The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) has refuted a report by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) body alleging that a terrorist organisation, ISWAP laundered about N18 billion through Nigeria’s formal financial system, annually.
NFIU, in a statement signed by its chief media analyst, Ahmed Dikko, described the report as untrue.
Controversy had trailed the revelation by ECOWAS’ Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa, (GIABA) that the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) moved about N18billion ($36m) generated from trading and taxing communities in the Lake Chad region through the Nigerian financial system annually.
The body, established in 2000 to lead the West African sub-region’s efforts to tackle Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Financing of Terrorism (CFT), also criticised the federal government for its failure to track the movement of funds by the terrorist groups, through the country’s financial system.
The report estimated ISWAP’s revenues, which it put at $36 million (N18 billion) annually, to be larger than that of Boko Haram. It said much of the revenue came from trading activities and taxation in the Lake Chad region.
ECOWAS Report is stale -NFIU
But reacting to the report, NFIU described the report as “totally outdated and was based on a 2019 country evaluation report which is literally stale and irrelevant today”.
It said that Nigeria’s counter-terrorists financing efforts have practically moved forward since then.
“It is to the knowledge of the international community, our populace and the formal media organisations that several arrests were made through the ongoing Operation Service Wide approved by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA). The exercise is continuing and far from over”.
”In addition, all funding of violence from all sections of the country are being evidently analysed and reported to all relevant authorities according to law.
The financial intelligence unit said the ECOWAS body released its report to justify putting Nigeria’s financial system under an enhanced review process alongside other countries in the Sahel.
“We had formally faulted the report to the ECOWAS body while agreeing to partner with them to carry out further review processes to jointly attain global best practices on all counter measures against local and cross border violent crimes disturbing entire West Africa presently.
“All our neighbours have proofs of our exchange of terrorist financial intelligence with them real-time,” the statement said.
However, while acknowledging the recent happenings on how Nigeria fell victim to illicit financial flows, NFIU said ”overt and far-reaching efforts are being executed by the government to stem the bad practice.”
This comes against the backdrop of the naming and conviction of terror sponsors from Nigeria by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia.
The UAE government had, in September, reportedly named six Nigerians on its terror list. This comes barely a year after the Gulf country convicted six other Nigerians indicted for funding Boko-Haram, a dreaded group raining terror in Nigeria, last November.
The chairperson of the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, had declined to speak on the identities of those indicted for terrorism financing.
He said he is not in the best position to give names of suspected terrorism sponsors in Nigeria.
Months after the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, confirmed an ongoing of some arrested the suspects, not much has been heard about moves to prosecute them as promised.
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