In line with international counter-terrorism recommendations,the Nigerian Government has started making efforts to confiscate the assets of identified terrorism financiers and their associates.
According to some media reports security and intelligence agencies were scouting for the physical assets, including companies and bank accounts of individuals and groups indicted for terrorism in the country.
The reports says 18 persons, entities and companies have been added to the Nigeria Sanctions List under the supervision of the Nigeria Sanctions Committee, a multi-agency panel created by the Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022.
The groups include the Indigenous People of Biafra, Boko Haram, Islamic State West Africa Province, Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan, the Yan Bindiga and Yan Ta’adda terrorist groups and 13 persons convicted for financing Boko Haram.
IPOBs major source of funding has been attributed to contributions from Diaspora members and sympathisers through dedicated online platforms and overseas-based bank accounts, while the other entities are believed to fund their activities through ransoms from kidnappings, cattle rustling, robberies and illegal tax on communities under their control.
The 16-member sanctions committee is chaired by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN.
Other members include the ministers of finance, foreign affairs and interior, as well as the National Security Adviser; the Director-General, Department of State Services; Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria; Inspector-General of Police; and the Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Also on the committee are the Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission; Chairman, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency; Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service; Director-General, National Intelligence Agency; representative of the Chief of Defence Staff; Director-General, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and other Related Offences; the Director of the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit as secretary; and any other relevant person or institution that the President may incorporate into it.
Among others, the committee has powers to formulate and provide general policy guidelines on designations made under sections 49, 53 and 54 of the Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022 and advise on the effective implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions related to terrorism financing and proliferation financing, and allied instruments of the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States.
It can also recommend to the AGF appropriate sanctions including travel ban, freezing of funds, assets seizure, and other economic interests of persons and entities designated under the United Nations Consolidated List or under the Nigeria
The Nigerian government, it was learnt, had identified 96 financiers of terrorism, including 424 associates/supporters of the financiers, whose assets would be confiscated after due legal process had been concluded.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed in February that the intelligence agencies had unmasked 123 companies and 33 Bureaux De Change linked with terrorism.
There are reports that a massive search and freeze campaign for all the assets of terrorists and terrorism sponsors was ongoing.
Giving an update on the initiative on Thursday, a senior Justice ministry official stated, “At the last sitting of the Sanctions Committee last week, we identified several assets belonging to the terrorists and their sponsors, but we have not started seizing the assets; we are working on that. We will get court orders to freeze and forfeit the assets.
“We are still looking at companies that have terrorism financing elements; once we have identified that and of course investigations will have to identify those that have assets. We will then file ex parte motions, but we have not got there yet.
“However, we have identified the assets of six groups/entities and we are tracing other properties and companies owned by these people. In fact, the bulk of them were tried and convicted. All their accounts have been frozen, but we have not traced their physical assets. Those are the details we are working on; our investigators are tracing their physical assets”
It was also disclosed that 13 convicted sponsors of Boko Haram had been added to the Nigeria Sanctions List, a master list of all persons and institutions blacklisted for terrorism.
Those newly added to the sanctions list are Abdurrahaman Ado, Bashir Yusuf, Ibrahim Alhassan, Muhammad Isah, Salihu Adamu, Surajo Mohammad, Fannami Bukar, Muhammed Musa, Sahabi Ismail, Mohammed Buba, Alin Yar Yaya General Enterprises, K. Are Nigeria Limited and Suhailah Bashir General Enterprises.
The first six alleged sponsors of Boko Haram and the three enterprises were tried and convicted in 2020 by the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal for transferring $782,000 from the United Arab Emirates to the insurgents.
A joint terrorism financing investigation between 2019 and 2021 established a link between one of the convicted terrorist financiers and the insurgents. The convict, who dealt in gold from artisanal mining in the North-West and North-Central, was said to have moved N560m.
Alin Yar Yaya General Enterprises was linked with Yusuf, who is serving a 10-year jail term in Abu Dhabi.
The company, whose address was given as No. 2 Danladi Auyo House, Wapa, Fagge Local Government Area, Kano, was registered on April 15, 2016.
Are Nigeria Limited, registered on September 19, 2019, was promoted by Surajo Muhammad, who is serving a life imprisonment in Abu Dhabi for financing Boko Haram from Dubai.
Suhailah Bashir General Enterprises, registered on November 28, 2016, was linked to Yusuf, who is serving 10 years in UAE for collaborating with Boko Haram.
Both Yaya and Bashir Enterprises were added to the sanctions list on November 8, 2022.
On July 5, 2022, the sanctions committee added six other entities namely JamaÃ¡tu Ahlis Sunna LiddaÃ¡wati Wal-Jihad (Boko Haram), Islamic State West Africa Province, Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan, the Indigenous People of Biafra, Yan Bindiga and Yan Ta’adda terrorist groups.
Yan Bindiga and Yan Ta’adda are bandit organisations declared terrorist groups on November 25, 2021, by the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The groups’ activities started several years ago in Zamfara, Katsina, Kebbi, Kaduna and Sokoto states and they were said to have partnered with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, Boko Haram, Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in carrying out major attacks aimed at raising terrorist financing within the bandits areas of influence.
In 2021, a total of 2,883 attacks were carried out by the groups, of which 51 were attacks on troops, while others were carried out on communities and commuters.
The sanctions committee in a notice to the Security and Exchange Commission dated November 10, 2022, said all capital market operators were required to immediately identify and freeze, without prior notice, all funds, assets and any other economic resources belonging to the designated persons and entities in their possession and report same to the secretariat of the Nigeria Sanctions Committee.
The operators were also directed to report to the secretariat any assets frozen or actions taken in compliance with the designation, including attempted transactions, pursuant to the provisions of Section 54 of the Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022.
The capital market operators were also expected to immediately file a suspicious transactions report to the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit for further analysis on the financial activities of such an individual or entity; and equally make a suspicious transactions report to the NFIU, all cases of name-matching in financial transactions prior to or after receipt of the sanctions list.
The market operators were subsequently prohibited from dealings with the designated persons and entities and to continue to check for transactions relating to the designated person or entity and the actions to be taken if funds or other assets or suspect transactions were discovered.
“Note that this freezing obligation extends to all funds or other assets that are owned or controlled by the designated person or entity, and not just those that can be tied to a particular act, plot, or threat of terrorism or terrorism financing; those funds or other assets that are wholly or jointly owned or controlled directly or indirectly by designated persons or entities,â€ the notice read.
The search and freeze campaign involved all national enforcement agencies and the regulated private sector entities with specific mandate to immediately track, discover and freeze all funds, physical and financial assets, businesses, organisations and all other related entities to the terrorism sponsors.
The Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations to the AGF, Dr Umar Gwandu, confirmed that the initiative was designed to deny terrorists access to the financing they need to carry out their acts, thereby decimating their operations in order to ensure a peaceful and prosperous Nigeria.
He said, “The President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government has been assiduously committed and unwaveringly working round the clock to bring to an end the terrorism challenge in the country.
“One of such deliberate and strategic efforts was the Nigeria Sanctions List, which was issued pursuant to the Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022.
“The initiative was designed to deny terrorists access to the financing they need to carry out their acts, thereby decimating their operations in order to ensure a peaceful and prosperous Nigeria.
“In May 2022, five groups were designated in line with the proscription order earlier issued. In October 2022, an additional 10 individuals and three entities were added to the list.
“All financial institutions, designated non-financial businesses and professionals as well as any other entities or individuals are required to immediately seize and report any funds, assets or property they may have in their possession belonging to the designated entities and individuals.â€
Punch reports a security expert and former director, Department of State Services, Mike Ejiofor, advised the Federal Government to also arrest saboteurs within the security agencies, who collaborate with terrorist financiers.
Ejiofor said, “This isn’t new. Several arrests had been made in the past of financiers funding terrorists groups, and some of them are currently being prosecuted. It is good that the government and security agencies are working on arresting and prosecuting more. However, the only thing that will be new is if the Federal Government is saying that the security agencies, especially the intelligence agencies, have been re-equipped with tools to track and arrest terrorism financiers.
“However, this move by the government will certainly help curb insurgency, because when the source of supply for terrorists gets cut off, their lifespan would have been cut off, and they won’t be able to purchase arms and other things. However, the government shouldn’t just stop at arresting financiers, it needs to investigate and arrest saboteurs within the security agencies, who collaborate with these terrorists and their financiers. Without doing that, it will be impossible to end insecurity. We’ve had cases of operatives providing arms to terrorists or sabotaging operations”
A security specialist, Dr Kabir Adamu, noted that some financial institutions, particularly commercial banks and Bureaux De Change, were culpable for laundering money for terrorists.
Adamu said “Addressing terrorism financing is one of the requirements of the global efforts to fight terrorism and the Nigerian financial sector has been observed to be lagging behind in that regard. Hence, this is a good move by the government. The commercial banking sector and the BDCs need to be monitored, and they need to improve in this regard.
“For instance, it was reported that about 80 per cent of staff members of commercial banks are contract staff with no loyalty to the companies and no measures put in place to ensure their loyalty, and that makes them vulnerable to getting involved in money laundering and bribery.
“For example, my organisation, which is concerned with kidnap for ransom cases, this year alone, recorded at least five instances where the money (ransoms) was facilitated by bank workers. Those who do the abduction usually contract some bank employees to help them collect the money; however, we don’t know how they share the money, but it’s a big problem.
“There are also reported money laundering cases where the BDCs and commercial banks are involved. The move by the government is good, but the Federal Government needs to look deeply into our financial institutions.”