Dozens of persons have been arrested by security agents in an ongoing nationwide crackdown on suspected financiers and collaborators of Boko Haram and other criminal groups in Nigeria, a major breakthrough for Nigeria’s efforts in the ongoing war against insurgency.
This is coming five months after the jailing of six Nigerians in the United Arab Emirates over allegations of terrorism financing.
The ongoing inter-agency operation is being led by a top intelligence officer, with an army general leading a task team comprising military personnel and staff from intelligence services.
Multiple sources revealed that the closely-guarded operation is being coordinated by Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), in collaboration with the Department of State Services (DSS), Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
As part of the operation, billions of naira traced to businesses belonging to persons of interest have been blocked in banks in series of “post no debit” letters sent out to banks by the CBN and NFIU. The apex bank has also lately obtained court orders directing freezing of dozens of accounts flagged for suspicious transactions.
While officials expressed hope that the ongoing operation would be a “game-changer” in the lingering fight against Boko Haram insurgents and other criminal gangs, some analysts say the method may not provide the needed elixir as terrorists and bandits operate largely outside the financial system.
A security source familiar with the operation confided in our reporter that the operation started last year with massive gathering and analysis of financial intelligence and drawing uplink analysis, leading to initial marking of some 60 businesses and individuals.
A source disclosed that an initial list of 957 suspects comprising bureau de change operators, gold miners and sellers, and other businessmen is being acted upon.
Already, according to the source, about 400 persons have been arrested in series of arrests in Kano, Borno, Abuja, Lagos, Sokoto, Adamawa, Kaduna and Zamfara.
In Kano, a major focus for the operation, traders at the foreign exchange open market in Wapa, Fagge Local Government, were picked up on March 9, 15th and 16th.
Prominent among the BDC operators arrested in the state include Baba Usaini, Abubakar Yellow (Amfani), Yusuf Ali Yusuf (Babangida), Ibrahim Shani, Auwal Fagge, and a gold dealer, Muhammad Lawan Sani.
Four of the arrested BDC operators were related to two persons jailed in Dubai last year on similar charges.
Those arrested are being kept in military and DSS facilities in Abuja and other places, even as their families and lawyers decry the continued detention of the suspects without trial or informing them of their offences.
We gathered that dozens of businessmen who were netted in were invited to DSS offices and military barracks in their states from where they were cut off from the outside world.
Family members who spoke to a Daily Trust reporter said they could not establish the locations where their loved ones were being held as they were neither briefed by officials nor were the suspects allowed to contact their families.
The operation was said to have received presidential nod last year, and approval by President Muhammadu Buhari for the exercise to be conducted out of the established bureaucracy.
“Because this is economic warfare against the insurgents and other militant groups, the president, when approving the operation directed that the NFIU take the lead as the country’s financial intelligence powerhouse.
“With the presidential approval, a task team was composed made up of personally selected senior officers who were deployed under the DIA to carry out the special assignment,” a senior government official revealed .
One official involved in the operation, who however craved for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, said the operation has recorded immense success with the arrest of key persons with “direct” link to bandits and insurgents.
“The main person coordinating the funding ring for Boko Haram is in our custody, he and his closest ally in the business,” he said.
According to the source, about 19 BDCs owned by persons with “direct connection with Boko Haram” were uncovered, while over N300 billion was found to have been pumped into the funding of terrorism in the country.
The source disclosed that from one person in Borno State and another in Zaria, Kaduna State, over N50 billion were traced in funding to the armed groups.
“A number of those arrested have divulged vital information including operational details of bandits and Boko Haram insurgents. But they are being kept to aid further arrests,” he said.
According to him, not all the affected businessmen arrested were members of the criminal gangs but many of them were involved in it as a business.
Source: National Mail Online