Earlier this week, some customers of Estonia-based crypto exchange, Patricia were seen at a building alleged to be the startup's Lagos office. However, Hanu Fejiro, founder and CEO of Patricia in an email to customers said “the location shown in the video is not an active office of Patricia”.
Due to the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, Patricia transitioned to a fully remote working plan for the health and safety of its team. “Our team members are spread across different continents, and as of now, we do not have an operating office in Nigeria,” the email adds. “Our business model is designed for remote operations, and we have invested significantly in infrastructure to facilitate this.”
However, in May 2019, Patricia took a major step by moving its physical operations to a four-storey building in the prestigious Lekki area of Lagos.
Shortly after the pandemic, the Central Bank of Nigeria announced a sweeping ban on cryptocurrency trading in the country. Fejiro said that this regulation led to the startup's decision to move its headquarters to Estonia, in July 2021. While announcing the relocation, the CEO described the ban as “a disastrous news [that] turned out to [be] the cornerstone we needed for this worldwide expansion”.
A year after Patricia relocated to Estonia, the startup announced the launch of a Lagos-based Innovation Hub in April 2023; the crypto exchange describes the hub as part of its corporate social responsibility and was set up to offer free co-working spaces to developers and cryptocurrency enthusiasts.
Why are customers looking for Patricia's office in Nigeria?
In May 2023, Patricia confirmed that it lost $2 million to a cyber hack. The company also said that out of its three subsidiaries—Patricia Personal, Patricia OTC Desk, and Patricia Business—only Patricia Personal, the retail trading application, was affected by the breach.
The crypto exchange paused withdrawals to enable an internal auditing process. “While customers could still deposit money into the app, they couldn’t move their crypto coins to other wallets. Instead, Patricia offered to buy those coins from customers and pay them cash to manage the situation. This workaround continued until March 2023,” says a report by TechCabal.
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While customer continued to find difficulties with accessing their funds. Patricia replaced customers’ assets—which were previously held in Naira or Bitcoin—with a newly launched native token, Patricia Token in August. This assets swap was done without the consent of the customers.
This decision was received with widespread criticism by the general public. During a town hall meeting last month, Hanu Fejiro told customers that Patricia has raised funding and is set to start repayment.
However, it got more complicated last week when Techpoint Africa reported that the Nigeria-focused crypto exchange asked one of its customers to swap his balance for company shares. “We have found investors but this is the only thing keeping us. This is the best we can do right now. It is most likely our last resort. We just need your cooperation,” according to a spokesperson at Patricia.
Fejiro said that this process will be managed by an undisclosed “SEC license trusted third-party”. The repayment process, according to the CEO, will commence immediately the Patricia Plus app is relaunched.