FCTA, EFCC Move to Checkmate Criminals Infiltrating Bureau De Change in Abuja

By: Wisdom Acka

The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has begun moves to ensure sanity and standards in the operations of Bureau De Change (BDC) in the nation’s capital.

This is as growing concerns continue to be expressed by the public over their purported involvement in financial crimes such as money laundering, economic sabotage and terrorism financing, among others.

Senior Special Assistant to FCT Minister on Monitoring, Inspection and Enforcement, Ikharo Attah, made this disclosure over the weekend in a meeting with the BDC operators on plans to sanitize and standardise their operations, and free them of crimes.

Ikharo explained that the action became necessary following an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) letter, requesting the FCTA to bring sanity and global best practices to their activities in order to tackle criminal activities arising from their operations.

In addition to restoration of sanity in the conduct of currency business in the FCT, Ikharo revealed the EFCC requests that “Adequate arrangements be made for them to operate with registered office address in line with provisions of law and international best practices to curtail economic sabotage, money laundering and possibly terrorist financing.

“The Minister gave us order to sanitize activities of BDC currency operators within the FCT, particularly with a focus on Wuse Zone 4, so that we do everything to curtail economic sabotage and tackle the issue of money laundering and possible illegal financing,” he noted.

Ikharo, who stated that the CBD operators were a critical and important stakeholder in the forex market, however, warned that the FCTA would not allow them continue hawking currency by the roaside because such action was not proper; adding, “You can operate properly and we run the city beautifully”.

While pointing out that section 8.5 of the revised operational guidelines for Bureau De Change in Nigeria aligns with anti-hawking policy of the FCT, the SSA emphasized that “FCTA is not comfortable with hawking of currencies on the streets in Zone 4”.

He, therefore, thanked the operators for believing in Abuja and for supporting the FCTA in her quests to keep the city clean up the city and fight against drug peddling.

His words: “The FCT Police Commissioner, FCT Heads of NDLEA, NSCDC have all commended you for the role in tackling drug cartel around Zone 4”.

In his response,
Secretary, Zone 4 Bureau De Change Association, Yahaya Jidda Kida appreciated the democrartic and civilized manner the FCTA approached them and assured: “We are ready to cooperate with government”.

Yahaya stated that they were also “Very concerned about the issues the EFCC raised”, including the drug peddling problem, which he revealed his association had fought, risking their lives and businesses.

Recalling efforts at sanitising and standardising BDC operations in Abuja, Yahaya disclosed that the FCTA under Nasir el-Rufai asked them to collapse their rights and come under one umbrella, and he allocated a piece of land to them to build a standard centre.

Yahaya explained: “Initially, he (el-Rufai) gave us a letter of intent, but the seriousness with which we carried on, he decided to give us Right of Occupancy to facilitate our discussion with financiers”.

“We crossfertilized ideas within and outside Africa and came out with the best building plan that if allowed to be built, will be the largest and most sophisticated edifice in Abuja”, he stressed.

According to him, “The edifice is a 10-storey building, with a mosque and a church, and can accommodate all of us and clear the nuisance in Zone 4, making transactions neat, just like it is done in the developed countries”.

However, there was a problem and some people went to court, leading to revocation of the plot of land, he said.

“Fortunately, during the time of Aliero, the land was reallocated to us, but these people didn’t allow us to start development. They went upto the Supreme Court and we don’t want to run prejudice. Those people are not even members of the Zone 4 association”, he stated.

He, therefore, appealed to FCT Minister to bring all stakeholders together and resolve the issue out of court.

On the issue of drug peddling, Yahaya stated that they were even the real haters and genuine fighters of drugs, saying, “We always fight them tooth and nail; day and night because we don’t want them to be part of us. We are the first call for Ambassadors and we don’t want anyone with criminal activities among us”.

On money laundering, he decried that they were in a “quagmire because we change money and don’t know some of those who come to change these currencies. We are always the first victims”, he buttressed.

“It is the bankers and other people in government that are dealing….We will cooperate with the Minister to sanitize zone 4 and make it a standard place”, he assured.

On his part, an Assistant Director in the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) in charge of Monitoring and Enforcement, Kaka Bello, revealed that besides concerns raised by the EFCC, section 36 of the AEPB Act prohibits sale of products in unauthorised places, be it money or any other items.

“Your business is corporate and legitimate, unless some of you decide to deviate. You are not like other illegal traders, who hawk drugs or sell items on the streets,” Bello restated.

“Unfortunately, some of your members have joined. Sometimes when we come to apprehend some of the criminals we cannot even differentiate. And you are not supposed to hawk on the road.
So if we pick up traders who sell on the road, there is no reason why we should leave you out because it is the same offence. We hope that this time around we will work together to bring down this activity of hawking currency on the road”, he reiterated.