The Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government has commenced moves to confiscate the assets of identified terrorism financiers and their associates in line with international counter-terrorism recommendations.
Recall that the ECOWAS financial intelligence agency, the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa, had earlier in the year indicted Buhari’s administration for not going after the assets of convicted terrorists.
In response to the development, the government had identified 96 financiers of terrorism, including 424 associates/supporters of the financiers, whose assets would be confiscated after the 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.
According to The PUNCH, 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.
Already, 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 being haunted by the federal government include the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Boko Haram, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan, the Yan Bindiga and Yan Ta’adda terrorist groups and 13 persons convicted for financing Boko Haram.
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 of the Department of State Services; the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria; the Inspector-General of Police; and the Chairman, Economic, and Financial Crimes Commission.
Also on the committee are the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission; the Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency; the Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service; the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency; representative of the Chief of Defence Staff; the Director-General of 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.
The committee can 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 List.
According to The PUNCH, 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.”
The director of the ministry of justice revealed that the 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.