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CBN temporarily bans Opay, Palmpay, others from opening new accounts

Customers have expressed panic as the Central Bank of Nigeria bans mobile money operators including fintech firms from onboarding new customers.

However, the Bank Customers Association of Nigeria says it backs the CBN directive.

The new directive will affect fintech companies such as OPay, Palmpay, Kuda Bank, and Moniepoint, who are being barred from opening new accounts until further notice.

Reliable sources from three major fintechs who requested not to be mentioned as they were not permitted to speak, confirmed the development to The PUNCH on Monday.

The CBN’s move was linked to an ongoing audit of the Know-Your-Customer process of the fintechs, which have been under scrutiny in recent months over concerns around money laundering and terrorism financing.

It was gathered that the CBN had summoned some of the heads of fintechs to Abuja to discuss issues around KYC last week.

The CBN has not yet publicly commented on the directive to the fintech firms. The PUNCH’s attempts to reach the apex bank for comment were unsuccessful.

Several calls made to the telephone line of the CBN spokesperson, Hakama Ali Sidi, were not responded to as of the time of filing this report.

Also, the directive coincided with the court order that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) obtained to freeze at least 1,146 bank accounts owned by various individuals and companies allegedly involved in illegal foreign exchange transactions.

The 85-page court order (document), which listed the bank account details suspected to be involved in illicit activities, was obtained by The PUNCH on Monday.

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Justice Emeka Nwite, in a ruling on the ex-parte motion, moved by counsel for the anti-graft agency, Ekele Iheanacho, also granted the commission’s application to conclude the investigation within 90 days.

Part of the court document reads, “That the applicant’s (EFCC) application is hereby granted as prayed.

“That an order of this honorable court is hereby made freezing the bank accounts stated in the schedule below, which accounts are owned by various individuals who are currently being investigated in a case involving the offenses of unauthorised dealing in foreign exchange, money laundering, and terrorism financing, to the extent that the investigation will be for a period of 90 (ninety) days.”

The EFCC, in the motion marked FHC/ABJ/CS/543/2024 dated and filed April 24 by Iheanacho, was heard by the judge the same day in the interest of national interest. “The motion was brought pursuant to Section 44(2) and (K) of the 1999 Constitution; Section 34 of the EFCC Establishment Act 2004; Section 7(8) of the Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Act, 2022; and under the inherent jurisdiction of the court.”

The President of the Bank Customers Association of Nigeria, Uju Ogubunka, backed the CBN’s move to suspend new account opening on the affected platforms.

He said the strict regulations that govern deposit money banks must apply to fintechs, and microfinance banks in order to ensure the integrity of the financial institutions.

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He said, “Anything that can disrupt the system should not be permitted. If the platforms are being used for things that are against the regulations, I think the CBN decision is OK. I don’t see anything wrong with that. It behoves on the companies now to get their KYC right.

“Let them do what they are supposed to do. KYC applies to banks and other financial institutions that deposit money. It should also apply to them so that the regulators can understand what is going on and hold them accountable.”

Source: The PUNCH

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