On the 1st of October 2021, the Central Bank of Nigeria ("CBN") in furtherance of its mandate to issue legal tender currency, ensure financial system and promote the development of electronic payments system under the Central Bank of Nigeria ("CBN") Act 2007 and the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act ("BOFIA") 2020 issued the Regulatory Guidelines on the eNaira. The provisions of the Guidelines shall apply to all financial institutions and users of the eNaira.
The eNaira is the digital form of the Naira. It is a legal tender, which forms part of the currency in circulation, being at par with the physical Naira. The CBN expects the eNaira to complement traditional Naira as a less costly, more efficient, generally acceptable, safe and trusted means of payment. In addition, it will improve monetary policy effectiveness, enhance the government's capacity to deploy targeted social interventions and boost remittances through formal channels.
To access, use and hold eNaira, the eNaira wallet is required. Also, the eNaira will be exchangeable for other Central Bank Digital Currencies ("CBDC"). The CBN had earlier planned to launch the eNaira on the 1st of October to mark Nigeria's 61st Independence Day celebration, but it was postponed to another date that has not been revealed.
PARTICIPANTS OF eNAIRA TRANSACTIONS AND THEIR ROLES UNDER THE REGULATORY GUIDELINES
- Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN): The CBN shall be exclusively responsible for minting, issuing, distributing, redeeming and destroying the eNaira. They shall determine the technical, regulatory and operational standards for the eNaira and managing unresolved eNaira issues and complaints escalated from the Financial Institutions. Other duties include monitoring compliance with applicable regulations, issuing regular directives and reviewing Guidelines on eNaira periodically as may be required.
- Financial Institutions ("FIs"): The Financial Institutions shall serve as the intermediaries between the CBN and the customers. They shall be responsible for facilitating eNaira wallet onboarding for bank customers (merchants and customers). They shall also Integrate the eNaira wallet feature into their digital banking channels, request eNaira from CBN for themselves and on behalf of its customers, manage the eNaira across their branches, develop and/or update reporting and internal frameworks to ensure compliance with Know Your Customer ("KYC") and Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism ("AML/CFT") requirements, receive and resolve customers' complaints on eNaira; and ensure that eNaira enquiries and complaints are included in its periodic reports to CBN. The onboarding of FIs shall be done automatically by the CBN.
- Merchants: Merchants are to provide customers with alternative channels for making transactions using eNaira, provide cashback services for customers, publicise the option of eNaira payment for transactions at merchant locations and protecting their eNaira wallet credentials against fraudulent access. Merchants shall be onboarded by FIs upon downloading the "eNaira Speed Wallet" from the app stores and fulfilment of requirements.
- Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs): MDAs are permitted to receive revenue in eNaira and make payments in eNaira. MDAs shall be onboarded by the CBN upon receipt of the appropriate mandate.
- Consumers: Consumers are the end-users of the eNaira and their roles include: creating eNaira wallets and funding it, utilising eNaira as an alternative payment option for legitimate transactions, protecting their eNaira wallet access credentials and notifying financial institutions in the event of fraud/complaints/disputes. Consumers onboarding shall be self-service upon downloading the "eNaira Speed Wallet" from the app stores and fulfilment of the requirements.
OTHER KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF THE REGULATORY GUIDELINES ON THE eNAIRA
- The eNaira shall be administered by the CBN through the Digital Currency Management System ("DCMS") to mint and issue eNaira.
- Financial institutions (FIs) shall maintain a treasury eNaira wallet for holding and managing eNaira on the DCMS. The FIs Suite is the primary application used by the FIs to manage their digital currency holdings, requests, and redemption with the CBN.
- The eNaira platform shall host eNaira wallets for different stakeholders.
- The eNaira stock wallet belongs solely to the CBN and it shall warehouse all minted eNaira.
- A financial institution shall maintain one treasury eNaira wallet to warehouse eNaira received from the CBN eNaira stock wallet. FIs may create eNaira sub-treasury wallets for branches tied to it and fund from its single eNaira treasury wallet with the CBN.
- A financial institution may create eNaira branch sub-wallets for its branches. The eNaira branch sub- wallet shall be funded from the treasury eNaira wallet.
- eNaira Merchant wallets shall be used solely for receiving and making eNaira payments for goods and services.
- eNaira Consumer wallets shall be created for end-users to transact on the eNaira platform.
- The charges for eNaira transactions shall be in line with the Guide to Charges by Banks, Other Financial and Non-bank Financial Institutions.
- Two-factor authentication and other measures shall be adopted to ensure the security of the eNaira wallet.
- Financial institutions shall integrate their backend systems to the DCMS for efficient transfer of eNaira between bank accounts and eNaira wallets.
- During the onboarding process, users shall have the option to disclose whether the eNaira wallet being created will be operated for themselves or as trustees.
- Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) shall apply on the eNaira platform. It is responsible for the detection and prevention of fraud and other transactions considered illegal.
IMPLICATIONS FOR THE NIGERIAN ECONOMY
The eNaira is, undoubtedly, a welcome development as it will be a catalyst for enhancing the Nigerian digital economy and a more financial inclusion system in line with global trends. As a matter of fact, digital currency is the future, and if Nigeria fails to move with the trend, it will be left behind. As opined by many experts, the eNaira will facilitate the ease of doing business in Nigeria, enhance means of payment for transactions carried out both locally and internationally, and have an impact on the value of the naira in the long run, howbeit indirectly.
However, beyond these perceived benefits, other pressing matters have direct impacts on the strength and value of the Naira like the level of production and the forces of demand and supply. In other words, the eNaira is just a digital representation of the Naira itself; it does not strengthen it, neither does it possess a higher value. Thus, the CBN should continue to embark on policies that would ensure that Naira gains value relative to other currencies and in the international market. Also, the CBN as well as FIs and Other Financial Institutions must ensure that adequate security measures are constantly put in place to prevent the issue of fraud or hackers from accessing customers' details and performing unauthorized transactions via the eNaira wallets.
Although the official launch date of the eNaira has not been announced, following its postponement, it is hoped that it will be done very soon and through the platform, Nigeria will be better placed among the list of countries embracing the digital economy evolution. It is also hoped that the platform will make cross border payments easier and make the Naira widely used and accepted.
This piece is intended to provide information to the public and does not in any way, constitute a legal advice.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.