President of the Association of Bureaux De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON), Aminu Gwadabe has said operators arrested in connection with financing Boko Haram terrorists, were implicated by customers due to non-compliance with 'Know Your Customer' guidelines.
The know your customer or know your client guidelines in financial services require that professionals make an effort to verify the identity, suitability, and risks involved with maintaining a business relationship.
Gwadabe, who spoke to SaharaReporters on Wednesday, said though some of the operators might be truly guilty, some got into trouble because they failed to carry out due diligence on their customers.
He also explained that the association tried to secure bail for its members arrested in connection with the financing of terrorism in the country but that the move was declined by security agents because of the seriousness of the alleged criminal offences.
He called the Nigerian government and security agencies to hasten the investigations and try those who are found guilty while the innocent should be released.
Gwadabe told SaharaReporters that the association is intensifying efforts towards sensitising its members to the importance of 'Know Your Customer' strategies.
He also revealed that from May 2021, every Bureau De Change operator will be mandated to have a compliance officer, who will ensure they comply with all the rules and regulations guiding the business.
He said, “After the BDC operators got arrested, we visited the security agency to inquire the reason behind their arrest and we were made to know that there is a report which involves those they are investigating.
“We tried to get their bail but the operatives refused that we should wait until the outcome of their investigation. They told us it is a case of money laundering and terrorism finance, so we had to back off because no one will support involvement in a crime.
“We are appealing to the federal government because they have arrested many people. It is not all of them that will be culpable, some might be innocent. For those that are culpable, we appeal to the federal government to hasten their investigation so they can have their day in court, while those that are not guilty should be released to go.
“We also warn our members to be very careful because you might not create a problem for yourself but a customer can create a problem for you if you are not careful and some of them are victims of that, for lack of KYC because if you don't know your customer, someone can just walk in with big rolls of the dollar and implicate you.
“Know Your Customer is a policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria, it is a policy of Nigerian financial intelligence unit, it is a policy of a global body called Financial Asset Task Force. It is a union for all the financial intelligence agencies in the world. It states under recommendation 11 that BDC operators must know their customers, research, it is an obligation.
“What we are doing now is a constant reminder of that obligation. We still had a webinar of over 5, 000 directors. By next month, we will train compliance officers. Every BDC operator must have a compliance officer; the compliance office will ensure the BDC operators comply with all the rules and regulations. This is a global investigation and all eyes are on the government to see what will be done. It is unfortunate that our members were involved.”
According to media reports, dozens of persons have been arrested by security agents in an ongoing nationwide crackdown on suspected financiers and collaborators of Boko Haram.
Last month, Malam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, said the Nigerian government had arrested some Bureau De Change operators who were facilitating the transfer of money to Boko Haram terrorists.
He had said some Nigerians transferring money to the sect from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were working with the BDC operators.
“Bureax de change are facilitating money to terrorists. We have already worked with the UAE. Convictions have been achieved of Nigerians who are transferring money to Boko Haram terrorists and this also happens domestically. And I tell you that by the time we finish this investigation, the shocking details will surprise many Nigerians,” Shehu had said.
In Kano, traders at the foreign exchange open market in Wapa, Fagge Local Government, were picked up in March. Those arrested include Baba Usaini; Abubakar Yellow (Amfani); Yusuf Ali Yusuf (Babangida); Ibrahim Shani; Adamu Ibrahim Naim; Inuwa Talle Danladi; Muhammad Yahaya; Yahaya Saidu Ibrahim; Muhammed Aliyu Adam; Sadi Saidu Abdullahi; Surajo Adam Muhammad; Auwalu Ibrahim Faggge; Nura Tasiu; Muhammed Lawal Sani; Muhammed Abba Lawan; Bashir Ali; Abdullahi Umar Usman; Hassa Idris; Nura Gani; Sani Maiwaya; Abdulrahman Kokawa; Garzali Yusuf;/Auwalu Gambo and Muhammad Lawan Sani (a gold dealer).