2022 has been an incredibly busy and exciting year in the Nigerian legal and regulatory environment. There were major and far-reaching changes ushered in by the regulatory authorities particularly the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). There were also major developments relating to Banking and Finance, Competition and Consumer Protection, Startups, Capital Markets, Insolvency, etc. In this article, we have highlighted some of the major legal, regulatory, and judicial changes that occurred in 2022. This article is divided into four parts representing four quarters of the year. In each quarter, we deal with all the major legal changes that occurred therein.
1st Quarter (January – March 2022)
A remarkable feature of the first quarter was the issuance of regulations/guidelines by the CBN. Within this period, the Electoral Act 2022 was also signed into law by the President. The new Electoral Act introduced important changes to the conduct of elections Nigeria. Below are some of the highlights of the 1st quarter:
- The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Guidelines on the Introduction of E-evaluator, e-invoicing for Import and Export in Nigeria. Although the Guidelines were issued in January, it became operative on 1 February 2022 and requires the submission of an electronic invoice authenticated by the Authorised Dealer Bank for all import and export operations. The electronic invoice replaces the usual hardcopy final invoice.
- On 11 January 2022, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the establishment of the Nigerian Diaspora Investment Trust Fund, a private sector investment window for Nigerians in the diaspora to support direct investments in the country.
- On 18 January 2022, the Lagos State Government introduced the Consolidated Informal Transport Sector Levy to harmonize the taxes paid by transporters to the state government.
- On 26 January 2022, the Federal High Court in the case of Attorney General of Rivers State v. Attorney General of Federation and 3 Others, invalidated deductions by the Federal Government from the Federation Account for funding the Nigeria Police Trust Fund.
- The Central Bank of Nigeria Operating Guidelines for RT200 Non-Oil Export Proceeds Repatriation Rebate Scheme. This is a programme designed and introduced by the CBN to incentivize exporters in the non-oil export sector with the goal of raising $200 billion in FX over the course of the next three years.
- The Central Bank of Nigeria Guidelines for Regulation and Supervision of Credit Guarantee Companies in Nigeria. The Guidelines seeks to ensure a conducive environment for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to be able to access credit at low interest rates from banks and financial institutions. The requirements for obtaining a license and also the activities which are permitted and not permitted by the license are contained in the Guidelines.
- On 7 February 2022, the Lagos State Governor signed the Lagos State Real Estate Regulatory Authority Bill into Law. The law introduced significant changes to the real estate landscape in Lagos State by mandating the registration of real estate practitioners.
- Electoral Act (Amendment) Act 2022 (the Electoral Act). The new Electoral Act was signed into law on 25 February 2022 by President Muhammadu Buhari. The Electoral Act empowers the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to transmit election results electronically. Section 84 (12) of the Act, prohibits appointees of government, government officials from holding office while vying or contesting at party primaries.
- On 4 March 2022, the CAC stated in a circular that schools and other institutions would no longer be registrable as business names. This means they can now only be registered as a company pursuant to the Companies and Allied Markets Act 2020.
- On 23 March 2022, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) issued the License Framework for the Establishment of Mobile Virtual Network Operators in Nigeria.
2nd Quarter (April – June 2022)
This quarter witnessed a high level of enactment of laws and the issuance of regulations by the regulatory authorities. Importantly, three laws were passed to deal with the issues of corruption and terrorism in Nigeria. One of these laws (Money Laundering [Prevention and Prohibition] Act 2022) prompted the issuance of a guidelines by the CBN to bring its AML/CFT regulations in compliance with the requirements of the new law. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also issued a guideline to regulate digital and virtual assets. Below are some of the highlights of the 2nd quarter:
- On 6 April 2022, the President signed Executive Order 11 which mandates government to institutionalize maintenance of public buildings. The National Biotechnology Development Agency Act, 2022 was also signed on the same day. The law provides the legal framework for the established agency to carry out research and create public awareness in biotechnology to encourage private sector participation.
- On 24 April 2022, the Corporate Affairs Commission announced the approval of the Insolvency Regulations 2022 by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Development. The regulations govern insolvency proceedings under the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020.
- On 12 May 2022, the President signed the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022, the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Act, 2022, and the Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022.
- The Central Bank of Nigeria Exposure Draft Guidelines for Open Banking in Nigeria. These Guidelines are aimed at enhancing competition and innovation in the banking system. It established the principles for data sharing across the banking and the payments system and broadened the range of financial products and services available to bank customers.
- The Central Bank of Nigeria Guidelines for the Registration and Operation of Bank Neutral Cash Hubs (BNCH) in Nigeria. The Guidelines are aimed at reducing the risks and cost borne in the course of cash management and to also enhance cash management efficiency. The registration of a BNCH is to be undertaken in two stages of obtaining CBN Approval-in-Principle and final approval. The BNCH are to be licensed to take deposit and disburse high volume cash on behalf of financial institutions but cannot carry out lending activities, receive or disburse foreign currency or sub-contract their operation.
- Revised Guidelines for the Operation of Non-Interest Financial Institutions’ Instruments by the Central Bank of Nigeria. These Guidelines replaced the 2012 Guidelines and were issued to regulate the issuance of non-interest instruments by Non-Interest Financial Institutions (NIFIs) while also stipulating the requirements and terms of operation for NIFIs.
- The Central Bank of Nigeria (Anti-Money Laundering, Combating the Financing of Terrorism and Countering Proliferation Financing of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Financial Institutions) Regulations, 2022. The CBN issued the Regulations to bring its regulations on anti-money laundering and combatting the financing of terrorism to be in compliance with the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022 and safeguard the financial institutions from being used for financial crimes.
- The Securities and Exchange Commission issued the Rules on the Issuance, Offering Platforms and Custody of Digital Assets. The Rules were issued by SEC on 13 May 2022 and provide for the issuance of digital assets, registration requirements for Digital Assets Offering Platforms (DAOPS) and Digital Assets Custodians (DAC) among others.
- On 25 May 2022, the Federal High Court in the case of Femi Davies v. National Broadcasting Commission, nullified the National Broadcasting Code (6th Edition) through which the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) sought to regulate the practice of advertising in Nigeria. The court held that it was beyond the power of the NBC to regulate advertisement.
3rd Quarter (July – September 2022)
The regulatory authorities in the banking and finance sector, particularly the CBN, were very active in issuing one form of guidelines or the other. The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) issued a guideline to regulate the activities of digital money lenders after a series of predatory practices by many digital money lenders. There was also a judgement of the Court of Appeal which re-affirmed the power of the Federal Inland Revenue Service to collect VAT from hoteliers. Below are some of the highlights of the 3rd quarter:
- The Central Bank of Nigeria Review of the Industry Quick Response (QR) Code Presentment Options. The review was done by the CBN to enhance the flexibility offered by the use of QR codes in payments. The review provides that the implementation of the QR code for payments shall be based on either merchant-presented or consumer-presented modes.
- The Central Bank of Nigeria Exposure Draft on the Digital Financial Services Awareness Guidelines. This was developed to address gaps in consumer knowledge and practices with Digital Financial Services (DFS). The Guidelines provides for a set of principles and expectations for financial service providers to integrate in the provision of DFS to ensure consumer understanding, good treatment and positive outcomes.
- On 1 July 2022, the Court of Appeal set aside the judgement of the Federal High Court in the case of The Registered Trustees of Hotel Owners and Managers Association of Lagos v. Attorney General of Lagos State which invalidated the powers of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to collect Value Added Tax (VAT) from hoteliers and held that the collection of the tax is in the purview of the state government. The Court of Appeal has now held that it is the FIRS that has the authority to collect VAT. See Federal Inland Revenue Service v. The Registered Trustees of Hotel Owners and Managers Association of Lagos.
- Limited Interim Regulatory/Registration Framework and Guidelines for Digital Lending 2022. The regulations were issued by the FCCPC on 18 August 2022 to provide the FCCPC’s approach to regulating the digital lending space and makes provisions for the requirements for approval/registration to carry out the business of digital lending in Nigeria. Thus, by this Framework and Guidelines, institutions engaged in digital lending activities are to be registered with the FCCPC.
- The Revised Handbook on Expatriate Quota Administration 2022 (the Revised Handbook). On 31 August 2022, the Federal Ministry of Interior announced the issuance of the Revised Handbook. The Handbook increased the minimum share capital requirement of a company wishing to apply for business permit from N10,000,000 to N100,000,000. It also reduced the lifespan of Expatriate Quotas (EQs) from ten to seven years. However, the provisions of the Handbook are yet to be operational.
- The Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) banned the use of foreign voice-over artists and models on any advertisement which targets the Nigerian advertising space. The ban took effect on 1 October 2022.
4th Quarter (October – December 2022)
The Nigeria Startup Act was enacted during this quarter, and it represents a remarkable achievement towards incentivizing startups in Nigeria through the incentives and programmes dedicated to spur the growth of startups in Nigeria. A sport policy was also developed and approved with the motive to position the sport sector to generate revenue while standardizing it. The CBN was also active with the issuance of several guidelines and regulations to regulate players in the Nigerian financial services sector. Below are some of the highlights of the 4th quarter:
- Exposure Draft Guidelines for the Regulation of Representative Offices of Foreign Banks in Nigeria. The Guidelines stipulate how a representative office of foreign banks can be licensed in Nigeria. It enumerates the activities they can validly engage in in Nigeria such as marketing the products and services of their foreign parent or affiliate and states that they cannot engage directly in any financial transaction.
- Exposure Draft Guidelines on Contactless Payments in Nigeria. The Guidelines provide the minimum standards and requirements for the operation of contactless payments and specified the roles of stakeholders such as acquirers, issues, payment schemes, merchants, etc.
- Nigeria Startup Act 2022. On 19 October 2022, the Nigeria Startup Act, 2022 was signed into law. The law aims to provide an enabling environment for the establishment, development, and operation of startups in Nigeria and to position Nigeria’s startup ecosystem as the leading digital technology centre in Africa.
- National Sports Industry Policy (NSIP) 2022 – 2026. On 2 November 2022, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the National Sports Industry Policy (NSIP) 2022 – 2026. The policy contains provisions on governance regulations, infrastructure development plans, incentives for private investors, etc. aimed at standardizing the Nigerian sport sector and thereby generating revenue.
- CBN Naira Redesign Policy – Revised Cash Withdrawal Limits. Citing the need to combat fraud, corruption, terrorism and to ensure that most of the money in circulation are within the banking vault, the CBN issued the policy document on 6 December 2022 to reduce the daily and weekly cash withdrawal limit and also to introduce certain requirements for withdrawing across the counter beyond the set limit at the rate of 5% fee for individuals and 10% for corporate organizations. The revision of the cash withdrawal limits was done by the CBN pursuant to the recent redesign of the Nigerian currency i.e. N200, N500 and N1,000 notes. Coming less than three months before the next general elections in Nigeria, this policy has received a lot of resistance from the political class.
2022 has been a remarkable year in the Nigerian legal and regulatory space and saw the enactment of the Start Up Act, the redesign of the Naira and the introduction of far-reaching regulations especially by CBN aimed and tackling corruption, fraud and financial crimes.
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Please note that the contents of this Article are for general guidance on the Subject Matter. It is NOT legal advice.
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