Nigeria’s efforts to combat jihadist groups risks being undermined by its casino sector, according to a new report.
The West African state has been battling extremists in its northeast for the best part of two decades. And it is redoubling efforts to cut-off terrorism financing in the wake of a fresh wave of attacks by the jihadist group Islamic State – West Africa Province (ISWA).
But Nigeria’s 300 casinos could be contributing to the problem by enabling money laundering, according to West Africa’s financial intelligence agency, the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering (GIABA).
GIABA said the casinos, based mainly in Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, and its capital, Abuja, were “relatively high risk” for money laundering. And while they are required to file suspicious transaction reports (STRs) to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), most don’t.
GIABA suggested that a lack of applied sanctions for non-compliant operators contributed to the problem. The organization also expressed concern that only eight NFUI staff members oversaw the casinos out of over 200.
Nigeria carried out a national risk assessment (NRA) of money laundering and terrorism, its first, in 2016. It had been expected to conduct another this year. But GIABA complained it had not been able to discover whether this had happened.
The report, titled Money Laundering Risks of Casinos and the Gambling Sector in West Africa, examined the six member nations of the Economic Community of West African States that have casinos: Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Cabo Verde, the Ivory Coast, and Benin.
But the number of casinos in Nigeria dwarfs that of its neighbors, which have just 26 between them.
Most terrorist attacks in Nigeria are conducted by Boko Haram or ISWA, a Boko Haram splinter group that has recently become more dominant.
These groups routinely target humanitarian camps, security forces, churches, schools, mosques, government installations, educational institutions, entertainment venues, and road travelers, according to the US State Department.
Approximately two million Nigerians have been displaced due to the violence in Northeast Nigeria. Meanwhile, more than 300,000 children have died in the conflict, according to Al Jazeera.
Most recently, on July 5, ISWA gunmen bombed and attacked a prison in the Federal Capital Territory, facilitating the escape of an unknown number of prisoners.
Boko Haram made headlines worldwide in 2014 when it attacked the Federal Government College of Buni Yadi, Yobe State, killing 59 boys. Two months later, the group kidnapped 276 girls from a school in Borno State. Most were forced to convert to Islam and sold as child brides.
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