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Who are Alhaji Sa’idu, Alhaji Ashiru?

Around 2017 I learnt of a dramatic arrest of a Dubai-based Nigerian unlicensed currency exchange operator. Though I initially assumed that it was just a…

Around 2017 I learnt of a dramatic arrest of a Dubai-based Nigerian unlicensed currency exchange operator. Though I initially assumed that it was just a typical incident involving some Nigerians engaged in currency exchange without appropriate licenses, eyewitnesses’ accounts of the dramatic way the arrest was made left me suspecting other possible more serious reasons behind it; yet I never suspected anything close to what I recently learnt.

Not long after the arrest, a “big man” elder friend of mine from Kano who had been approached by the suspect’s relatives in hopes he might be of some assistance to the suspect on account of his perceived experience with relevant procedures in the UAE, contacted me in turn and introduced a brother to the suspect to me who had come to Dubai to follow up on the case.

And even after I met with him in Dubai, I was still under an assumption that the case was, at worse, a money-laundering case, which such unlicensed currency exchange operators perpetrate knowingly or unknowingly on behalf of some Nigerian home and foreign-based Internet fraudsters who capitalize on the naivety of such unlicensed currency exchange operators to implicate them in money-laundering crimes while they (fraudsters) get away with it.

Interestingly, a typical case in this regard plays out when an Internet fraudster in, say, Lagos manages to scam his victim in, say, London, however, due to the scrutiny that Nigeria-bound money transfer particularly attracts from money transfer operators and authorities across the world on account of Nigeria’s particular notoriety in Internet fraud, the fraudster contacts a typical greed-driven but naïve Dubai-based mostly Hausa unlicensed currency exchange operator offering him a share from the money if he agrees to collect it in Dubai on his behalf.

He, (i.e. fraudster), then advises the victim to transfer the money to the Dubai-based fellow citing bogus reasons why he cannot receive it directly. The Dubai guy then receives the money, takes his share as agreed, and transfers the balance to the fraudster in Nigeria who ends up collecting the money without leaving any trace behind while the poor guy remains the actual receiver of the money according to the official records and therefore ends up being eventually traced and arrested in Dubai whenever a victim reports being scammed.

Anyway, recently a friend of mine familiar with the arrested Dubai-based Nigerian unlicensed currency exchange operator’s case sent me a 24-page Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal’s conviction and sentence against the fellow and asked me for a favour to translate it from Arabic to English as, according to him, it would be presented to a top government official who had been approached by the convict’s relatives to facilitate the Nigerian government’s intervention in hopes of securing his release by the UAE authorities.

After going through it, I discovered, among other things, that the fellow in question was actually one of a 6-man network of accomplices convicted and sentenced respectively. What, however, shocked me was the discovery that the case is entirely different from what I had assumed all along. I discovered that the convicts were, in fact, tried and convicted for funding the Boko Haram terror group in Nigeria.

However, due to the amount of workload and having concluded that there is hardly anything that the Nigerian government can do for them, I only made a one-page summarized English version of the original 24-page court file, which is full of details of many Boko Haram funding transactions that the convicts had perpetrated at least since 2015.

I also observed that almost all the transactions were initiated by one Alhaji Sa’idu based in Nigeria who, according to the file, is a senior undercover Boko-Haram member responsible for facilitating the group’s access to funds from its sponsors. His name appears many times throughout the file.

Equally, one Alhaji Ashiru was mentioned in some of the transitions; and he is, according to the file, a Nigerian government official and yet a senior undercover Boko-Haram member who facilitates the transfer of misappropriated public funds to the group.

The pattern of a typical transaction is that Alhaji Sa’idu would arrange an unidentified or vaguely identified Arab person on a visit to Dubai from Turkey to hand over an amount of money in US dollars to one of the convicts who would, in turn, advise his Nigerian-based business partners to hand over the Naira equivalent of the amount to Alhaji Sa’idu.

Though the convicts, or at least some of them, could be victims of manipulation by Alhaji Sa’idu and Alhaji Ashiru who had capitalized on their gullibility, the court file maintains their involvement anyway and, accordingly, two of them were sentenced to life imprisonment while the remaining four got a 10-year jail sentence respectively.

Now, shocked by those discoveries, and wondering whether Nigerian authorities are aware of this case, I checked with a Nigerian diplomat friend of mine here in the UAE who promised to check and get back to me.

Meanwhile, in case the Nigerian government isn’t aware, which is quite probable, it means that the duo of Alhaji Sa’idu, Alhaji Ashiru and perhaps others are probably carrying on their Boko Haram-funding facilitation activities through other accomplices and/or by manipulating other home or foreign-based Nigerian hustlers oblivious of the actual purpose of the informal financial transaction services they are providing.

In any case, considering the sheer implications of this case on Nigeria’s security and stability, the Nigerian government doesn’t have any reasonable excuse whatsoever to justify its unawareness of it. After all, it maintains a diplomatic mission in the UAE, which is manned by supposedly trained diplomats as well as the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) operatives who are particularly responsible for preventing foreign-linked threat against Nigeria and its interests.

Besides, regardless of whatever military measures Nigeria takes against Boko-Haram terrorists, its ability to defeat the group for good depends on its ability to identify and eliminate all its sources of funds, which can only be achieved through painstaking intelligence-gathering, accurate intelligence analyses, and proactive measures accordingly.