Amid Protests, Bitcoin Gives Nigerians Alternative To Banking System

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By Landon Manning

After the Nigerian government shut down the bank accounts of the Feminist Coalition Group, a group of young Nigerian feminists working toward establishing equal rights for women in the country, the organization has turned to Bitcoin as a new asset for funding coordination efforts of its anti-police protest movements.

In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by American police officers on May 25, 2020, protests against police brutality spread beyond the United States and into many other countries around the world. One of the countries affected by this new protest wave has been the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa with nearly double the number population of any other country on the continent. 

One of the specific demands from protestors in Nigeria has been the removal of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a police unit that has been tied to overuse of force, even organized criminal operations like extortion and kidnapping. Though the country’s Inspector General of Police announced on October 11, 2020 that this controversial unit would be disbanded, a lack of further reforms has left many protestors in the country determined to continue the push for serious change.

As a result, Nigerian protest groups have been collecting funds to facilitate their actions, such as paying bail for jailed protestors. The Feminist Coalition Group, which manages such funds, took to Twitter on October 13, 2020, to announce that its bank account had been deactivated and its online donation link taken down. Several hours later, however, the group followed up with the declaration that it was still able to accept donations into its fund, posting an address for supporters to donate Bitcoin.

Bitcoin has been used as a protest tool in various forms for several years. Thanks to its trustless, pseudonymous and decentralized model, Bitcoin has considerable potential as a way to build up structures outside of the watch of the state, allowing activists to operate more freely worldwide. Bitcoin reached its peak use in Hong Kong alongside anti-extradition protests in 2019, and a community in Chile saw a new buzz of activity alongside that nation’s recent upheaval. These examples are fairly recent, but there has been a wide range of usage in Bitcoin for various actions deemed illegal over the years, notoriously including by Hamas, a prominent organization resisting Israeli occupations in Palestine. 

The wider crypto community has heard the call of Nigeria’s Feminist Coalition Group, and its request for funds has been echoed by several prominent figures adjacent to the space. In particular, Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted a link to its account on October 14, 2020, garnering more than 80,000 retweets. A few days after posting its Bitcoin address, the group had received more than 1.1 BTC, valued at around $12,500 at the time of this writing. The speed with which the international Bitcoin community has been able to help these protestors on an international scale does more than simply provide a use case: it shows that the world’s number one cryptocurrency is able to truly foster a global community based on cooperation and mutual respect.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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