How EFCC uncovered religious sect laundering N7bn for terrorists – Official 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Wednesday said it had   uncovered how a Nigeria-based religious sect is laundering money for terrorists.

It also alleged another religious body was protecting an unnamed money launderer, after some money suspected to be illicit was traced to the organisation’s bank account.

EFCC Chairman Ola Olukoyede said this while speaking in Abuja at a public engagement on youth, religion, and the fight against corruption, as well as the launch of the fraud risk assessment project for ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs).

The one-day event aimed at addressing the challenges of youth involvement in cybercrimes and the role of religion as a weapon for their reorientation.

Themed “Youth, Religion and the Fight Against Corruption,” the gathering featured the launch of the Interfaith Preaching and Teaching Manual developed by the Interfaith Anti-Corruption Advisory Committee of the Commission as a resource to promote anti-corruption behaviour  among adherents of Islam and Christianity.

…On laundered money

Addressing the gathering, Olokoyede said the anti-graft body was investigating a N13billion fraud case, having discovered N7 billion of the N13 billion was linked to a religious body’s bank account.

“A religious sect in this country had been found to be laundering money for terrorists,” he said, adding that the religious organization however, quickly obtained a restraining order to prevent the agency from probing its leaders.

Olukoyede said: “We were able to trace some laundered money to a religious organisation, and when we approached the religious organisation about it and we were carrying out our investigation, we got a restraining order stopping us from carrying out our investigation.” he said.

While disclosing that the commission was appealing the restraining order to recover the stolen funds, he said the agency would not give up in the fight against corruption under whatever guise.

He said: “Indeed, proactive implementation of effective and coordinated policies against corruption remains the best guarantee for public security, economic development, and the effective functioning of public and private institutions. The recalibration of the Commission’s prevention strategy seeks to promote proactive deterrence and greater inclusivity in terms of participation of all stakeholders. Our motivation is to see how corruption, whether in ministries and agencies of government, in the ivory towers, or the private sector, could be prevented before it occurs.”

The EFCC boss also stated that “the Commission was prioritizing two areas of concern which is the involvement of youth in cybercrimes and the susceptibility of our ministries, departments and agencies to grand corruption.

He expressed concerns over the disconcerting allure of computer-related fraud for youths in tertiary institutions, stressing that “the danger of having a tribe of future leaders whose outlook  in life is that fraud and corruption are the stairways to fame and fortune, is however, too dire to treat with kid gloves.” Olukoyede, therefore, called on managers of academic institutions to rise to the challenge of mentoring youths on the right path of life.

“It is our view that the Academia can contribute more in the anti-corruption fight through mentorship as youths in today’s fast-paced world need close supervision to navigate their path to success and purposeful living.”

The EFCC boss equally unfolded the Fraud Risk Assessment Projectto assist government agencies to address systemic vulnerabilities at the personnel, institutional and environmental levels and take preemptive measures.  He assured that the Project “will save the nation billions in stolen wealth, time and resources spent in investigating grand corruption cases”.

He commended President Tinubu for his unflinching support to the fight against corruption in Nigeria, maintaining that, “with the political will of the administration. I believe that we have a golden opportunity to rewrite the story of our nation’s quest for improved transparency and accountability in public affairs”. 

…Tinubu’s charge

In his remarks, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu expressed concerns over the stereotyping of Nigeria as a country with the highest prevalence of cybercrime and other forms of corrupt practices.

Represented by Vice President Kashim Shettima, the president said Nigerians were meticulous and authentic citizens making significant contributions to innumerable fields of endeavours around the world.

“Over the decades, Nigerians have been victims of mislabeling. Such gross misrepresentation fails to reflect the true essence of our diverse and resilient nation. The association of internet crimes with the entire Nigerian populace lacks statistical evidence and does not align with the sociology of everyday Nigerians.

“Our nation comprises hardworking, honest citizens who contribute significantly to various fields globally, from Artificial Intelligence to medicine. While we reject blanket stereotyping that undermines the majority upholding principles of integrity and diligence, we must face the fact that we function in an interconnected world where cybercrimes have evolved into a global phenomenon. This poses a threat not only to our nation but to the entire world,” he said.

“Our country is not a nation of fraudsters and the pejorative reference to internet crimes as the “Nigerian scam” across the world is unfair, untenable and unacceptable. Cybercrimes, to all intents and purposes, are a global phenomenon.

“Today’s world is run real time on the internet. Governance, businesses, institutions and even individual domestic affairs are dependent on the internet. Cyber criminals are, therefore, a threat to the rest of the world. This is why no effort or expense should be spared in confronting the evil. I want to assure the EFCC that the government will continue to offer its support in its quest to kill the dragon that internet offences have become”, he said. 

Underscoring the urgency of combating internet crimes and neutralizing the threat caused by other forms of corruption head on, Tinubu assured the EFCC of his administration’s support.

“We must recognize that the Commission’s lawful efforts to bring fraudsters to book are imperative for the overall well-being of our society.

“The government is aware that our ambitious goal of eradicating internet offenses and corruption demands an atmosphere steeped in trust and integrity.

“We must foster open communication channels and ensure that law enforcement actions align with justice and accountability,” he said.

President Tinubu further stressed the need to remind Nigerian youths that there were abundant opportunities for lawful enterprises, within and outside the shores of the country.

He said the federal government had established the Students Loan Board to address the financial needs of students.

“This initiative aims not only to alleviate financial burdens but also to disincentivize criminality by offering a tangible alternative. Our message to the youth is clear: the horizon is wide, and opportunities abound across various sectors.

“Seize these prospects, embark on lawful enterprises, and let your talents shine. The government encourages you to leverage these opportunities, exhibit your capabilities across all sectors, and contribute to the prosperity of our great nation,” he said.

While commending the EFCC for remaining a moral compass, persistently rousing the nation’s conscience, he said through its operations, the body “has remained vocal in telling the world that Nigeria is neither complicit nor complacent in confronting the menace of corruption.”

He also commended the EFCC for its efforts to tackle corruption through the Inter-Faith and Fraud Risk Assessment Project.

He said “the initiative recognizes the potential of religion as a tool for ethical reformation and underscores the importance of engaging diverse faith communities in our fight against corruption.”

On government’s determination to give corruption hard tackles, Tinubu said: “We cannot be focused on growth and development and at the same time offer any breathing space to corrupt practices.  No nation grows without breaking the fangs of corruption. The EFCC has been duly instructed to do its job at all times without any extraneous considerations. The Renewed Hope agenda of our government is impervious to corruption. We should all join hands together to move Nigeria in a new direction of purpose.”

…Sultan, Ooni, CAN

While pledging his support to the Commission,  Sultan of Sokoto and Chairman Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, His Eminence, Sa’ad Abubakar, Said: “We want to assure you that we will support you one hundred percent in this fight, because it is a fight for our lives.

“If we really want Nigeria to be Nigeria we can proudly call our country, we must fight this corruption to the last level. We want to assure the EFCC chairman, as religious leaders, we will invite you for a close door interaction about what we should do as religious leaders.”

Also speaking, Ooni of Ife Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi called for devolution of powers, saying:  “If we don’t look inward and change the structure, nothing tangible would be achieved.  Go and make the local government powerful.  It is the root of our heritage and customs make them powerful.”

In a similar message, President Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Archbishop Daniel Okoh said: “Corruption remains one of the major challenges that we have in our country, the albatross that hampers development and stifles the potentials of the youths.

“Corruption undermines the principles of justice, fairness and equality, eroding the very fabrics of the society; it is a cancer that eats away the trust and integrity of institutions, hindering progress and development. It discourages hard work, dignity of labor, honesty, respect for one another and creates a wicked generation that destroys the future of their nation.”

About Abdullahi M. Gulloma and Chizoba Ogbeche, Abuja

View all posts by Abdullahi M. Gulloma and Chizoba Ogbeche, Abuja →