The police in neighbouring Niger Republic arrested a Nigerian carrying 4.6m Euros (N1.05bn) in cash at the Diori Hamani Airport in Niamey, the capital of Niger, on his way to Dubai. However, the Nigerien authorities have refused to send the seized funds back to Nigerian authorities.
The Nigerien police said they suspected that the man was fleeing with the money in order to avoid being caught by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, who has been prosecuting an anti-corruption campaign since assumption of office on May 29.
They also expressed worry that there has been a rise in the number of Nigerians transferring huge sums of money in cash through neighbouring countries.
The police in Niger are already working on the suspicion that the money traffickers have accomplices within the country.
Interestingly the authorities in Nigeria on Wednesday claimed ignorance of the money seizure in the neighbouring country though the Customs officers in Niger were already kicking against repatriating the cash to Nigeria.
A media report in Niger on Saturday said the National Union of Customs Officers at a press briefing “denounced the request of the Nigerian authorities” to return the seized money.
The Customs official said there had been several similar seizures in Niamey from people trafficking money from Nigeria, putting the amount that had been so seized in several billions of naira.
They said the seized money had been mainly in dollars, euros and pounds sterling, asking the Niger authorities to allow the Customs officials to do their job without interference.
When contacted, the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said he could not speak on the development because his brief was to speak for the President.
He therefore referred one of our correspondents to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“I speak for the President. On this kind of issues, I will advice that you speak with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” he said.
At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the officials denied knowledge of the seizure in Niger Republic. The ministry’s spokesperson, Ogbole Ahmedu-Ode, said the ministry had not received official communication on the arrest of any Nigerian.
“I am hearing about this incident for the first time from you, we have not received any communication on the matter from any quarters,” he said over the telephone.
The spokesman for the Nigerian Customs Service, Mr Wale Adeniyi could not be reached for comments.
But a senior official of the Service in confidence said that the issue had yet to be brought to the attention of the agency.
The official said since the matter was a diplomatic issue, there were protocols that must be adhered to before the customs could step in.
The official said:
“As we speak now, the matter hasn’t been drawn to our attention. This is a diplomatic matter that has to be treated with caution in order to avoid diplomatic row between both countries.
“The identity of the person in question has not been established and it is the Nigerian embassy in Niger that would verify that.
“After that is done, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be notified before other security agencies would be invited on the matter.
“So, it is not something that the Customs will jump into and start investigating because the Customs in Niger don’t report directly to us in Nigeria.”