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‘It’s becoming drug trafficking hub’ — CBN warns banks on transactions related to Benin Republic

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has directed banks to implement enhanced measures on existing accounts and transactions related to the Benin Republic.

The apex bank said this in a circular dated April 11 and signed by Asuquo Evelyn, director of banking supervision department.

It said the directive was based on intelligence reports from competent sources that the Benin Republic is becoming a hub for illicit drug trade in West Africa.

To prevent Nigerian banks from being used as conduits for the movement of dirty money, CBN instructed the banks to strengthen their know-your-customer (KYC) and customer due diligence (CDD) policies.

“We write to bring to your attention an intelligence report availed to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which indicated that the Benin Republic is increasingly becoming a drug trafficking transit and consumption hub in West Africa,” the circular reads.

“In order to ensure that Nigerian banks are not used as conduits for laundering such illicit funds, it has become imperative to intensify the know-your-customer (KYC) and customer due diligence (CDD) measures in your bank as required by regulation.

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“Consequently, you are required to implement additional measures on customers and business relationships linked to the Benin Republic. You are also required to re-classify related customers and transactions as high risk and conduct enhanced due diligence (ED) procedures accordingly.”

Speaking with TheCable on Thursday, Osita Nwanisobi, director of corporate communications, CBN, said the measures are aimed at strengthening Nigeria’s anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) framework.

“Yes, the circular was issued by the banking supervision department of the CBN. This was based on intelligence reports from competent sources that the Benin Republic is becoming a hub for illicit drug trafficking,” Nwanisobi said.

“Hence, the advisory to banks to intensify their KYC/ CDD measures in order to ensure that our financial system is not used as a conduit for money laundering and terrorism financing. All of these are aimed at strengthening our AML/CFT.”

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