FBI Lauds EFCC For Apprehending $3.7m Fraudster

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, has commended the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for its dedication and support in bursting a high profile Business E-mail Compromise, BEC, fraud in Dallas, Texas, which led to the arrest and eventual of a Nigerian, Amechi Colvis Amuegbunam.

The Bureau acknowledged “intelligence obtained by the EFCC and provided to the FBI via Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty” was instrumental in identifying the BEC scheme and Amuegbunam’s specific role.

“The Dallas field Office, Legal Attaché Office, and both the FBI’s Criminal and Cyber Divisions are extremely appreciative of the EFCC as a joint partner in the pursuit of global justice for the many victims of these BEC related crimes”.

Amuegbunam, 30, who was on a student visa in the US was sentenced to 46months imprisonment and ordered to pay $615, 555.12 in restitution for his role in BEC scheme that caused $3.7million loss to US companies.

The convict and other individuals were said to have between November 2013 and August 2015 sent fraudulent emails to companies in the Northern District of Texas and elsewhere containing misrepresentations that caused the companies to wire transfer funds as instructed on a pdf document that was attached to the email.

Investigation into the crime followed reports by two companies in the Dallas Fort Worth area to the FBI Dallas Office that they had received targeted spear phishing emails allegedly from a top executive at a company authorising the company’s accounting department to make financial transfers for the company, a source that was traced to Amuegbunam.

After complying with the spear-phishing email instructions to transfer funds, the companies became victims of the BE

Why EFCC Should Get More Serious, By Opeyemi Oguntoye

In 1984, the war against deadly drug lords from Mexico and Colombia grew rapidly when a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent, Enrique Camarena worked as an informant to the government and got very close to most of the Mexican drug lords.
The information given necessitated the raid on Guadalajara Cartel Marijuana plantation. Felix Gallardo was angered because of DEA betrayal and his arrest was ordered. The US government took it upon herself that five years later, Felix Gallardo was sent to prison.
 
Two most dangerous drug lords in the world, Joaquin El Chapo and Pablo Escobar were arrested, killed in either case after thorough investigation, dedication and sacrifice by the combined efforts of the DEA, Federal Bureau of Investigation FBI and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), CIA agents. One thing that is common about hardened criminal is the fact that they hardly show mercy and have less regard for lives. They kill, destroy and demolish anything that comes against their ambition. If you make any attempt to hinder them, they will crush you, and are always ready to bribe any official to get their agenda fulfilled.
 
Most of the tactics use depend on the level of poverty in that particular society; they torture those who do not believed in enriching themselves. They select family member to attack, which will force the individual to buy into their agenda. They are ruthless and determined.
In a Popular American TV series, Power, Angela Valdes, a character and one of the lead prosecutor and DEA agent responded to the conversation on how to arrest the notorious drug dealer, who is yet unknown. Carlos Ruiz, another character is still untouchable because they haven’t gotten enough evidence to nail him. Angela said “If we can build a compelling case against him, we can put him behind bars” and her boss responded, “We can’t touch him, unless we know we can put him in jail”.
 
 The actual fact is in my first and second paragraphs, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has been everywhere in Nigeria. They can’t kill, so they find it difficult to build concrete evidence against all those they have brought to the Nigeria court. Frankly, justice can’t be given when Nigerians think a man steals or kill. We need to do more; convince a competent court of law to get justice. Also, due diligence and sacrifice should be made in other to get justice, even when we know that an alleged criminal can’t be denied his right to legal representation. Abdulmutalab the kid that wanted to bomb an American plane had an Attorney that defended him. He deserved it. It is now left for the Lawyer to build up a convincing case to the judge or jury.
 
Steve Murphy nearly had a total breakdown with his family because of his obsession to capture Pablo Escobar. His counterpart, Javier Pena nearly gave up at a point because he noticed something strange about his partner behavior, the investigation lasted for years. They both had to relocate to Colombia in other to do proper clampdown on the drug Lords littering the cities of United States with hard drugs. EFCC, after two days will rush to court, and they will expect to be given ‘favourable’ judgment.
 
 It was easier for the United Kingdom authority to sentence James Ibori to prison because the prosecutor did a diligent job to convict one of the greatest thieves in South-South Nigeria. Nigerians want to make money and become millionaire in a day, we don’t care how it happens and we have lost our patience.
 
Journalists who have prominent roles to play in this anti-corruption battle are not doing enough. A friend once said, “if it isn’t investigative, then it is not journalism”. We all wake up and consume breaking news from some news outlet and consume it, hook line and sinker. Nobody takes time to investigate the source of the news or the authenticity of such.
 
Recently, a popular hip hop artist took time to attack all ‘lazy politicians for their un-seriousness and ineptitude’. Another one praised the “Yahoo” boys from the beginning of the song to the end. My observation isn’t about his song but the name 9ice mentioned in his track, all of them are youth which till today, nobody can explain how they all become billionaire. EFCC can’t do the work neither can our journalist unravel the source of their wealth.
 
If we can’t go to any length to unravel all the mystery we are surrounded with, then the people should not shout down the judiciary for ‘unfavourable’ judgment. Today, the world has condemned the alleged Russia infiltration, meddling with USA last general election. Some even went to the extent of abusing and disliking Donald Trump for the role he also played in the last election but none can take him to court because they had less evidence to put him behind bar nor get judgment from court of law. Even former FBI director, James Comey tried hard to explain his suspicions, findings and level of tampering by the Russia government but none has built up to nail the President of the United States of America.
 
If EFCC want to give judgment on the pages of newspaper, we will do that but none will translate to court conviction because we can’t spoon-feed such organisation. IfFBI, CIA and DEA are losing court cases as our EFCC it will be a big slap on all the agencies but it seems we don’t even care again.
 
Isn’t it a shame that Nigeria, her anti-corruption agencies, lawyers and journalists can’t unravel the level of corruption against Diezani Madueke and James Ibori? Neither can they build up a solid case until foreign countries stepped in to convict them. We can’t continue to put our country in bad light because of corruption and ineptitude of all agencies involved to resolve the greed and false accumulation of wealth.
 
Let EFCC take time to build their case, let journalists assist in investigative journalism to get rid of our society from scammers, thieves and drug Lords.

No Madam, Please Let’s Not Go There By Alex Otti

cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependence back into bondage.” ― Alexander Fraser Tytler (1747-1813)

The concept of democracy is hinged on two fundamental principles. These are first, separation of powers and second checks and balances. Separation of powers requires that each organ of government is independent of the rest, to avoid abuse of power. The doctrine of checks and balances, on the other hand, makes it possible for each arm of government to limit the powers of others to ensure against excessive power appropriation. A classic example is that while the executive branch of government can veto bills from the legislature, the legislature can also override the veto, subject to laid down rules. Over time, as democracy continued to take root, countries started granting some form of independence to other important agencies of government. These include the military, the press and the Central Bank also known as the reserve bank in some climes. Despite the independence of these agencies, there is still some influence exerted on them by the government. Narrowing down to the Central Bank, it is reasoned that the autonomy of the institution is critical to insulate the lender of last resort from interference from politicians whose interests are normally short-term in nature. While politicians may want to pursue populist agenda to win votes, an independent Central Bank should be more interested in pursuing policies that may not be popular but would lead to long- term stability of the economy. Thus, a political party may want to pursue a fiscal deficit policy to put more money in the system and make people happy, but a professionally-run Central Bank with eyes on the inflationary implications of fiscal deficit, would roll out a contractionary monetary policy to contain inflation and stabilize the economy.

The major mandates of the Central Bank include:

Managing the nation’s currency

Managing money supplies

Managing interest rates

Setting cash reserve requirements

Acting as lender of last resort.

Supervision of the banking system

Ensuring financial systems stability.

Recently, the Honourable Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, was quoted to have asked a legislative team that paid her a visit, to consider cutting down the “monstrous” powers of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. According to the report, she had said that it was the erstwhile Governor of Central Bank, Professor Chukwuma Soludo that had gone to the National Assembly in 2007 to seek and obtain legislative approval that resulted in the overbearing powers of the Governor of Central Bank.

While one sympathizes with the Honourable Minister, it is instructive to avoid the kind of situation highlighted above by Professor Alex Tytler who paints a very worrisome picture. Though some commentators have described it as being “hyperbolic” the import of his assertion cannot be lost on any student of history. The fiscal deficit has been the bane of most governments and when it is not controlled, the tendency for the economy to be plunged into a crisis is almost axiomatic. Beyond the certainty of inflation, is the burden of debt service on the economy. A cursory look at our economy shows that beyond the 18% inflation rate in the last few quarters, a whopping 35% of our revenue budget goes into debt service. This is a huge number as it leaves the country with just 65% of the budget to work with. If you consider that a large part of the remaining 65% goes into salaries, then you will agree that what is left for infrastructure is infinitesimal and this is in spite of huge infrastructure deficit facing the nation. Now, if we go ahead with the proposed $30billion loan, (I hope we don’t, anyway), we don’t need a soothsayer to tell us that virtually all our revenue would go into debt servicing.

I am aware that sometime in September last year, the Honourable Minister had advised the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the CBN to consider reducing interest rates by lowering the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) from the present 14% to encourage investment and reflate the economy. Recall that in the MPC meeting of July 2016, the committee had raised MPR from 12% to 14%, a decision many analysts disagreed with, given that the economy had just been pronounced as being technically in recession. However, members of the MPC in a unanimous vote on Tuesday September 20 retained MPR at 14%. The minister was not alone in the disappointment of the MPC’s decision as yours truly, shares the minister’s view that in a period of recession, interest rates should be lowered to encourage consumption. The MPC had its own arguments which included that given the level of inflation at almost 18%, lower rates would lead to negative real interest rates and is capable of discouraging savings and investments, both local and foreign. MPC also contended that lowering interest rates would encourage speculators to borrow and launch further attacks on foreign exchange which was rising very rapidly against the Naira. I have checked the literature and I am unable to lay my hands on other areas of sharp divergence between the CBN and the ministry, even though I concede that there may be other issues that may not be in the public domain. It is, however, curious that the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance is a member of the MPC. At least one should have expected one descent at that meeting in question, but the vote was unanimous. My understanding is that this is a useful platform to attain monetary and fiscal policy harmony.

It is important to note that this is not the first time an attempt is being made to whittle down the powers of the CBN Governor. Under Soludo, in 2007, against the understanding of the independence of the CBN, the Presidency, directly intervened by stopping the redenomination of the Naira, full current account liberalization and currency convertibility policies that the then Governor was set to implement. President Yaradua was said not to have been properly briefed and therefore not convinced. The CBN had briefed the Presidency just a day before the public announcement as it believed it did not require the President’s approval as per the CBN Act 2007. Of course, that was the end of those policies.

Under Sanusi, legislators championed the CBN amendment Act 2012 that sought to bring the annual budget of the CBN under the approval authority of the Senate. This generated a lot of opposition from the polity leading to strong representations at the public hearing. If I remember correctly, the amendment was stillborn. National Assembly proponents of the amendment were irked by a statement made by Sanusi to the effect that the National Assembly was responsible for 25% of the recurrent expenditure of the Federal government. Senators descended heavily on him summoning him to come and not only withdraw the statement but apologize. Sanusi stood his grounds and refused to apologize. The battle line was drawn and in what looked like a vendetta mission, the Senators went after the CBN act to cut Sanusi’s powers. He was also accused of bailing out 9 banks in 2009 with some N620b ($4.2b) without appropriation by the National Assembly. CBN explained that the funds didn’t need to be appropriated as they were loans to the banks in the discharge of its role as lender of last resort. The CBN was further accused of issuing some N5.6trillion ($36.6b) government backed zero coupon bonds to purchase toxic assets and recapitalize some ailing banks between 2010 and 2011. All these are now history, Sanusi has since moved on to become the Emir of Kano but the institution remains. This points to the truism in the local proverb of “soldier come, soldier go, but barrack remains”. It also speaks to the fact that rules should neither be made nor changed because of disagreements with incumbent occupants of an office as those occupants will leave sooner or later.

A cursory look at the CBN Act 2007 shows that the activities of the CBN are supposed to be regulated and directed by a board of directors like every other institution. The board is made up of the Governor who is also the Chairman, 4 Deputy Governors, Permanent Secretary, Ministry Of Finance, 5 Directors appointed by the President, and the Accountant General of the Federation. In practice, external board members are in the majority making it difficult for the internal members to have their way without the consent of the external members, most of them appointed by the President. I believe that this is a great governance standard adopted by the act. Unfortunately, since the advent of the present administration, the board of CBN has not been constituted and therefore, the control envisaged by the Act has been put in abeyance.

While all the aforementioned roles are important, monetary policy seems to be one of the most important. Simply put, monetary policy refers to the process by which the central bank controls the supply of money in a bid to contain inflation rate or interest rate to ensure price stability and confidence in the local currency. On the other hand, fiscal policy deals with taxation, government spending, and government borrowing. Fiscal policy is usually under the control of the Ministry of Finance. Under normal circumstances, there is a need for complementarity between the two policies. In practice, however, both of them work at cross-purposes with each other, particularly, when the two institutions have different targets. Best practices require that the roles are entrusted in different hands without one reporting to the other. It must be noted though, that both the Minister of Finance and the CBN Governor report to the President and both serve at his pleasure, even though for a CBN governor to be relieved of his position before the expiration of his tenure, the President would need to secure the nod of the National Assembly with two-thirds majority vote. We are, however, aware that President Jonathan found a way around the National Assembly vote when he decided to remove Sanusi in 2014.

It is only in Zimbabwe out of all the countries I researched that the Central Bank is not independent. Given the experiences of that country, I am not sure there is anything to learn from it. Foreign investors and the international community look out for how independent the Central Bank is as a condition for making a decision to invest in that country or not. So, independence gives the investing community a lot of confidence. The truth is that foreign investors and international multilateral agencies feel that our CBN as currently constituted is not independent enough as they have been clamoring for a full- fledged deregulation of the Naira which the CBN has refused to implement. They don’t believe it is the CBN acting without some influence from the executive.

An independent Central Bank is usually very prompt in taking decisions which can save the economy huge losses rather than waiting for approvals from either a minister or parliament. Because an independent Central Bank is supposed to have a long-term view of the economy as against the short-term interest of the politician, there is bound to be disagreements and tension between the Minister and the Governor. That tension is productive as the economy stands to benefit from it.

I will, therefore, make some recommendations for the minister which I believe would help her get round the frustration. One, both the minister and the governor should be members of the economic team which I’m told is now in place. The direction the economy should go should be thoroughly discussed and agreed at that committee. This would ensure more congruence, once everyone is convinced on the right way to go.

Thankfully, the President has nominated 5 members of the CBN board a few days ago, awaiting Senate confirmation. Even though this is coming almost 2 years late, the minister will benefit from a functional board with appointees of the President in the majority. The minister’s position and opinion would hopefully be well represented at the CBN board.

Finally, the minister will do well to engage productively, with not only the CBN but other arms of government. Engagement is very useful given that it helps to sell superior positions and opinions and bring otherwise opposing sides to the desired side, subject to the superiority of argument and debate. Within the fiscal policy framework are major changes that will help stabilize the economy. The minister must insist on zero-rising ways and means, aggressively work to rebalance recurrent expenditure with capital expenditure, reign in the debt service baggage, and move towards increasing tax to GDP ratio from our current lowly 6% to at least the sub-Saharan African average of about 13% , just to mention but a few. If we can wrap our heads around these issues, then monetary policy will just become a sweetener.

The walk to CBN independence is a very long one that started in 1958. The progress that has been made so far is very commendable. Any attempt to reverse it is like setting us on a reverse journey to the Stone Age. It is not a trip that anyone should contemplate.

Email: [email protected]

Apple To Tighten iPhone Security After FBI Breach

Apple Inc. said on Tuesday that it would increase security on its iPhones, following the breach by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after numerous weeks of back and forth engagements.

A court order by FBI had initially compelled Apple to create a backdoor for accessing the files on the phone of Syed Rizwan Farook, the San Bernardino shooter who killed 14 people in the US in December 2015.

Apple refused to “obey” the court order, saying it would create a dangerous precedence and breach many iPhones across the globe.

In a statement by Eileen Decker, the top federal prosecutor in California, the Ministry of Justice said investigators had received the help of “a third party” in unlocking the sophisticated phone.

“It remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety, either with cooperation from relevant parties, or through the court system when cooperation fails,” the statement read.

The Justice Department said it had “now successfully accessed the data stored on Farook’s iPhone and therefore no longer required the assistance from Apple.

“Accordingly, the government hereby requests that the order compelling Apple Inc. to assist agents in search dated February 16, 2016 be vacated,” it said.

On the other hand, Apple said the FBI should not have made the demand in the first place.
“From the beginning, we objected to the FBI’s demand that Apple build a backdoor into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent.

“As a result of the government’s dismissal, neither of these occurred. This case should never have been brought.”
Apple said it would “continue to increase the security of our products as the threats and attacks on our data become more frequent and more sophisticated”.
Apple is said to have patented one of the best security systems in the world.