Binance director’s escape, a national shame

THE recent escape of one of the two executives of a global crypto-currency firm, Binance, from custody, is an indictment of Nigeria’s security system and must be addressed firmly. The circumstances of the escape make it even more embarrassing. The fugitive Binance executive, Nadeem Anjarwalla, who has British and Kenyan nationalities, and the Africa Regional Manager of the firm, was arrested alongside Tigran Gambaryan, a US citizen overseeing financial crime compliance at the crypto exchange platform.

They were detained upon arriving in Nigeria on February 26, 2024, due to a ban on their website, and are being tried by Nigerian courts. The Federal Government, through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, had asked Binance to share data on its 100 top users in Nigeria, as well as all transaction history for the past six months. The request is at the centre of negotiations between Binance and Nigeria.

The Office of the National Security Adviser said Anjarwalla escaped when heavily armed soldiers escorted him to the mosque to pray in the spirit of the ongoing Ramadan. He beat all security checks, and boarded a plane using his Kenyan passport, which was smuggled to him since his British passport had earlier been seized and flown out of the country. The story simply does not add up.

The Federal Government promptly contacted the International Criminal Police Organisation and issued an arrest warrant for the apprehension of the fugitive. Subsequently, the case involving the Binance executives was transferred from the ONSA to the EFCC, a decision that should have been taken immediately after the suspects were apprehended since the charges against them border on economic crime. They allegedly manipulated forex trading that saw the naira at an all-time low of almost N2,000/$1.

Though the ONSA said the security agents guarding Anjarwalla at the time of his audacious escape had been arrested for questioning, the ongoing inquest should go beyond that. The circumstances surrounding it and all those involved in the apparent slap on Nigeria’s face must be identified and brought to justice with stiff penalties as their action is nothing more than national sabotage.

Their international collaborators, if any, must also be exposed and made to face appropriate sanctions.

Immigration and other security officials at the airport must be investigated and made to face the full consequences of their criminal act of aiding the escape of the fugitive, or of negligence, while the international airline that ferried Anjarwalla out of Nigeria must face sanctions in line with the International Air Transport Association guidelines.

The breach shows that the national security system is very porous. Bandits easily kidnap schoolchildren in their hundreds, and gunmen invade communities and slaughter residents without any challenge from security agencies.

In decent environments, the NSA would have resigned by now, while other security chiefs would be answering questions. But this is Nigeria, such things rarely happen. To save his administration’s integrity, President Bola Tinubu needs to act by querying Nuhu Ribadu, or firing him to send a strong signal.

The entire security architecture should be restructured to make the personnel more in tune with modern trends of carrying out their duties, while their pay should be enhanced to minimise the tendency to give in to corruption.

In December 2001, the then Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Bola Ige, was assassinated in his Ibadan, Oyo State home with all the security personnel guarding him abdicating their duty post. Similarly, a high-profile convicted terrorist, Kabiru Sokoto, escaped from custody in January 2012.

In contrast, the EU took Google, Meta, and Microsoft to court, while the US is dealing with TikTok. So, Nigeria should use the law against errant international organisations instead of resorting to physical arrests.

Credit Gist New Today News in Newspaper Nigeria Headlines

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