Kidnappers in FCT begin collection of ransom through banks

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Kidnappers in FCT begin collection of ransom through banks 

Kidnappers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are growing more daring by the day, according to Daily Trust, as they have begun collecting ransom from their victims using bank accounts, rather than the traditional method of acquiring cash.
Armed men kidnapped two people in the Tungan Maje settlement on the outskirts of the city last week, according to the Daily Trust. The marauders returned to the village on Wednesday, a day after abducting six people from the region.

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In the last few months, other FCT suburbs such as Kuje, Bwari, and Abaji have seen staggered increases in incidents.

While most kidnappers release their captives after receiving financial payments, a recent trend implies that they are developing novel ways to collect the ransom.

Kingsley Moghalu, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), claimed in April that terrorists and kidnappers were demanding ransom in cryptocurrency.

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Though he did not specify which criminal groups use this strategy, the ex-central banker stated that the new trend necessitated increased regulation and attention to the bitcoin industry globally.

Some Nigerians have claimed that banks make it difficult to obtain information about criminals who use bank accounts to swindle unwary members of the public.

Hamisu Ibrahim, an Abuja resident, remembered how the bank’s “bureaucracies” caused him to lose money to a criminal gang after he was forced to pay.

Umar Yakubu, a financial fraud expert, noted that catching criminals who use formal financial systems is simple, unless the will is lacking.

‘How kidnappers forced us to pay a ransom to the bank’

On Wednesday, June 16, kidnappers abducted Mrs Aminat Adewuyi and four others from Madalla crossroads in Suleja, Niger State, while they went shopping at the famed Ibrahim Babangida Market.

The victims’ relatives reportedly paid ransom money ranging from N500,000 to N1,000,000 to a specific bank account provided by the kidnappers before they were freed, according to Daily Trust.

Mrs Adewuyi’s brother, who did not want his name published, said the crooks wanted N5 million from each of their victims when they first met with them.

After two days and several pleadings, the kidnappers decided to collect N500,000 from Adewuyi’s relatives.

The perpetrators threatened to slaughter the woman if the ransom was not paid within 48 hours, according to the negotiator, and they insisted on collecting the ransom via bank rather than cash.

Adewuyi’s husband put N500,000 into an Access Bank account with the number 1403762272 and the name Badawi Abba Enterprise, according to the ransom payment slip acquired by Daily Trust.

“We boarded a bus at a crossroads opposite SARCO filling station, near the famed NYSC intersection in Kubwa when headed to Suleja Market,” Adewuyi told Daily Trust about her ordeal.

“The majority of the bus passengers disembarked at Zuba. The driver also wanted to drop off the last few passengers, but he was able to get us to Madalla intersection, which is the road that leads to Dakwa.

“However, when we arrived at Madalla crossroads, the driver advised us to board another truck bound for Suleja. The remaining five of us (women) flagged down a passing car, yelling “Suleja! Suleja!” The bus driver settled him, and we were on our way.

“The driver ‘centrally closed’ all the doors and wound up all the windows as soon as we walked in. It was around this time that we realised all of the glasses were tinted. Four of us sat in the back seat, and one of us sat in the front with a male, including the driver.

“After they finished wailing up the glasses, they pulled out weapons, knives, and coke bottles and told us we should work together. They pressed on making us drink the coke with codeine, but I refused.

“The man in front of me held a knife and offered me only codeine to drink, but I feigned I had already done so. Because the truck was so cramped, he couldn’t accomplish anything with his firearm.

“Before we got to the bush where they carried us, some of the victims who had taken the coke had fallen asleep.

“I can’t remember where they took us, despite the fact that I didn’t sleep. I only know that the vehicle that took us there turned left after Kwata (a popular meat-selling location) and before Suleja. Kwata is on the hunt for Kwankwashe.

“Our car drove into the wilderness, and when it couldn’t continue any farther because the remaining road was a trail, three people who had been waiting for them with bikes transported us into the deep bush on their bikes.

“In that bush, there was only one house. They held us there and fed us bread and water in sachets. We were both released the same day since one of us had money in her account and had paid it to them as soon as we arrived.

“After two days of not receiving a warning from my husband, they were already sharpening their knives to slay me. That day, only God could have saved me.”

At the time, Adewuyi’s husband said he had formally reported the situation to the Nigerian Police’s Anti-Kidnapping Unit in Jabi.

When reached, ASP Mariam Yusuf, a spokeswoman for the FCT Police Command, said the command has used overt and covert measures to combat criminality in the capital, including specific anti-kidnapping operations.

Expert claims that detecting kidnappers’ political choices is now possible.

Umar Yakubu, a financial crimes expert and former staff member of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), said in a phone interview with our correspondent last night that a situation where kidnappers were not tracked down after collecting ransom through financial institutions shows that catching criminals is now a political choice.

According to Yakubu, who is also the CEO of the Counter Fraud Centre, such developments would not put an end to criminality and will continue to harm the country’s economy.

‘’In all areas of crime and criminality, a major aspect is the covert endeavour to elude detection,” he stated. That is why law enforcement agencies exist – to detect criminal activity through inquiry.

‘’

However, if criminals are demanding ransom payments through financial institutions, where all client due diligence records are supposed to be kept, there is reason to be concerned. It implies that they are unconcerned about being discovered.

‘’

As a result, there’s no use in squandering resources to figure out who they are. They should be well-known. The ’s attempt to launch a new front in the war is doomed to fail. There has never been a case of payment through bank accounts in nations like Mexico, Iraq, Afghanistan, India, and others where kidnapping for ransom is common.

‘’The government needs to reconsider because this action will open up a whole new ‘employment’ industry for more criminality.”

‘What the government is doing’

Officials from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) did not react to our inquiries when contacted.

“What the deposit money banks can do is block or apply a debit restriction on an account if asked by the account owner or on the instruction of the Nigerian Police Force or the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission backed by a court order,” a CBN management source said.

“In accordance with the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, the Central Bank and deposit money banks have always cooperated with law enforcement agencies by providing credible information on a suspicious account that led to the arrest of illegal acts (NFIU).

“To help identify money laundering, terrorist funding, and other crimes, banks must now monitor all cash passing through them, alerting authorities to anything of interest—for example, a transfer of funds to a high-risk country incongruous with a customer’s history.”

The National Foreign Intelligence Unit (NFIU) is the major national institution in charge of receiving disclosures from reporting organisations, analysing them, and producing intelligence for distribution to appropriate authorities.

The NFIU is a self-contained unit inside the CBN that serves as the country’s chief coordinating body for anti-money laundering, counter-terrorist financing, and counter-proliferation financing (AML/CFT/CPF) efforts.

Sani Tukur, an NFIU spokesperson, directed our reporter to law enforcement agencies, stating that the NFIU does not conduct investigations or make arrests.

However, a senior official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the agency is working on financial intelligence on kidnappers and bandits, which it will pass on to law enforcement organisations.

He stated that the NFIU’s focus will now be solely on banditry and kidnapping, claiming that Boko Haram and kindred movements have been financially crippled.

Senators are debating a bill that would make ransom payments illegal.

A bill that attempts to prohibit the payment and receiving of ransom for the release of any person kidnapped, imprisoned, or wrongfully confined is now undergoing legislative action.

The Senate discussed the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Bill, 2021, for second reading during plenary on May 19.

Senator Ezenwa Francis Onyewuchi is the bill’s sponsor (Imo East).

According to Onyewuchi, the bill essentially seeks to replace section 14 of the Principal Act with a new section that reads: “Anyone who transfers funds, makes payment, or colludes with an abductor, kidnapper, or terrorist to receive any ransom for the release of any person who has been wrongfully confined, imprisoned, or kidnapped is guilty of a felony and is liable on conviction to a tyrannical sentence.”

Kidnapping, he claimed, has become a lucrative and quick business, and it “has now remained the most virulent type of banditry in Nigeria, as well as the most prevalent and persistent violent crime in the country.”

Onyewuchi remarked that the regularity with which people are kidnapped daily puts most Nigerians at risk, blaming reasons such as corruption, unemployment, poverty, and security agents’ complicity in the kidnappings.

According to a research published in November 2019 by the Financial Times and the USA Global Risk Consultancy, Nigeria has the greatest rate of kidnaps for ransom of both natives and foreigners in Africa, with kidnappers operating in each of the country’s 36 states.

“The motivation for ransom payments is founded in the fact that people easily identify with individual suffering,” he says.

 

“However, history has shown that even when a ransom has been shown to have been paid, a kidnap victim’s life or safe release may not be guaranteed.”

 

He pointed out that countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom oppose ransom payments to kidnappers.

 

“Payments of terrorist ransoms are banned under the UK Terrorism Act 2000, whilst the United States has a rigorous No-Concessions policy on ransom payments,” Onyewuchi said.

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