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NSA confirms escape of Binance executive, says officials responsible for custody arrested

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The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) has confirmed the escape of Nadeem Anjarwalla, the Binance regional manager for Africa.

A statement by Zakari Mijinyawa, head of strategic communication at ONSA, said “preliminary investigation shows that Mr Anjarwalla fled Nigeria using a smuggled passport”.

“The personnel responsible for the custody of the suspect have been arrested, and a thorough investigation is ongoing to unravel the circumstances that led to his escape from lawful detention,” the statement reads.

On Monday, a report by Premium Times said the Binance executive escaped from the Abuja guest house where he and his colleague were detained, on March 22.

Anjarwalla was said to have escaped after guards on duty led him to a nearby mosque for prayers in the spirit of the ongoing Ramadan fast.

He is believed to have flown out of Abuja using a Middle Eastern airliner — but how he got on an international flight despite his British passport, was unknown.

ONSA said “upon receiving this report, this office took immediate steps, in conjunction with relevant security agencies, MDAs, as well as the international community, to apprehend the suspect”.

“Security agencies are working with Interpol for an international arrest warrant on the suspect,” the statement adds.

“Recall that the Federal Government of Nigeria, like other governments around the world, has been investigating money laundering and terrorism financing transactions perpetrated on the Binance currency exchange platform.

“Until his escape, Nadeem Anjarwalla, who holds British and Kenyan nationalities and serving as Binance’s Africa regional manager, was being tried by Nigerian courts.

“The suspect escaped while under a 14-day remand order by a court in Nigeria. He was scheduled to appear before the court again on 4 April 2024.

“We urge the Nigerian public and the international community to provide whatever information they have that can assist law enforcement agencies to apprehend the suspect.”

BACKGROUND

On February 28, two of Binance’s top executives – Anjarwalla, a 37-year-old British-Kenyan and Binance’s regional manager for Africa; and Tigran Gambaryan, a 39-year-old US citizen and Binance’s head of financial crime compliance, were detained by the Nigerian authorities for weeks.

Anjarwalla and Gambaryan had flown into Nigeria but had their passports seized by ONSA.

On March 12, Anjarwalla was transferred to a local hospital after he fell ill while in detention in Nigeria.

Following the arrest of the two executives as part of a broader clampdown on crypto platforms, a federal high court in Abuja ordered Binance Holdings Limited to provide the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with the comprehensive data or information of all persons from Nigeria trading on its platform.

Binance has also been accused of evading tax, failing to register with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and currency speculation.

The federal government had requested at least $10 billion as retribution from Binance for profiting from “its illegal transactions” in Nigeria.

Bayo Onanuga, special adviser on information and strategy to President Bola Tinubu, who had disclosed this in an interview with the BBC, said the cryptocurrency platform was causing massive losses for “fixing exchange rates”.

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Yahaya Bello absent in court as EFCC threatens military option to fish him out

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says it is mulling the “military option” against Yahaya Bello, former governor of Kogi state.

On Thursday, the federal high court in Abuja adjourned the case against Bello, Alli Bello, chief of staff to Usman Ododo, governor of Kogi; and one Daudu Suleiman, to April 23.

The EFCC alleged that the suspects diverted about N100 billion belonging to the Kogi government.

Responding to the EFCC allegations, the Kogi government said funds belonging to the state were not missing during the administration of the former governor.

The former Kogi governor was not present in the courtroom on Thursday.

Kemi Pinhero, EFCC counsel, said Bello’s absence from the court was a strategy.

Responding, Abdulwahab Muhammed, Bello’s lawyer, said on February 9, a court issued a restraining order on the arrest and prosecution of the former governor.

He said the restraining order was appealed by the EFCC, adding that the case is still pending and therefore the arrest warrant granted against Bello on Wednesday does not stand.

Muhammed accused the EFCC of trying to bring the judge on a collision course with the court of appeal.

He said the court has no jurisdiction on the matter as the case is pending at the court of appeal.

Muhammed asked the court to vacate the arrest warrant granted against Bello because the court was “misled”.

He said it may lead to anarchy if a court of competent jurisdiction and another court of competent jurisdiction issue opposing orders.

Responding, Pinhero said if the former Kogi governor believes he is innocent, he should appear in court to defend himself.

He said if Bello is unwilling to appear before the court, measures will be taken against him.

He said section 287 of the constitution allows security agencies, including the military, to produce a person before a court, adding that nobody is above the court or the rule of law.

After hearing arguments from the counsel, Emeka Nwite, the presiding judge, adjourned further hearing to April 23.

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Owerri-bound Air Peace flight turns back mid-air, blames sunset airport operation

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An air passenger has accused Air Peace of delaying its Abuja-Owerri flight for 17 hours.

The passenger, simply known as @Grace_undiluted on X, wrote via her handle that the airline also turned back mid-air due to the closure time at the destination airport.

Grace made this known in a series of posts on April 17.

According to the passenger, Air Peace sold the ticket “at N120,000” from Abuja to Owerri, and the flight was scheduled to leave Abuja at 4:30 pm and land at 5:30 pm in Owerri.

However, the X user said the flight ended up delaying until 6:18 pm due to the absence of a pilot.

“Half way on air, we were told that they can’t go anymore because Owerri airport closes at 6:40 so they turned back,” Grace wrote.

“Arrived at Abuja again and took more than 20 minutes before passengers were addressed and let out and another 20+ minutes to have someone tell us what will happen next.

“They then promised us a bus to drive us to a hotel to sleep but it’s past 9pm and the bus is nowhere to be found after leaving with a few people in the first round.

“We are all stranded, scattered around. I myself was coming from Kano but missed my connecting flight with Dana air because Azman delayed for 1 hour+ then I went ahead to book air peace because I needed to get home today but here I am, stranded after spending over 300k on domestic flights today.”

The passenger said at about 10 pm, the airline said the bus was stuck “so there is no hope”.

“They also said the restaurant is closed so no food but we should go back to the hall so we can sit and get water,” the passenger wrote.

“Please keep in mind that this flight was originally scheduled for 3:50 then 4:30 just to leave at 6:18pm. This flight was supposed to land in owerri by 5:30 so if they had kept to time, none of this would have happened.”

The X user said the airline eventually moved the flight again “after assuring people that they will fly them to owerri by 7am tomorrow” —to 10 am on Thursday.

Speaking to newsmen on the issue, Stanley Olisa, Air Peace spokesperson, said the aircraft had an unscheduled maintenance.

“The 4.30 flight, the aircraft, we had an unscheduled (unplanned) maintenance on the aircraft,” he said.

Sunset airports are airfields across the country operating between sunrise and sunset.

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Court restrains EFCC from arresting, detaining, and prosecuting Yahaya Bello

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A High Court sitting in Lokoja, Kogi State, has restrained the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from infringing on the fundamental human rights of Alhaji Yahaya Bello, former Kogi State Governor.

In a two hour judgment delivered on Wednesday, at the High Court 4 and presided over by Hon. Justice I.A Jamil, in suit no HCL/68/M/2020, the court restrained the EFCC from arresting, detaining and prosecuting the applicant except as authorised by the Court. This is a definite order following the earlier interim injunction given.

The judgment followed the suit brought before the court by Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the applicant, seeking to enforce his fundamental rights against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The Court equally restrained the respondents from continuing to persecuting the Applicant.

Earlier in the judgement, the Court dismissed the issue of jurisdiction as challenged by the EFCC.

The Applicant’s Counsel SA Abbas and MS Yusuf, described the judgment as landmark while the

Defendant Counsel, T.U Odima and Patrick O. Jibril also aligned themselves to the judgment, describing it as thorough.

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Bodex F. Hungbo, SPMIIM is a multiple award-winning Nigerian Digital Media Practitioner, Digital Strategist, PR consultant, Brand and Event Expert, Tv Presenter, Tier-A Blogger/Influencer, and a top cobbler in Nigeria.

She has widespread experiences across different professions and skills, which includes experiences in; Marketing, Media, Broadcasting, Brand and Event Management, Administration and Management with prior stints at MTN, NAPIMS-NNPC, GLOBAL FLEET OIL AND GAS, LTV, Silverbird and a host of others

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