FBI’s Arrest of Nigerians: The EFCC Should Have Done More

FBI’s Arrest of Nigerians: The EFCC Should Have Done More

It’s disappointing but not surprising: As the US Department of Justice released a statement on a coordinated investigation by the FBI on aggravated cyber fraud and money laundering. The 80 names sound familiar, just as the others on the ever resonating list of wire fraud. Just a week ago, we read the story of Invictus Obinwanne Okeke, whose glory was short-lived when the FBI took a close look at his activities and discovered cyber fraud amounting to millions of dollars. The numbers are likely going to increase, it’s only a matter of time and another criminal syndicate based in Nigeria will be busted.

It’s no longer news, we see it, we know it, we live it, it’s a way of life. That’s the only way to explain the gravity of financial crimes perpetrated under the nose of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), the Department of State Security Services (DSS), the Nigerian Police, and every other agency that has a stake in Nigeria’s financial trust and image. That’s how most Nigerians have reacted to the development.

That it took the FBI to uncover what it described as “the biggest cybercrime in the US history” which originated in Nigeria, questions not only the credibility of Nigerian financial crime institutions, but also their reason for existence.

The dent of cyber fraud has been escalating in Nigeria with little attempt from these agencies to quell it. The connecting factors that enable it are too evident to be excused. From bank managers (who help fraudsters fence their money) to bureau de change who help them convert it. And then there is extravagant lifestyle that cannot be justified through legit means of living.

The FBI followed these traces from the Business Email Compromise (BEC), (a sophisticated technique applied by the criminal syndicate to divert funds from companies or their clients to accounts designated by the fraudsters), with the help of other agencies from around the world to uncover the international base of the criminals in Nigeria. The funny thing is, the EFCC isn’t part of it, they probably saw it in the news like everyone else, and are yet to make any statement about it.

That has prompted Nigerians to ask: “Could it be that the FBI doesn’t trust the EFCC enough to share such intelligence with them”?

In May, the EFCC issued a statement to discredit another EFCC that was mounting roadblocks in highbrow areas of Lagos, extorting people on the allegation of internet fraud. The EFCC’s spokesman, Tony Orilade told the general public:

“For the avoidance of doubt, it is not part of our operational practice to mount roadblocks and we do not hire agents. The criminal elements that mount the Lagos roadblocks are not our staff and we have no connection whatsoever with their criminal activities.

“Similarly, the Commission wishes to disown a letter of invite, purportedly emanating from one DSP Dorcas Bukola, via an email address: {[email protected]}, inviting unsuspecting members of the public to our office.

“While the said DSP Dorcas Bukola claims to be acting on behalf of the EFCC, we strongly urge the general public and particularly those who have received the email to ignore the invite as such a character is not in the employ of the Commission and has no authority to act on our behalf.”

The statement and the events surrounding it seem to justify what many believe: that in a country where there is a fake version of antigraft agency, and there is nothing the original agency could do other than warn the public, no sane person would expect them to pull the needed strings on a sophisticated cyberfraud syndicate. And that could be the reason why the EFCC was totally ignored by the FBI.

Others say that although the EFCC have secured some convictions in cybercrime, the agency seems to give more concentration on government related corruption.

However, there is a perceived void that the EFCC’s action and inaction has created, and it has undermined its international position in the fight against financial crimes.

Nigerians believe that the story would have been different if the investigation was initiated in Nigeria by any of the agencies, and collaborate with their international counterparts to bust the syndicate. “It would have made a better image for the country, and the rest of the world would have seen a government committed to rid itself of criminal elements.” They said.

While there has been a total condemnation of these crimes that have swindled billions of Americans’ hard earned dollars, voices out there are calling for more effective financial crime agencies in Nigeria that will shun partisanship and do their jobs with integrity.

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