Ex-DSS chief tells incredible story of Binance official’s escape from custody

Spread the love

Dr. Seyi Adetayo, a security and intelligence expert, is a retired Principal Staff Officer of the

Department of State Service, DSS. In this interview, Adetayo, drawing from his experience, speaks

on the “embarrassing” escape of Nadeem Anjawallala, a Binance executive, from Nigeria ahead of his trial for alleged tax evasion and economic sabotage.

Among other things, he blames the escape on the “quality of personnel we have” in the security services some of whom he describes as scammers and criminally-minded. The expert also alludes to the role money and religion could have played in the saga. On the release of abducted Kuriga schoolchildren, Adetayo says the question of whether ransom was paid still needs to be answered.

How would Nadeem Anjawallala escape from lawful custody? What could have happened from your perspective?

It is a big embarrassment to us as a nation and this is one escape too many; it is something we should not allow to happen again. Although we are yet to get the full briefing of what happened, it is not something that is difficult for me to conclude, knowing full well that Binance is a very rich organization and should be about the richest in the world, not minding the Jezz Bezos and others on the Forbes list. This is an organization that the world even finds difficult to track their earnings and they have issues across the globe. I can confidently say they are about the biggest organization (in the world). In Nigeria alone, they raked up about $25 billion in one year. I don’t think Amazon has been able to make 1 percent of such money in Nigeria. So it is very easy for such an organization to sponsor an extraction operation. To me, it is purely an extraction operation carefully planned and sponsored using an intelligence asset domiciled in Nigeria, probably operated by a contract organization or a foreign government intelligence asset to remove the guy. Some of the information available clearly shows that this guy wouldn’t have found it so easy to get a passport and also be able to move through our airport without being detected. I have it on authority that he actually bought the ticket that he flew with at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport on that same day. For him to make such smooth movement, somebody must have planned it, worked out the details to ensure that the guy passed through the airport using the same name undetected; they must have checked that he was not on the watch-list; and they must also ensure an easy airline for him to use to get out of Nigeria. And there’s something about the airline that flew him out of Nigeria. From my experience, a lot of things used to go through that airline because the majority of the Lebanese fly through it, and there are lots of things that go on in the airport that you can just imagine. From the way he was able to move from the mosque easily, a vehicle probably trying to pick him up shows it is a well-planned extraction operation.

Why do you think he was not placed on the watch-list considering the allegation against him and Binance? Do you suspect collusion?

This is one question the Office of the NSA needs to answer. I find it very hard to believe that the Office of the NSA would keep this suspect in its custody and not transfer the suspect to agencies like the EFCC or the DSS to manage and also watch-listing the suspect immediately considering the huge and enormity of accusations against them and seeing the difficulty getting an organization like Binance. What you are asking Binance to do is very big.

The moment they provide the information, they are breaking away from what they have assured their customers, and they are going to lose credibility, customers and revenue. When you know you are dealing with such an organisation, I expect more tact from the Office of the NSA in this regard. Like others have said, this is not a call for the Office of the NSA; the office is bigger than this kind of operation and can provide all the support and give directives, but not personally, because when your agencies handle related tasks, you, as the Office of the NSA, supervise them.

There’s something we need to actually look into which is the credibility, the efficiency of our security agencies. I think it’s actually going down in terms of employee productivity and the quality of personnel we have in the agency. I personally believe that even though Nadeem may not have been watch-listed, it is expected that officers at the airport should be conversant with what is going on in the country to be able to pick that name. This is not rocket science. And I am not saying something I haven’t done before. Some years ago, government listed some people having questions to answer, and one of those people wanted to use a private jet to fly and I was on duty.

Through my training, I knew the person was having an issue with government. I intercepted his passport; I called my boss, and an arrest was made immediately. If you are well trained and you are doing your job, you are supposed to be conversant with what is going on in the country, and the moment you see a name that has issues, you are supposed to hold the passport and make a call.

We have seen this happening in other countries. In the last 10 years, the quality of the personnel we are recruiting into our agencies leaves a lot to be desired; lots of people have found their way into agencies; I am not being particular about one agency now, many have come from politicians who the politicians don’t even know, those with criminal backgrounds, and those who are into scams, among others. That is the reason you see soldiers involved in kidnapping; you see policemen violating an order given by the Inspector General of Police, IGP. This is a call for us to actually look into this. Those people who are responsible for keeping this guy, what gave them the confidence to take a man kept in their custody out of their facility because such action cannot be taken without express order from the top? For them to have that temerity to take somebody out of a safe house to go and pray in a mosque, if he doesn’t pray in the mosque, will he die? So that speaks volumes about the quality of our personnel in the security agencies. It’s not about government spending money, buying equipment, and increasing salaries; we also need to look at recruiting and the level of training given to them now.

Who is likely to escape from custody—an innocent man, a guilty person, or who?

No one should escape from the custody of a diligent security agency. But with the quality of personnel we have, I can comfortably organize an extraction. Two things will keep Nigerian security agents out: Money and religion. You can exploit them with money and with their religious tendencies. The moment you are able to induce them, you are giving the inmate a soft landing, and from there, you can begin to control them. I can say that is the way they were able to control these guys to take him to the mosque, and there is an extraction move to take him out of the mosque to move him out of the country. They didn’t even reach out to the airport until one hour after the aircraft had left Nigeria. That shows how badly that instruction was given.

In other words, who is most likely to escape from lawful custody?

What would make you want to escape is either you have something to hide or you are under a condition that you know you cannot meet with the demands placed before you. So you would want to escape to get your life back.

But some people may say he’s not sure of getting the right kind of justice.

Justice here is relative; there have been allegations, and this is an organization that has presence in the United States, and you know you will always have an avenue for redress. Remember when PID took Nigeria to a British court? If Binance felt they couldn’t get the right kind of justice, they could sue the Nigerian government outside Nigeria to seek redress using all available means in case of injustice. We still have to wait to see what happens next, because if they can do that in Nigeria, it means they can also do that in the US, UK, and other countries where they are also operating.

What are your thoughts on the Kuriga schoolchildren that were freed without ransom, as claimed by the government?

The president’s decision not to pay ransom was the right step. He established a tune, and the tune is being established at all levels of government to ensure that we all have an alliance as to how issues like this will be addressed. However, the question of whether ransom was paid still needs to be answered. Ordinarily, one would say it is not possible for all the children to be released unharmed; there are no pictures of kidnappers being shot. It shows a lot of back-channel engagement was involved. Was money involved? That is another question, but from what I have seen, did the government have time to sew clothes? There must have been a level of back-channel engagement around the release of the schoolchildren. So it’s not something new, but in the near future, we will get to know more about what actually transpired behind the scenes. This is not the result of a military kinetic operation. It will not involve armed engagement with the bandits to see the schoolchildren released.

Sheikh Gumi was invited recently by the authorities after he said he would be willing to negotiate on behalf of the Federal Government with bandits on kidnappings. What is your take?

We need to understand the fact that Nigeria is a sovereign nation and that it has placed certain powers in the hands of the president. And we all agree that whoever is sworn-in as president is our president. We have allowed too many activities by individuals. We have allowed too much from individuals over the years. If we don’t start asking those people to start explaining why and bring about some level of sanity, of course we will get to a situation where it will be free for all and everybody will act as they please. Inviting Gumi is the right action. Recently, we had somebody threatening the First Lady. It is not that he was found guilty, but just to send the right signals. If you say things, government can call you to explain; nobody is above the law. The rule of law must prevail.

You said we have allowed too much from individuals over the years; do you see it as a significant departure from those individuals from the last administration?

I am very impressed so far that we have a president who is ready to step on toes. This is the right action to be taken, which is a complete departure from the way some individuals have been treated in the past. So the more of this we see in this government, the right kind of result will move us forward. We should understand what can be said in public and what cannot be said in public. Even if you want to negotiate on behalf of government, it is not expected of you to say it in public. You can engage government privately, and government can engage you using the back-channel. It would be done without people knowing you were involved. The moment you put yourself at the forefront of it, you are presenting yourself as the messiah to the people.

But is there enough deterrence to ensure that there’s no repeat of kidnapping especially of schoolchildren?

I don’t think this will be the last. We are still going to have more of it. There’s nothing on the ground that would prevent it. You cannot wall all the schools, and even walling the schools would not prevent armed groups from breaking in and taking children. So going back to what I have said before, we have made criminality lucrative in Nigeria, and nobody is being punished for it. There’s a need to look at our criminal justice system: Law enforcement, the court, and the prison. We have done so much in law enforcement that we will still continue to do more, but our court system is neither dead nor living. Our court system is not breathing and is not dead at the same time. When you don’t show people that if you commit an offense, you will answer for it, I expect the president to declare a state of emergency on insecurity and mandate all state governors to sign the execution order of all convicted and condemned criminals in their custody. This would shake the fabric of our prisons; it would send shock waves around the whole country; and these bad activities would go down within one year.

Spread the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *