Binance vs Nigeria: A timeline of events as they unfold

From regulatory concerns to legal battles: Key events in the Binance-Nigeria saga and their impact on Africa's crypto landscape.

Binance vs Nigeria: A timeline of events as they unfold
Assets: Mbe4design & Latino Life | Design by Ifeoluwa Awowoye for Mariblock

The clash between Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, and Nigerian authorities has become a focal point in the ongoing debate over cryptocurrency regulation in Africa’s fourth-largest economy. What began as concerns over currency manipulation has escalated into a full-blown legal battle, with far-reaching implications for the crypto industry in Nigeria and potentially across the continent.

As Nigeria grapples with economic challenges and seeks to assert control over its financial markets, the Binance controversy highlights the complex interplay between innovation, regulation, and national economic interests in the rapidly evolving world of digital assets.

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This timeline tracks the key events in the unfolding saga, from the initial regulatory rumblings to the latest developments in the court case.

February 20 

  • On February 20, several of Binance’s Nigerian users took to social media to complain of difficulties on the exchange’s peer-to-peer (P2P) platform. These users could not trade the United States dollar-pegged stablecoin, USDT for naira. Unknown to most, this was merely a sign of more woes for Binance in Nigeria.
  • In what looked like a move to prevent customers from on-ramping the naira, Binance placed restrictions on purchasing USDT using the naira on its P2P platform. 
  • Binance’s P2P marketplace — which serves mainly as an escrow for holding funds on behalf of two participants in a trade — disabled the “Buy” option and took down several ads suggesting the same. 
  • It also put a N1802/USD peg on USDT-naira trades for traders looking to sell their USDT.

February 21 

  • Binance reversed the trade restrictions it had put in place the day before and allowed trade to continue, albeit briefly. 
  • In a press release, the exchange claimed the restrictions resulted from its algorithm built to prevent fraud in cases of significant funds movement.

February 22 

  • Nigerian authorities reportedly directed telecommunications service providers to restrict access to notable crypto exchanges, including Binance, Coinbase and Kraken.
  • The Financial Times cited unnamed sources familiar with the development, saying the ban was implemented because decision-makers believed that currency speculators and money launderers used these exchanges to manipulate foreign exchange rates.
  • Binance confirmed in an email to its users that its platform alongside others was indeed down in Nigeria and added that it was in contact with Nigerian regulators and policymakers.

February 26

  • In furtherance of its engagement with the Nigerian government, two Binance officials — African regional director Nadeem Anjarwalla and head of financial crime compliance Tigran Gambaryan — flew into the country.
  • After an initial meeting with Nigerian officials, both were detained at a guest house in the Nigerian capital city of Abuja. 
  • The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) also confirmed an inter-agency investigation into Binance
  • Another top government official, Bayo Onanuga, confirming the arrests, said that both employees of Binance had been fully cooperative in giving information to the Nigerian government. 
  • Onanuga added that the Nigerian government wants Binance to pay up to $10 billion in reparations and damages for sabotaging the Nigerian economy.

Telling quote

“This country recorded massive losses from their operations [because] they allowed people to ... fix the exchange rate arbitrarily. The government is asking them to pay us close to $10 billion in retribution because they messed up our economy in a short time,” Onanuga said.

March 5 

March 18 

  • Nigerian anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) secured a court order mandating Binance to share information on Nigerians who have transacted on its platform. 
  • The EFCC said the move was necessary because it received intelligence that Binance’s Nigerian users were using the platform for money laundering and terrorism financing. 
  • In addition, the inter-agency committee set up by the ONSA to investigate Binance claimed that Nigerians also used the platform to manipulate foreign exchange rates for arbitrage purposes, causing the naira to fall drastically.

March 19 

  • Nadeem Anjarwalla, one of the detainees, escaped from the guest house where he and Gambaryan were held. 
  • Per reports, he was led by the guards to a nearby mosque for Ramadan prayers, from where he managed to escape and get on a flight out of Nigeria using his Kenyan passport.

March 22 

  • The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) initiated criminal proceedings against Binance before a Federal High Court in Abuja. 
  • The Nigerian taxman alleged the exchange of failing to register with and refusing to pay taxes as mandated by Nigerian law.

April 8 

  • In another suit, the EFCC also dragged Gambaryan to court on additional charges of money laundering, currency speculation and tax evasion to the tune of $34 million. 
  • Gambaryan had pleaded in an earlier court appointment that he should not be served with charges on behalf of Binance, a plea the judge refused to honor. 
  • The judge ordered that Gambaryan be transferred to a Nigerian prison, the Kuje Correctional Center in Abuja.

May 7 

  • Binance’s CEO Richard Teng reacted to his company’s woes in Nigeria for the first time publicly.  
  • He complained about the continued detention of Gambaryan despite his organization’s cooperation with investigations and earlier assurances that no harm would come to the company’s officials. 
  • In a blog post, he mentioned that the Nigerian government had promised safe passage to the two executives when invited into the country in February. 
  • Teng further claimed that the Nigerian government, via an unnamed proxy, asked the exchange to pay $150 million worth of crypto in a backdoor deal to ‘make the problems go away.’  
  • According to Teng, the company perceived this as a request for a bribe and refused to accept the underhanded deal. 

May 9 

  • A spokesman for the Nigerian Ministry of Information, Rabiu Ibrahim, denied allegations of bribery leveled against the Nigerian government by Teng. 
  • Instead, he labeled them as false and nothing but a diversionary tactic. 
“The phantom bribe claim is part of an orchestrated international campaign by this company that is facing criminal prosecution in many countries, including the US, to undermine the Nigerian government. It will not clear its name in Nigeria by resorting to fictional claims and mudslinging media campaigns,” Ibrahim said.

June 4 

  • Twelve United States lawmakers petitioned the president of the US, Joe Biden, to secure Gambaryan’s release from Nigeria, where he has been held for more than three months. 
  •  The US lawmakers argued that the charges leveled against Gambaryan were baseless and the Nigerian government’s refusal to release him was only a ploy to control and extort Binance. 
  • In response, Nigeria’s Minister of Information, Mohammed Idris, said the country had followed due process in its prosecution of Binance. 
  • He further claimed that Binance’s operation in Nigeria fetched it $20 billion in 2023 alone. 

June 14

  • The FIRS dropped the charges it brought against Gambaryan and Anjarwalla and agreed to serve Binance solely through its local representative. 
  • This made Binance the sole defendant and freed Gambaryan from appearing in court on behalf of the exchange during future proceedings in the case brought against Binance by the FIRS.

June 24 

  • The Blockchain Industry Coordinating Committee of Nigeria (BICCoN) warned that the protracted legal tussle between the Nigerian government and Binance could have lasting effects on the blockchain industry in the country. 
  • In a press statement, BICCoN said startups in the country have already begun to see a decline in foreign investment because they fear standoffs like this could endanger their investment. 
  • BICCoN said
“The protracted regulatory issues involving Binance have had significant implications for the industry ... These events have led to a chilling effect on investment, with a notable decline in foreign investments and collaborations with Nigerian web3 startups.” 
  • Instead, it advised the Nigerian government to adopt a balanced approach by giving Binance a fair trial and working to reassure foreign investors that the country is not trying to stifle innovation. 

July 2 

  • Justice Nwite of the Federal High Court in Abuja again orders the Kuje Correctional Center to release the medical records of Gambaryan’s visit to the hospital. 
  • The embattled US citizen, who has been unwell for several weeks, has only been allowed to visit the hospital once while his health deteriorates, a statement shared with Mariblock by Gambaryan’s representatives claims. 
  • On the same day, the court concluded the examination of the first witness in the EFCC’s case against Binance and Gambaryan and adjourned the trial till July 5.


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