Fraud, Ponzi Schemes and Terror Financing: A Story About Banking In Nigeria

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Nigeria

Publishing organisation: West Africa Weekly

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 2022-08-06

Language: English

Authors: David Hundeyin


David is a writer, investigative journalist and broadcaster whose work has appeared on CNN, The Africa Report, Al Jazeera and The Washington Post. His investigative journalism newsletter, _West_ _Africa_ _Weekly_, goes out to over 43,000 subscribers.

In 2018, he was nominated by the US State Department for the 2019 Edward Murrow program for journalists under the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP). He won the 2020 People Journalism Prize for Africa and the GRC Anti-FinCrime Reporter of the Year award in both 2021 and 2022.

Project description:

A thorough teardown of the Nigerian banking system’s systemic problems ranging from nonexistent customer data protection to in-house fraud, money laundering, cooperation with organised crime networks and total disregard for KYC, AML and CFT regulations, enabling widespread customer losses and millions of dollars of terror finance inflows to a country already riven with terrorism and economic instability.

Impact reached:

While the political will to tackle the potential problem of terror financing remains all but nonexistent under the present administration in Nigeria, the story did spark a subsequent investigation into UBA bank by the National Data Protection Bureau (NDPB) which remains ongoing.

The firestorm of negative online publicity in the wake of the article’s publication also forced a number of banks to make hurried (temporary) efforts to walk back some of their aggressive/unethical customer acquisition practices such as unsanctioned account openings.

Techniques/technologies used:

The Nigerian Inter Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) database came in handy as a tool for verifying some of the account information obtained from whistleblowers as well as court records. Using the same process outlined in my other entry, I was able to verify the ownership details of accounts held by illegal loan sharks and a corporate entity linked to a ponzi scheme.

In piecing together the terror-financing segment of the story, I made extensive use of Microsoft Excel and an online solution for very large CSV datasets called Quickbase. Using Quickbase, I was able to very quickly parse the huge data file passed across to me by the MEForum, and establish that just under $12 million in dodgy transfers came into Nigeria via a shadowy charity with no corporate or financial registration – which is supposed to be impossible.

Quickbase also provided an easy-to-understand data presentation interface, and some of the screen grabs included in the story are from the Quickbase interface. Excel on the other hand, allowed me to drill into the data at a deeper granular level to establish for example, the exact number of times that a suspicious transaction description was used across the entire dataset.

Context about the project:

Ever since publishing a series of stories about terror financiers and apologists in high places in Nigeria, I have been a marked man. This is part of the reason why I live in exile. This story was an extension of the body of work I have accumulated that shows proof of high level collaboration with terrorists within Nigeria’s government.


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