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Wema Bank: Nigerian banks race to join CBN Too-Big-To-Fail (Part IV)

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Note: Read ‘Institutional fraud and greed’ Nigerian banks race to join CBN Too-Big-To-Fail (Part 1), if you’re yet to do so.

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In the heat of the global financial crisis, a regional bank with negative retained earnings in excess of N45billion appointed Segun Oloketuyi as Managing Director. Burdened with the bad fortunes of the bank and a global financial meltdown, Segun’s failure would have been quite excusable. But amazingly, his team led the bank to resurgence and national competitiveness within six years.

For over 70 years (Wema is proudly Nigeria’s longest surviving indigenous bank), Wema Bank was hardly known, strapped down by orthodox practices and inefficiencies, its fortunes however turned around when Oloketuyi’s team took on rigorous rebranding, branch remodeling, and fast digital transformation across its operations. Of all the strategies deployed, the pursuit of technology adoption soon prove to be the ace in the emergence of the new Wema.

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Then enters Alat by Wema, Nigeria’s first fully digital bank and the bank’s springboard into exponential growth and industry leadership. ALAT was launched on May 2, 2017 and during its first year, it acquired more than 250,000 customers responsible for well over NGN 1.6bn ($4.48m) in general deposits. In 2018, the bank closed in the NGN 1bn ($2.78m) mark in terms of deposits into savings accounts.

It’s the digital age and majority of the world’s youthful population have grown in a highly disruptive world, hence they are early adopters of technology and lovers of change to status quo. Nigeria being a nation where 7 in every 10 persons are youths is definitely more likely to push on this trend. Therefore, it was a master stroke by Wema to run ahead of the time with this flagship product.

olusegun oloketuyi

Segun Oloketuyi, former CEO, Wema Bank Plc

In fact, the growth of fintech in Nigeria is traceable to the development of digital banking in the country, spear-headed by the establishment of ALAT by Wema, in 2017.

ALAT by Wema came at a period when many Nigerians felt it was almost impossible to open and operate a fully-functioning bank from a digital device without stepping into a banking hall. As of 2017, some forms of banking still required physical presence to complete, including KYC, account update, address change, etc. ALAT provided a banking solution that sped-up Nigeria’s digital banking growth.

The provision of seamless, paperless banking by ALAT and its efficiency witnessed immediate acceptance from Nigerians. Within a year of its launch, 250,000 accounts were opened with N1.6 billion in deposit. The bank has continued to yield growth, but what is of significance to the Nigerian fintech and digital banking space, is the trailblazing move that has changed the financial ecosystem.

The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 has further increased digital banking globally. According to Reuters, the pandemic increased the demand for digital banking in Nigeria as more and more people opt for online banking because of the lockdown and restriction on physical banking. This trend has continued into 2021 and is expected to carry on. The foresight and revolutionary presence of ALAT positioned it as an already tried and trusted system rather than a quick-fix solution coming onto the stage because of the pandemic.

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Wema smartly productised banking, extricated it from its poor reputation and sailed it on the wind of change. Brilliant! The growth ever since has been enormous. The first quarter report of this year for the industry saw Wema leading as the Most Profitable Bank in Nigeria with a PAT growth of +119%! Commendable.

Freelanews Bureau of Investigation, FBI, has established in its earlier analysis the price of sporadic growth. Wema, its poster boy of digital transformation, and stupendous growth have come at a cost to the public. There are truth-wading allegations of fraud, data theft, breach of trust, money laundering, and sharp practices in the operations of the bank. For the sake of brevity we will x-ray a few below:

Unauthorised Account Opening/Customer Data pilferage

There have been several allegations from various people about unauthorised account opening by Wema bank on its ALAT platform. Though the bank have continued to deny these allegations, the most recent indictment comes with strong evidence that spots its complicity or maybe, compromise.

Peter Adebayo, a Nigerian researcher living abroad, recently accused Wema Bank of fraudulently opening an ALAT Bank account in his name without his authorisation.

Peter narrated that his mother called him on May 3, 2022 to ask if he had opened a new account with the bank, but he thought it was nothing to be worried about.

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He also thought the message the bank sent was a mistake until he tried sending money to the said account number.

“While trying to confirm whether the account was real or not, it brought out my name,” he said.

“I immediately sent Wema Bank an email that I had never opened an account with the bank and had authorised no one to open a bank account in my name.

“Wema Bank later sent me an auto response acknowledging receipt of my mail. Fast forward to today, I checked again and the account still exists. I got mad, so I reached out to them on WhatsApp.”

He stated that he was stunned on hearing what the bank told him, because that signaled to him that someone might have used his details to either receive a ransom or launder money.

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“I am concerned about how my information has been used by Wema Bank and I need a detailed explanation about the account, including all the transactions that have been performed on it,” he said.

After reaching out to Wema Bank on WhatsApp, the bank told Adebayo ‘that someone who had his information opened the account on his behalf’.

He stated that he was stunned on hearing what the bank told him, because that signaled to him that someone might have used his details to either receive a ransom or launder money.

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“I am concerned about how my information has been used by Wema Bank and I need a detailed explanation about the account, including all the transactions that have been performed on it,” he said.

“Now, Wema Bank wants to close the account since I have been asking them questions. I already have an existing account with Wema Bank, which I opened in October. I recently traveled out of Nigeria and I cannot go to the bank to do certain things. I did not sign up for any account.”

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screenshot 2022 08 17 at 23 42 03 wema bank twitter search twitter

Another victim of unauthorised account opening

The proliferation of this nefarious activities have elicited reaction from the government. The Federal Government through the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) has queried Wema Bank Plc over illegal banking practices in the country.

This comes after allegations that the bank and its agents have been opening unauthorized accounts for customers with information sourced from their Bank Verification Number (BVN) details.

The Nigeria Data Protection Bureau (NDPB) has also announced the commencement of an investigation into Wema Bank’s activities following the alleged data breach and illegal opening of accounts by the bank.

Babatunde Bamigboye, Head of Legal, Enforcement, and Regulations Lead at the NDPB announced the development in a statement on Tuesday.

The statement said, “Nigeria Data Protection Bureau (the Bureau) has commenced investigations into reports of a breach of data privacy involving two major data controllers in Nigeria, namely, Wema Bank PLC and KC Gaming Networks (Bet9ja). This is in line with Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution and the provisions of Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) 2019 – particularly Articles 2.1(2)-(3), 2.6, and Article 4 of the NDPR.”

The above allegation sort of point to one question; is Wells Fargo Wema Bank’s playbook?

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Mystery around N1.7billion ‘Erroneous’ loan disbursement to Shibahlwells

News broke in February, 2022 of the arraignment of one Isaac Adewole, a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God and Kingsley Ananwede, a staff of Wema Bank on allegations of money laundering, etc. The stories that got into the media got this narrative journey:

Part One (22 February to 22nd March, 2022): report, investigation and charge to court

    • Timi Popoola reports Isaac Adewole, Wema Bank to Area G on suspicion of fraudulent transactions on a loan account his property is tied to as collateral
    • Case is investigated and substance is found against Wema and Shibahwells Energy, Isaac Adewole’s company. Review of bank statement account shows that five large transfers are found questionable.
    • All companies that the statement named as sender of those funds were contacted and denied any such transaction originating from them
    • Adewole insisted the transfers were error by Wema bank and were reversed.
    • Police takes the fact that the reversals were done in smaller chunks and to different accounts as evidence to press money laundering charges
    • Case was charged to court in Ogba
Details of the story

Investigating Police Officer remarked, “He used his neighbour’s house for collateral of the loan which was granted to him and promised to return it within six months. But three years after, the man approached him for his house document and that was when he told him of the fraudulent act. He said the bank paid N1.7 billion into the account using different multinational companies like Dana Airlines, Caverton helicopter and two others, one N300 million, one N270 million, one 600 million and like that, it’s only one of the transactions that they didn’t put a name there.

“Guess what they do after, they now moved that N1.7 billion from Adewole’s accounting into different bank accounts in tranches. Like the one I told you —N600 million, they immediately put it in another account in form of N150 million, 100 million, N100 million, N90 million. The pastor’s account is known as Shibawells Energy Limited. The one for Dana that they moved N160 million to, that was how they did it too, they immediately sent it to another account in smaller units as well.

“He has a partner, we called him and realised he wasn’t aware of the transaction. He was shocked, he realised the statement presented to him was forged to hide the fraudulent transaction.”

According to Adewole’s statement of account obtained by SaharaReporters, on January 28 2021, via transaction ID No: M35660, he received the sum of N424,811,000 from Caverton, N160,000,000 from Dana and N630,000,000 from Beam Energy, all with the same transaction number.

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On June 18, 2021, via transaction ID No: M104031, the pastor received the sum of N300,000,000 via NIP transfer from an undisclosed account source.

Also on same June 18, 2021, via transaction ID No: M104031, Adewole received the sum of N270,000,000 from Messrs Morrifoil Oil and Gas Ltd., all totaling N1,784,811,000.

Investigating Police Officer establishes substance…

“To determine whether fraud or money laundering has occurred by these established facts, the account officer of Shibahwells in WEMA Bank PLC., one Kingsley Ananwede ‘m’ was invited and questioned. It was established that he worked in concert with other staff of WEMA Bank who are at large and the MD/CEO of Shibahwells Energy Limited to carry out the fraudulent activities on the accounts.

“This is shown by the facts that the funds deposited were not removed in that order or the sums deposited but carefully removed in different tranches as it is shown on the account statements. For his own part, Adewole refused to cooperate with the investigations but instead, did everything he could, to assist the bank in covering up. So it was decided that the case be referred to the Lagos State Ministry of Justice for Legal Advice.

Part Two: Adewole’s Reaction

In a petition to the Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Adewole, who is also the Managing Director of Shibawells Energy said the N1.7 billion transfer to his loan account was made in error and was reversed immediately.

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He accused Popoola, who he used his property as part of the collateral to secure the loan at the bank of planning to use the error to “embarrass one of its Executive Directors over some unresolved personal feud.”

Isaac Adewole said through his lawyers…

“To meet Timi Popoola’s demand, Shibahwells approached Wema Bank with a request to withdraw Timi Popoola’s title documents from the loan obligation and to replace same with other security to be provided by the Star Orient/Shibahwells joint venture. Some of the letters by Shibahwells to Wema Bank in this regard are attached as ANNEXURE 4. In response, Wema Bank called for a reconciliation of the loan account with a view to determining the extent of Shibahwells’ indebtedness to the bank. A consultant nominated by the bank was engaged to carry out the reconciliation of Shibahwells’ loan account and in the course of that reconciliation, the consultant discovered that the loan account had been erroneously credited and debited with some funds at different times/dates.

“The consultant brought this discovery to our client’s attention and also notified Wema Bank. In reaction, Wema Bank stated that the said bank transfers into the loan account were made in error and that the same was reversed immediately on each occasion the erroneous transfers occurred. On one occasion while our client was spending time with Timi Popoola and Lanre Bamgbose, a shareholder and director in Star Orient; the issue of erroneous funds transfer to Shibahwells loan account came up for discussion whereupon each person expressed different views as to the likely origin of the funds. Our client used this opportunity to clear the doubts by informing both Timi Popoola and Lanre Bamgbose that Wema Bank had already confirmed that the transfers were made into the loan account in error and that same were reversed immediately.

“To our client’s shock, Timi Popoola furiously stated that he was going to leverage the bank’s error to embarrass one of its Executive Directors over some unresolved personal feud. Our client immediately pleaded with Timi Popoola not to toe this path of blackmail, especially since posting funds across customers’ bank accounts was typically not part of the responsibility of a bank’s Executive Director. The conversation ended on this note.

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“With a settled expectation that the doubts around the erroneous bank transfers had been resolved, our client was surprised to receive an invite from Area G Command of the Nigeria Police Force, Ogba, Lagos on 5th November 2021. Upon honouring the police invitation on 8th November 2021, our client was informed that Timi Popoola had reported a case of suspected money laundry activities perpetrated by our client and Wema Bank.”

“During the meeting with ACP Ibrahim Zungura, our client was asked questions relating to the inflows and outflows on the Shibahwells loan account with Wema Bank. In particular, ACP Ibrahim Zungura cajoled our client to cooperate with the police so that the matter would be dispensed with at the Area G Command. Our client volunteered a written statement disclosing all he knows about the erroneous inflows and outflows on the Shibahwells loan account.

Part Three: Media reports that case has been quashed

In a pattern of smart crisis communications, several news platforms published stories of how the case have been quashed by the court. The stories on Nairametrics, Guardian, ThisDay, Vanguard, Pulse.ng, Independent.ng, instablog, and other top blogs carried the same narrative.

Below is an excerpt from Instablog:

A Lagos Magistrates Court sitting at Ogba, Ikeja has struck out money laundering charges brought against Isaac Adewole, MD, Shibahwells Energy and a staff of Wema Bank Plc, Kingsley Ananwude for lack of merit.

Magistrate A.O. Layinka (Mrs.) discharged the defendants and struck out the charge following the Legal Advice from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Lagos State that no prima facie case has been established against them.

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It will be recalled that the defendants were arraigned in Court on February 9, 2022, in Charge No. MIK/B/6/2022–Commissioner of Police vs. Adewole Isaac & Kingsley Ananwude, for alleged stealing and money laundering involving N1.7billion.

After pleading not guilty, the Court granted the defendants bail and then adjourned the case till March 15, 2022, for trial.

On Tuesday March 15, 2022, when the case was mentioned in Court, Magistrate Layinka (Mrs.) discharged the defendants and struck out the charge for lack of Merit after relying on the Legal Advice from the Office of the DPP, Office of the Attorney General of Lagos State/Ministry of Justice.

In the Legal Advice signed by the DPP of Lagos State (a copy of which was sighted by our correspondent), the DPP after an extensive review of the duplicate case file provided by the police authority, stated that the defendants were arrested based on rumours by one Timi Popoola and nothing more.

The DPP further stated that there is insufficient evidence to predicate the offences upon which a crIminal charge was brought before the Court.

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Further investigations into the case revealed that the criminal charge of alleged stealing and money laundering involving N1.7billion and the media hysteria that followed were at the instance of Timi Popoola.

It will be recalled that the same Timi Popoola in a similar fashion sometime in February 2021, used the police to settle personal scores with Mr. Ayobami Olubiyi, the Chairman of Peace Valley Zone in Magodo G.R.A Phase 2, Lagos.

Inferences

Sponsored narrative and the effort to discredit Timi Popoola

The news of the court quashing the case was rolled out with an objective in mind. For those who understand crisis communication and reputation management in PR, it is quite easy to spot the pattern of a sponsored narrative. When all media houses (traditional and new) publish a sponsored press release, it is not without a trail. In our effort to establish this, we combed through all platforms where the news was published and as it is always the case, there was one that did a poor job – Instablog.

Instablog did not only publish the release, it also did the copy that was sent to its editorial from the office of the MD of Shibahwells Energy. See below image.

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You may argue that it is necessary for such communication to come out to ‘set the record straight’, but a further digging into the communications of Shibahwell Energy shows that they are not the kind of organization given to marketing communication, or maybe a deliberate strategy to stay stealth?

However you want to judge it, we can at least agree that the communication was very well sponsored, i.e., people got paid to tell the story, exactly like Adewole and Shibahwells Energy wanted.

The mysterious identity of Isaac Adewole and Shibahwells Energy

Talking about Shibahwells (or is it Shibawells) Energy, until this case got into public view, nothing was known of it. In fact, a simple Google search returns, absolutely nothing! That company is basically non-existence online. In fact, going by the email address seen on the press release, the closest link to an online source of information (hello@shibawellsenergy.com), we tried to access the url www.shibawellsenergy.com but it returned nothing. A Whois.com domain name search returned that the domain names shibawellsenergy.com and shibahwellsenegy.com are available, which means they are currently not registered or owned by anybody.

More importantly noteworthy, for this organization there is no known address, social media account, contact, etc. Simply no source of information online for a company with businesses in hundreds of million. This is either from a total disdain for PR and Marketing Communications or a deliberate decision to remain unknown, untraceable, and unfathomable, which brings us to the identity of the owner of the company, Isaac Adewole.

Who is Isaac Adewole?

Trying to identify this individual is a job only suitable for detectives. From all the communications that surrounds this case, he went by the name Isaac Adewole. But a Freelanews research on him identifies him as Isaaki Trenchard Adewole, thanks to the British records (see image below).

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endole

Nigerian records of businesses by the name Shibah, shows the name Isaak Adewole Trenchard as a director. Star Orient, a company Isaac Adewole referred to as a partner in his reaction to the allegations, published on the website in October 2020 a new article welcoming one Isaac Trenchard Adewole to their board;

“We are pleased to welcome Mr. Trenchard Isaac Adewole and Col Richard Westley (rtd) OBE to Star Orient at such a challenging but yet exciting time…”.

By the way, Start Orient have a functioning website.

But most records outside Nigeria identify him as Isaaki Trenchard Adewole, and link him as director of companies in the UK, Netherlands, etc.

It may be dismissed that Adewole’s varying identity could be the result of ‘errors’ by other people, well that is the similar alibi for the suspicious transactions from Wema. It is quite strange that a business man of that class has no identity online, not even a photograph, beyond mention in the case in question.

Most of the bodies of knowledge that study identity fraud always flag when an individual consistently use different names in different locations and/or communications. In fact, it has been established that false identities are often used by organized crime to access goods and services or to participate in money laundering.

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Silence on the materiality of probable fraud, money laundering on Wema

We may not be in a position to review or argue the Legal Advice of the Director of Public Prosecution, but would like to point out that on the said matter (alleged) the materiality of the suspicious funds transfer is material enough to place Wema Bank on stringent investigation. Some points to ponder upon are:

    • It is very strange that a bank would have erroneously credited large sums of money to one lone account on five occasions.
    • It is too much coincidence that the names of the transfers are all suitable customers of Star Orient, a partner of Shibahwells on the loan account. All companies denied having a record or an idea about the transactions
      ⦁ It is very much suspicious that the said reversals were smaller transfers to several other accounts and not wholesome reversal against the balance of Wema bank HQ

The above-stated activities are risk indicators of money laundering. There are some well-known elements that could indicate vulnerabilities to laundering. In 2021, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) listed a list of trade-based money laundering risk indicators. One of such is Account and Transaction Risk Indicators.

Risk indicators for money laundering may include trading entities that conduct a high volume of transactions albeit in line with their stated business objectives. It may also include trading entities that receive large money deposits that are immediately transferred to other accounts without apparent justification, and payments made for imports by parties other than the account holder. The originating party should be subjected to a background test. Multiple cash deposits in quantities that fall just shy of the reporting thresholds are also risk indicators.

Some question begging for answers

  • Who is Isaac Adewole?
  • Is the facts of the allegations not an Account and Transaction Risk Indicator in Anti-Money Laundering and Compliance Process?
  • Permit that such huge transactions were done in error, what does this tell about Wema Bank internal control system?
  • How is it possible to make such ‘error’ on five occasions, spoofing with the names of multinationals in similar industries (perfect customer profile of Shibahwells Energy/Star Orient)?
  • Who is covering who, the bank, the directors, or some highly powerful vested interests?

On to the next one; Zenith Bank.

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Opinion

If you see me trekking, mind your business – Chiké says as he sells his Benz-GLE to fund music

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Popular Afropop singer and songwriter, Chiké reveals the reason for the decision that made him sell off his Mercedes Benz.

The musician, well known for his sensational love songs, took to his Twitter profile to disclose that he has sold his Mercedes Benz GLE in order to advance his recently released album.

He shared receipts which showed that he sold the luxury ride for a whooping eleven million naira (N11,000,000)

Jokingly, he informed curious fans not to pay attention to him when they see him trekking the streets of Lekki, Lagos.

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He wrote:

”Just Sold my Gle I spoke about in my album to sponsor the music . If you see me de Waka for lekki please ignore sogbo?”

 

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A standing ovation for Yeye Oodua, HRH, Erelu Dr. Abiola Dosunmu (Photos)

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Many years ago, juju maestro, Chief Sunday Adeniyi Adegeye,  popularly known as King Sunny Ade thrilled Nigerians with a particular track that is more relevant today than it was when aired – Bibiire Kose Fowora. The song was to honour Erelu Abiola Dosunmu, the Erelu Kuti IV of Lagos. The track, “Biibire Kose Fowora” loosely translates as “A noble birth is not something to be bought”.

There is no doubt that Erelu Kuti IV of Lagos, Her Royal Highness, Dr Abiola Dosunmu, a highly distinguished woman, has used the privilege of her birth to impact her community, the yoruba race and the world at large.

It is thus not surprising that the revered monarch, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi Ojaja II recently crowned her Yeye Oodua of the source; Queen Mother of the House of Oduduwa. This is a testament to her contributions promoting commerce, art, science, sport, culture, education, research, charity, poverty alleviation and other societal causes too numerous to mention.

In an elaborate ceremony that took place on Friday, July 22, 2022, at the palace of the Ooni in Ile Ife, Osun State in the presence of dignitaries from all walks of life, Erelu Dosunmu was formally decorated with her new title. This was followed by traditional prayers and a cultural festival at the Erelu Abiola Foundation on Lagos Island. Subsequently a thanksgiving mass was held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Victoria Island, Lagos followed by the grand reception at Harbour Point, Victoria Island, Lagos.

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Yeye Oodua, HRH, Erelu Dr. Abiola Dosunmu

Yeye Oodua, HRH, Erelu Dr. Abiola Dosunmu

Yeye Oodua, HRH, Erelu Dr. Abiola Dosunmu

Yeye Oodua, HRH, Erelu Dr. Abiola Dosunmu

Yeye Oodua, HRH, Erelu Dr. Abiola Dosunmu

Yeye Oodua, HRH, Erelu Dr. Abiola Dosunmu

Yeye Oodua, HRH, Erelu Dr. Abiola Dosunmu

Yeye Oodua, HRH, Erelu Dr. Abiola Dosunmu

Yeye Oodua, HRH, Erelu Dr. Abiola Dosunmu

Yeye Oodua, HRH, Erelu Dr. Abiola Dosunmu

Yeye Oodua, HRH, Erelu Dr. Abiola Dosunmu

Yeye Oodua, HRH, Erelu Dr. Abiola Dosunmu

The events were attended by top figures in Yorubaland including Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Otunba Gbenga Daniel former governor of Ogun State, HRM Oba Alayeluwa Saheed Ademola Elegushi amongst others.

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In his remarks, Ooni noted that Erelu is a woman who has done a lot to propagate the Yoruba culture and unify the tribe. It should be noted that by her title, Erelu Dosunmu, is the mother of kings (Oba of Lagos), both past and present. Born a princess, she went on to become the queen mother and queen regent of Lagos. Beyond being a mere title, her position is recognised by the government in the same first-class category of monarchs according to the laws of Lagos State.

According to the history books, the first Erelu Kuti started the dynasty the men are currently enjoying. She was a queen but gave her crown to her son, and the direct descendants have been reigning for 400 years. A goal-getter from an early age, Erelu Dosunmu is also an advocate for gender parity, women’s development, women empowerment, and leadership.

Considering her endowments, many would have expected her to be involved in partisan politics, but she stated that her title bars her from doing that. She said, “I am the Erelu Kuti of Lagos and the title is recognised by the chieftaincy laws of Lagos State. It bars me from active politics. At the time I took up the title, there weren’t many Nigerians, outside the traditional rulers, who were involved in traditional institutions.

“I saw it as an important platform to make a difference, especially because I had lived a greater part of my life abroad and I had come to appreciate my identity, in terms of my culture and tradition.

When I became the Erelu, I worked hand-in-hand with the king and we were visible, making interventions in government affairs. If the king could not be somewhere, I would represent him. It was a beautiful collaboration between the government and traditional institutions.”

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Speaking on the significance of the Erelu title, she said, “Being Erelu is not just about being beautiful, for the last 20 years of the late King of Lagos, Oba Adeyinka Oyekan II, I was one of his closest confidantes. It is a three-in-one title― Erelu Kuti, Erelu of Lagos, and Erelu Oba. The Erelu’s duties include advising the king on social matters, advising him on people deserving of titles, making sure things run well at the palace, and all those are in the gazette of the chieftaincy laws of the state.”

It should be recalled that Erelu Kuti was a member of the first Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from June 3 to 14, 1992. She was also a part of the negotiations for foreign debt cancellation for Nigeria during President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration and Chairman of the Lagos State Tree Planting and Beautification Committee. Other worthy  of note affiliations include the Institute of International affairs as well as representing Nigeria at environmental summits.

It is also to her credit that she revolutionised the traditional Aso Oke sector to become the multi-million dollar industry it is today. Many years ago, she established a shop on Bond Street, London, United Kingdom to promote aso oke. The renowned fashion designer, Adebayo Jones, worked with her as an intern then. So good was she in showcasing aso oke that even people from the Middle East were excited about the traditional fabrics.

A woman of many parts, she also has a title from the Royal Kingdom of Belgium. Speaking on how the title came about, she once said, “When Lagos State was the capital of the country, the diplomatic community was usually welcomed by the palace of the Oba of Lagos. It was my portfolio to receive ambassadors, entertain them, show them around, and provide whatever they needed in terms of enlightenment. Those activities got me involved with the diplomatic community.”

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Over the years, Erelu Dosunmu has interacted with presidents and high-ranking officials from different countries. For those who haven’t followed her life religiously, little is said about her humanitarian strides. One of the many high points of ERAF was the rehabilitation of street children and school dropouts. An avowed philanthropist, she has often spoken about her passion for helping the underprivileged. It was to further this objective that she established the Erelu Abiola Foundation, which has contributed positively to the lives of many members of society.

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When Erelu Dosunmu smiles, the world smiles along with her, not because everything is perfect but because in her, they see a woman who has over the years rebirthed herself into what she is today.

Oluwatosin Ojebisi contributed this piece from Lagos

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Opinion

Bola Ahmed Tinubu: From Drug Lord To Presidential Candidate

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On October 11, 1990, federal agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) knocked on the front door of 460, Taft Place in the city of Gary, Indiana. Once a booming steel town with a population approaching 180,000 in 1960, Gary was one of number of cities and towns across the US suffering from severe population loss, among other adverse effects of overseas competition on their mainstay industries. From having over 30,000 employees at its peak in 1970, the city’s main employer U.S. Steel Gary Works retained just 6,000 employees in 1990.

In these circumstances, this city and its 77 percent African-American population were witnessing explosive growth in one of the few industries guaranteed to boom in response to such difficult circumstances. 42 year-old Lee Andrew Edwards was one of the entrepreneurs who had found a place in the heroin trade, and by all accounts he had done well for himself. With the proceeds from his illegal business, he had bought 2 residential homes including 460, Taft Place, an apartment building, a liquor store and a new car – all paid for with cash.

According to court records from the United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, the DEA agents arrived at the property to execute a search warrant after a 7-month FBI investigation involving Edwards’s brother Jimmie, implicated him as the narcotics kingpin of Gary. Edwards did not open the door for the agents, who were forced to break into the house. He instead fired 3 gunshots at them, after which he surrendered.

DEA agents found weapons including a carbine rifle, thousands of dollars in cash, drug prepping equipment including a triple-beam scale, and several grams of cocaine and heroin powder in the house. He was later sentenced to life in prison, but not before something about his business operation came to the fore.

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Two Drug Dealers And An Accountant: A Partnership Begins

Federal investigators had determined that Edwards’s heroin supply came from a Nigerian drug dealer in Chicago called Abiodun Agbele. Abiodun had earlier agreed to work for the feds in exchange for lighter sentencing, and as part of the plea deal, he revealed everything he knew about the heroin trade in Chicago.

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Source: WhereIG.com

Located at the junction of 4 states with combined population exceeding 27 million at the time, Chicago was a key trafficking hub in the American heroin trade. And as it turned out, the wholesale trade of an especially potent form of heroin from Southeast Asia (SEA) in 1990s Chicago was controlled by Nigerian criminal gangs.

The following excerpt is taken from the January 2001 Illinois Drug Threat Assessment published by the US Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Centre:

“Nigerian criminal groups are responsible for wholesale distribution of most of the SEA heroin shipped into Chicago. SEA heroin, which is 80-90 percent pure, is being sold between Nigerian traffickers for $80,000-$110,000 per kilogram. Wholesalers in Chicago usually sell heroin without cutting it to minimize their handling of the product and their exposure to law enforcement.”

Source: US Justice Department National Drug Intelligence Centre | April 2001 Indiana Drug Threat Assessment

Agbele himself was no criminal mastermind however. As he testified under oath, that honour belonged to a man who went by the name of Adegboyega Mueez Akande, who was apparently his uncle. Shortly after Agbele’s arrival in the US, Akande had taken him under his wing and showed him the ropes of wholesale heroin trafficking. When Akande returned to Nigeria in mid-1990, Agbele was left in charge of selling regular heroin shipments from Nigeria to Lee Edwards and delivering the profits to his uncle.

In the meantime, the Nigerian-led heroin trade Chicago fed an addiction epidemic that became so bad that it changed local health and law enforcement practises. For the first time, providing addicts with free access to safe syringes and needles to ensure that they did not share them and possibly spread HIV became a core focus of public health policy. In other words, SEA heroin from Nigeria was so potent and addictive that public health policy in Chicago shifted away from trying to make heroin addicts stop using altogether, and merely ensuring that they used “safely.”

One notable organisation that did such outreach work with heroin addicts was the Chicago Recovery Alliance (CRA). I reached out to its current executive director John Werning to get a sense of how the heroin epidemic changed law enforcement practises from the 1990s to date in Chicago. His comments were predictably grim:

“Heroin of course, has consequences, right? But I think we would probably say that the the more major impact is the draconian laws around how heroin was policed. I think that it’s pretty well established that there was a very specific targeting of folks who use drugs generally, but also heroin in particular, and it was mostly targeted towards the policing of black and brown communities.

That’s not specific to Chicago. I think that’s across the nation. But just in general, I think [there was a] lack of compassion by government entities to give people access to the treatment that they need, or nonviolent drug possession and mandatory minimum sentencing. I mean, there’s a ton of different aspects of this that absolutely eviscerated populations, particularly marginalised populations in Chicago, and that’s probably the advocates view on this.

Now, whether or not that that can be translated into a comment about the international drug trade, and specifically from, you said, Nigeria, I just don’t know, but that’s definitely more like domestic politics than international.”

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While all of this was going on, an interesting sub-plot was taking place in the background. An accountant living in the Chicago area who worked for Mobil Oil Nigeria with a declared monthly income of $2,400 had just deposited over $1.4 million in the bank. He had no known source of income apart from his day job, but he had become friends with Akande and Agbele, discovering one key piece of information in the process – drug dealers need accountants too.

Soon he would find himself holding and wiring money on behalf of a Nigerian heroin gang in Chicago. Fast forward a bit to January 1992 and he would find himself the subject of a US federal investigation

Fast forward a bit further in the same year and he would successfully run for office in Nigeria as a senator for Lagos West. Then another politician said to have ties to international drug trafficking would successfully run for president in Nigeria on a controversial all-Muslim ticket in 1993.

The election would be annulled, the politician jailed, and ultimately another Nigerian military coup would take place in 1994. The accountant would find himself exiled and working with the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) to unseat a kleptocrat military dictator. Then the dictator would unexpectedly drop dead one day in 1998, followed in quick succession by the jailed politician with the alleged drug links.

The accountant would return a hero, and successfully run for governor of Lagos in 1999. The kleptocrat dictator’s bagman who helped launder over $4 billion would become the accountant’s new bestie, as an erstwhile Chicago drug gang’s “loader” would start his new lifetime mission of capturing Africa’s largest subnational economy and turning it into his personal “aza.”

Source: westafricaweekly

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