Activists banned by Nigerian banks are using Bitcoin to combat police brutality

Activists banned by Nigerian banks are using Bitcoin to combat police brutality


As protests erupt in Nigeria in response to police brutality, an enclave of protesters has turned to bitcoin as a financial lifeline during turbulent times.

The Feminist Coalition's bank account was closed this month after its involvement in the SARS End protests surfaced, according to a person familiar but not affiliated with the group, who asked to be identified as Emma (a pseudonym). End SARS is a movement in Nigeria to abolish the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a subdivision of the police force with a history of abuse and harassment of citizens.

Driven out of the traditional system, the Feminist Coalition is now raising donations in bitcoin.

The #EndSARS protests

The Feminist Coalition was founded in July with the mission of "defending equality for women in Nigerian society with a primary focus on education, financial freedom and representation in public office".

With the outbreak of protests against police brutality this month, the group has focused on providing medical care, legal assistance and even funeral financing for participants in peaceful demonstrations.

Since the protests broke out in early October, 10 Nigerians have died at the hands of the police, according to CNN.

As of October 16, the Feminist Coalition had raised a total of 69.891.637.15 naira (a shy $185.000 dollar pair), of which 15.443.280.00 ($40.000) were used to help 128 protests across the country, according to the coalition website.

Bitcoin and censorship-resistant fundraising

All of this fundraising attracted the attention of the authorities, however, and they were excluded from Flutterwave, the payment platform and something like a virtual bank used to process donations. (To date, Flutterwave has not returned CoinDesk's request for comment.)

That was when they looked for alternatives.

"Many members of the group work with technology," so they made the decision to use bitcoin as another payment option, Emma said.

They started off using Sendcash, a platform that converts bitcoin payments into naira and then deposits those funds into a recipient's Nigerian bank account. The service is intuitive and highly useful, but there is a risk that banks will almost certainly sniff out the source of Feminist Coalition funds and close their accounts again.

The coalition no longer uses Sendcash because of this likely outcome. But they still accept bitcoin: Alex Gladstein, the strategy director for the Human Rights Organization, created a BTCPay server for them. Emma called the self-hosted payment process “a safer wallet” compared to other options.