group, both set up by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Nigeria, Chimezie Chuta is the right man to shed a bit of light on that dilemma. 

“In fairness to these regulators, they have been making efforts towards understanding and formulation of the proper policy and regulatory framework since 2017. They are not alone in being slow and undecided as most of their counterparts in different jurisdictions are also facing the same challenges. 

For CBN, an unregulated asset class like crypto interacting and interfacing with a hugely regulated banking sector is a total no. Their reasons are all valid. But we as an industry have argued for a risk-based approach. The CBN wants us to believe that not regulating crypto is their own form of regulation. But we said, hell no. You have to create a policy and regulation that will foster the industry. SEC Nigeria has gone ahead to publish its guidelines for operators in the sector, which is good and legitimises the industry. I strongly believe that we will get it right. We just meet to keep pushing.”

In conclusion, Chimezie Chuta sees Nigeria playing a pivotal role in the crypto-verse in the near future.

He is optimistic that the efforts that stakeholders in the space like him have put in to ensure that the continent has the talent to support development, the right regulatory framework for accelerated development as well as increased awareness for adoption yields the desired result one day. 

“Now we have partnerships with VCs and Startup Accelerators like Adaverse, helping to fund viable Blockchain and crypto projects, even as Africa is already identified as the new frontier for tech innovation. Nigeria being in the centre of all these engagements will play a key role”, he concludes.

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