…the operatives allegedly seized phones of arrested forex traders
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) on Wednesday arrested eighty seven forex traders in Abuja, Lagos and Kano.
Sources claimed that that the EFCC detectives stormed several forex trading hubs in Abuja, ransacking their vaults for stash of dollars and naira.
The operatives were said to have arrested no fewer than twenty five legal and illegal forex dealers in addition to the forty arrested on Tuesday during a raid of the Zone 4 Wuse offices of the Association of Bureau de Change Operators, bringing the number of arrests in the Federal Capital Territory to sixty five.
The EFCC operatives were said to have seized the phones of those that were arrested.
The anti-graft agency also nabbed about fourteen forex dealers in Lagos on Wednesday while eight others were picked up at the famous Bureau de Change market located at Wapa in Kano metropolis.
Sources claimed that EFCC operatives swooped on forex dealers on Broad Street in Lagos Island as well as some BDC outlets in other parts of the states.
An insider EFCC source said that the operation against the BDCs, which began on Tuesday, would be extended to Lagos, Anambra, Oyo and Rivers states.
The renewed operation sources claimed is targeted at tracking illicit funds from terrorists, bandits and politicians who might want to convert their stash in a desperate move to beat the redesign of the naira announced by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The new naira notes, which would replace higher denominations, would be released on December 15.
Meanwhile, the Assistant Provost, Association of Bureau de Change Operators, Zone 4, Wuse, Mallam Muhammed Nera has disclosed that thirteen out of the twenty five persons arrested on Wednesday had been released to the association, noting that their phones were, however, still in the EFCC’s custody.
Nera described the raids as illegal, noting that the commission did not present an arrest or search warrant before ransacking offices and taking people away.
He said ’’Forty persons were arrested on Tuesday but they have released almost all of them but held on to their phones which they went to collect on Wednesday. They kept them throughout the whole day before releasing their handsets.
“Today (Wednesday), they came again and arrested 25 persons. They released 13 of them without their phones and detained 12 others. Over 30 phones were seized; they even seized the phones of some bankers who were looking for depositors. It was when they wanted to leave that they realised their error and returned the phones.”
The forex dealer accused the EFCC of ethnic profiling, noting that the BDC operators were being harassed because they were northerners, insisting that they have not done anything wrong.
He challenged the anti-graft agency to disclose the crimes for which the dealers were being held, noting that they were ordinary Nigerians doing legitimate business.
Nera stated, “The EFCC operatives heard that people are bringing naira to the market to change into dollars. What is bad about that? Is it stolen money? If it is stolen money, let us know. We can work together, and help to identify people who stole their money.
“We don’t understand what these people were doing. They threatened to break down our offices. They said if they met any office locked, they would break it down. They didn’t show us any warrant; they were just entering offices, they are doing illegal work. They didn’t have any warrant; just because they are EFCC. Anybody can wear (EFCC) jackets and claim to be EFCC.
‘’About 90 per cent of bureau de change operators are northerners. We are thinking they are harassing us because we are northerners but we are citizens of Nigeria. This business is not only for northerners, it is being done in Lagos and other places but most are northerners.
‘’They just want to cripple us because we have been keeping quiet. They have been harassing our people every time; it is annoying, it is getting out of hand. Nobody is above the law but they are breaking the law. We are going to petition the National Assembly and also take them to court. We are going to fight to the end.’’