PDP, CSOs lampoon FG as NFIU uncovers 96 terrorism financiers

Lai Mohammed

The Federal Government says the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit has uncovered 96 financiers of terrorism as well as the 424 associates and supporters of the financiers.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed this at a press conference in Abuja on Thursday.

In a swift reaction, however, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party said it was hypocritical of the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to talk about terror financing.

It said government should go ahead to name the sponsors it had uncovered them.

While reeling out the achievements of the Buhari regime, the information minister also said the fraud unit unmasked 123 companies and 33 bureau de change operators linked with terrorism in the country.

However, Mohammed did not give the names of the sponsors and companies linked with terrorism.

He said, “For its part, the analysis by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, in 2020-2021, revealed 96 financiers of terrorism in Nigeria, 424 associates/supporters of the financiers, involvement of about 123 companies and 33 bureaux de change, in addition to identifying 26 suspected bandits/kidnappers and seven co-conspirators. The analysis has resulted in the arrest of 45 suspects who will soon face prosecution and seizure of assets.”

Mohammed added that from the NFIU’s analysis of tax evasion and tax avoidance linked to corruption, the agency identified N3.0tn in VAT and N3.7tn in Withholding Tax due to the government.

“The NFIU has also sent 1,165 intelligence reports on cases of corruption, money laundering and other serious offences to 27 domestic agencies for investigation, prosecution and asset recovery,” the minister said.

He revealed that on terrorism financing, the NFIU had intelligence exchanges on Boko Haram, ISWAP, banditry, kidnapping and others with 19 countries.

“During the same period, 2020-2021, the organisation returned fraudulently-obtained funds totaling US$103.7m, 3,000 Pound Sterling; 7,695 Singapore Dollar and 1,091 Euros to 11 countries of victims who came into the country,” Mohammed stated.

Buhari not fighting corruption to impress Transparency International – Lai

He further claimed that the Buhari regime had been able to fight corruption with several innovations such as the Treasury Single Account, the Bank Verification Number, the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, the Whistleblower policy and several others.

On why Nigeria continued to tank low on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Mohammed said the Buhari regime was not fighting corruption to impress anyone but to honour its promise to Nigerians.

Name terrorism sponsors, if you have found them, PDP tells FG

Responding however, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Dele Ologunagba, stated, “If they have found terror sponsors, they should name them.”

Ologunagba said the Buhari regime had no moral right to boast about fighting corruption when Transparency International had already revealed that Nigeria was the second most corrupt country in West Africa.

The PDP spokesman said it was unfortunate that the APC could still be playing games with the identities of terror sponsors despite the fact that thousands were being killed on Buhari’s watch.

“Over 10, 398 Nigerians were killed in 2021 alone and they are still telling us about plans to reveal terror sponsors,” he said.

 The PUNCH reports that this would not be the first time that the Buhari regime would claim to have identified terror sponsors.

In the United Arab Emirates in 2020, six Boko Haram sponsors were convicted for funding terrorism through money transfers from Dubai to Nigeria. Two of the convicts were jailed for life while others were sentenced between four to 10 years.

Through the bureau de change they operated, they wired a total of $782,000 to the terror group in 2019. According to UAE court proceedings, one of the facilitators of the transaction identified simply as ‘Alhaji Sa’idu,’ is allegedly based in Nigeria and responsible for facilitating the group’s access to funds from its sponsors.”  Another, “Alhaji Ashiru,” is tagged as a “Nigerian government official and senior undercover Boko Haram member” who facilitates the transfer of misappropriated public funds to the group.”

In May 2021, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, said 400 bureau de change operators who were Boko Haram sponsors had been arrested. Malami stated that they were arrested during an operation coordinated by the Defence Intelligence Agency, the Department of State Services, NFIU and the Central Bank of Nigeria.

He further revealed that the suspects were arrested northern states except Lagos. He said they were apprehended in Kano, Borno, Abuja, Lagos, Sokoto, Adamawa, Kaduna, and Zamfara during the operation that was sanctioned by President Buhari. The AGF promised that they would be prosecuted once the strike by court workers was called off.

However, Malami has failed to provide an update on the prosecution till date. Even when human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), who wrote a Freedom of Information request seeking an update on the case, the AGF’s office still failed to provide an update.

They will be revealed in court – AGF Office

When contacted on Thursday, the AGF’s Spokesman, Dr. Umar Gwandu, said the identities of the suspects would be revealed in court.

“One of the steps associated with the process of prosecution is the arraignment of suspects in court. It is, therefore, logical that identities of such suspects will naturally be made known when their pleas are taken in court. Their identities will be made known at that point,” Gwandu said.

Stop deceiving Nigerians, Falana tells FG

However, Falana asked the Federal Government to stop deceiving Nigerians.

The senior advocate said it was unfortunate that the Federal Government which had a penchant for parading robbery suspects and Internet fraudsters, was still shielding terror financiers from prosecution.

“The AGF said last year that they had discovered 400 terror financiers. Now Lai Mohammed says they uncovered 96 in the same year. Is the figure 400, 96 or 496? They should stop deceiving Nigerians.”

He said it was curious that eight months since judiciary workers called off their strike, Malami had refused to arraign the terror sponsors.

“The AGF said the strike embarked on by court workers delayed the prosecution of the terror sponsors. The strike was called off over eight months ago. What is their excuse now,” Falana asked.

Also in a chat with The PUNCH, The President, Association of Bureaux de Change Operators of Nigeria, Alhaji Aminu Gwadabe, called on the Federal Government to quickly prosecute those found wanting.

“It is also our conviction that those alleged to be involved will have a speedy trial before the court so that those found culpable could be punished and those innocent would be allowed to reunite with their families in no distant time.

“We also urge the regulators and the security agencies to de-risk the entire sector to continue to play its effective regulatory role of exchange rate stability in the economy,” he added.

Gwadabe said ABCON as a self-regulatory organization, has zero tolerance for non-compliance to anti-money laundering laws.

“As a responsible organisation we aligned with measures undertaken by government to rid the country of money laundering, terrorism financing resulting from predicated crimes,” he said.

“In the same vein our members are integrated to the Nigerian Interbank Settlement System BVN portal for the purpose of KYC and validation of their respective clientele information,” Gwadabe stated.

The Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, Dare Ariyo-Atoye said it should not have been difficult for the Federal Government to expose the Boko Haram sponsors ,saying that  their refusal to act was an indictment on the regime.

He said,  “The Federal Government is doing more to cover the terrorist sponsors than actually doing anything significant to unearth and prosecute those behind it. What the minister of information and the AGF are doing to this nation is a disservice to thousands of Nigerians who have been killed by this monstrous sect, to the security architecture of the country and every living Nigerian and total disservice to humanity. It must be made very clear to the government of Buhari that if they cannot name the people behind this assault on our  nation, they should keep quiet forever .

“It would be on record that the intelligence community gave them the names but they refused to act because they are either complicit or they have their friends and people in this administration  are complicit hence it should not have been difficult for them to expose these people. A  government that has refused  to act on the name released by the United Arab Emirate  cannot be trusted.

The National coordinator, Advocate for People Right and Justice, Giwa Victor, said this regime has not shown sincerity, adding that the only way to prove otherwise was to charge the identified sponsors to court.

He said, “There is insincerity on the part of the government. The AGF had promised to name some sponsors of these terrorists till now he has yet to. The only way to show they are sincere is to charge them to court, why are they not doing this? Or they are not taking them to court because they are close to them?  It does not take any special process to charge them since they have their details and the transactions they made.” (Punch)

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