Emerging report indicates that the Islamic State’s West Africa Province, ISWAP, moves about $36 million, generated from trading and taxing communities, in the Lake Chad region, through the Nigerian financial system, annually.
This was made known by the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa, established by the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS.
The group set up by ECOWAS Authority of Heads of States and Governments, in 2000, stated that both boko haram and ISWAP have continued to mobilise, move, and utilise funds, through the nation’s formal financial and commercial system.
The report stated: “Boko Haram/ISWAP pose significant TF (Terrorist Financing) risks that are challenging to disrupt, operating in large part outside the formal financial and commercial system in the conflict zone.
“In these areas, Boko Haram and ISWAP are mainly able to “live off the land” through a variety of means, including kidnapping for ransom, extortion and taxation, raiding, and controlling commercial activity.
“As with other forms of illicit financial activity, the pervasive use of cash enables these groups’ funding. A study estimated ISWAP’s revenues, deemed larger than Boko Haram’s, at up to USD$36 million annually, much of it from trading activity and taxation in the Lake Chad region.
“According to Nigerian authorities, both groups have also continued to mobilise, move and utilise funds through the formal financial and commercial system as well, accounting for a relatively small portion of TF activity. These groups also engage in international trafficking activities and as sworn adherents to the Islamic State, also have links with other regional and global terrorist networks.
“The authorities believe that any external support from ISIS Core may account for a small portion of ISWAP’s overall revenues. However, trade with broader criminal networks that could extend to regional jihadist organisations appears to generate significant income for both Boko Haram and ISWAP.”
Elsewhere, the Financial Action Task Force assessment noted that the Federal Government of Nigeria does not prioritise terrorism financing investigations, as there are only a few terrorist financing prosecutions and convictions, which do not reflect the country’s risk profile in terrorist financing.
Notably, no individual, body, or corporation, has been convicted in Nigeria for funding terrorism, since the insurgency started in 2009.
It stated: “Nigeria has a significant but incomplete understanding of its TF (Terrorist Financing) threats and risks. It lacks adequate insight into Boko/ISWAP’s international linkages and abuse of the formal financial and commercial sector. The authorities do not prioritise TF investigations, as there are only a few TF prosecutions and convictions which do not reflect Nigeria’s TF risk profile.
“The Department of State Services, Nigeria’s lead counter-terrorism agency, has significant ability to identify and investigate TF activity. It conducts parallel financial investigations in conjunction with terrorism investigations. However, there is little evidence of the effectiveness of such efforts.
“The content of TF-related Suspicious Transactions Reports submitted to the NFIU (Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit) has not been of demonstrable value, appearing to add little to Nigeria’s CFT (Combating the Financing of Terrorism) efforts. The agency maintained that Nigeria did not demonstrate effective legal and operational frameworks for seeking international cooperation, including for the recovery and repatriation of assets.
“Nigeria did not demonstrate that it prioritises and provides constructive information or assistance, including adequate, accurate and current basic and beneficial owner information of legal persons promptly.”
It noted that Nigeria recently enacted the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, 2019, to streamline processes for mutual legal assistance
The Financial Task Force observed that the larger commercial banks and those affiliated with international groups, have a good understanding of money laundering and terrorism financing risks.
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