Nigerians turn to Bitcoin for security and social change

Nigerians turn to Bitcoin for security and social change

By Alice Leetham - min read

Bitcoin popularity amongst young Nigerians has surged this year, driven by a desire for financial freedom and an end to police corruption

Nigerians have been suffering under police brutality and extortion for years, as the Human Rights Watch detailed back in 2010. A corrupt unit of the Nigerian Police Force, known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), have a horrifying history of human rights abuses – they would regularly extort people for their money, property or valuables, resorting to violence and torture to achieve their ends.

SARS often targeted young people and looked through their phones to find evidence of how much money they had in their bank accounts. This led some to find creative solutions, like storing their wealth in Bitcoin, as the police were less likely to find it.

The #EndSARS movement has grown over the last few years, with their protests having some success recently. One of the biggest funders of the campaign is The Feminist Coalition, who faced difficulties earlier in the week, with one member tweeting: “For demanding an end to police brutality we are now under attack! Our bank account has been deactivated and so has the Flutterwave donation link.”

But that wasn’t going to stop them – the group announced yesterday they were moving to only accepting donations in Bitcoin using BTC Pay, saying: “BTC Pay is a free, secure, decentralized and censorship-resistant platform, which makes it our best option, given the past few days.”

By today, The Feminist Coalition had a balance of 3.78981852 BTC ($42,878), which they have been using to support protests and pay for medical and legal aid according to their progress report published yesterday.

Twitter and Square CEO, Jack Dorsey, tweeted his support for the Bitcoin fundraiser on Tuesday, while Ray Youssef, co-founder of peer to peer Bitcoin marketplace Paxful, also voiced support for the movement earlier in the week.

All this has led to a surge in the popularity of Bitcoin in Nigeria, with Google trend data showing that Nigerians have been searching Bitcoin more than any other nation. Also, with the launch of MetaMask Mobile, ConsenSys revealed last week that Nigeria had the third highest volume of mobile users after the USA and India.