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₦2.9 Billion Customer Funds: Customers report frozen accounts over illegal transfers from Flutterwave.. ( + Documents)

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On Sunday, payments fintech Flutterwave denied a report that hackers stole ₦2.9 billion of customer funds. In its response to the story, Flutterwave said it noticed unusual activities in its systems and told users to activate safety protocols. But it insisted that customers did not lose any funds.

However, several sources revealed a different story. One of those sources told this publication that his company lost ₦8 million. Three other sources said their accounts were frozen for being beneficiaries of illegal transfers from Flutterwave accounts.

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On March 3, 2023, Alex Onyia tweeted about a hack at Flutterwave. Part of his tweet said, “Flutterwave has been hacked by Omar Edewor Trades, who has an account in Access Bank, and several millions of naira have been stolen from people’s [Flutterwave] accounts.” He advised everyone to get a new API key—one of the safety precautions that Flutterwave asked its users to take two days later.

Onyia is the CEO of Educare, a school management software provider that integrates Flutterwave and Paystack payment technologies into their software for educational institutions and other businesses. On a call with TechCabal, Onyia maintained that money was fraudulently transferred out of the Flutterwave accounts of his clients
through API calls.

He said, “On Thursday, March 2, 2023, I got a message from my account manager at Flutterwave asking if we authorised some transactions. I looked into the matter and was already blaming my dev team. I thought they introduced something new or a backdoor that was triggering the debit. After further investigation, I discovered that
there was no problem with my company and that there was a compromise in Flutterwave’s system.”

Onyia claimed that the hacker moved ₦4,990,000 out of the client’s Flutterwave account first and ₦3,360,000 moments later. “They even initiated a third debit for
₦3,360,000, but the balance wasn’t up to that, so it didn’t materialise,” he said.

Following the money trail
Onyia said that he called Access Bank, where the money had been transferred into an account named Omar Edewor Trades. “We called the bank, but we were told that the
money had been moved to another bank. After sharing the necessary documents, including information about the illegal transaction on Flutterwave, I asked Access Bank to
freeze the account.” According to Onyia, while the bank was investigating, it noticed that a lot of money was flowing into that account and immediately froze the
account.

“We asked the bank to send us back our money since there was money in the account and proof that about ₦8 million moved from our account to the fraudster’s. The bank
refused, saying that they had no right to, as based on the transaction trail, our money has been moved to a different account.” TechCabal could not verify that the
Access Bank account was frozen at the time of this report.

Onyia said that on March 3, Flutterwave asked customers to activate IP whitelisting, a security measure that was previously optional and asked everyone to change their
API keys. “If you know your system was not compromised, why are they asking everyone to take all these measures?”

Flutterwave’s response
Flutterwave answers this question in its official statement, saying, “During a routine check of our transaction monitoring system, we identified an unusual trend of
transactions on some users’ profiles. Our team immediately launched a review (in line with our standard operating procedure), which revealed that some users who had
not activated some of our recommended security settings might have been susceptible.” However, the fintech flatly denied that any user lost any funds, as its security
measures were “able to address the issue before any harm could be done to our users”.

But court documents seen by TechCabal raise questions about Flutterwave’s version of events. Those documents include certified true copies of a petition by
Fluttewave’s legal counsel to the police dated February 20, 2023. The letter asked for police assistance to recover funds by obtaining court orders from the magistrate
court to sustain account freezes on 107 bank accounts in 27 banks that allegedly, directly or indirectly, received money from the illegal transfers from Flutterwave accounts.

Some of the frozen accounts
Ajeka Iliasu Opaluwa, owner of Pajek Signature, a cryptocurrency trading business, is listed in court documents as a first beneficiary of the illegal transfer from
Flutterwave accounts. A first beneficiary is an account that received a transfer directly from a Flutterwave account. On a call with TechCabal, Opaluwa said, “I sold
USDT worth ₦1.6 billion to William Atong Chen, a Chinese merchant who has been a customer since 2019. When we first transacted five years ago, my partner met him in
Lagos to complete KYC (know your customer). The transactions started on February 5, 2023, and I got paid, just like all the others I have had with him. It was on
February 7, 2023, after the trade had been concluded, that the bank froze my account.”

Opaluwa told Chen that the bank had frozen his account. “I asked him to come to the bank and help me resolve the issue, but he said he was no longer in Nigeria. His
Nigerian numbers are still reachable, and when I call him to recount my plight, he insists that he made the transaction in good faith and that it was not stolen money
he sent to me,” Opaluwa said on the call.

Opaluwa insists that the Chinese customer’s name is William Atong Chen, however, the only Chinese name found on Flutterwave’s court document listing bank accounts to
be frozen is Quiang Chen. Opaluwa shared evidence of the transaction with TechCabal. “I made the transaction lawfully. I sourced USDT, and when I saw evidence that I
had been paid, I handed them over. Three days later, somebody comes to tell me that the money I was paid was stolen. Was I supposed to take it to a digital money
detector? How could I have known the money was stolen?” he asked on the call. He told TechCabal that he has filed a petition against Flutterwave as he is also a
victim.

The accounts of other crypto traders who received payments for crypto assets from Opaluwa were also frozen. David Ofedu Audu, whose five bank accounts are listed on
Fluterwave’s petition for account freezing, is one of them. Audu told TechCabal that his transactions with Opaluwa started on February 5 and ended on February 7. The
day after, February 8, his five accounts were frozen.

He also shared an email from StanbicIBTC Bank confirming that his accounts were frozen because of the illegal transfers from Flutterwave accounts. His account manager
at Providus Bank, where his accounts were also frozen, cited the same reason for the freeze, on a call.

“I am a second beneficiary because the person who paid me received the money directly from Flutterwave. Opaluwa bought USDT from me for a Chinese customer called
Chen,” Audu said on the call. In the court documents, Chen’s account is listed as one of the accounts frozen for receiving funds from the impacted Flutterwave
accounts.

TechCabal also spoke to sources whose accounts were blocked but who claimed they had no dealings whatsoever with Flutterwave. Henry Awaka, one such person, told
TechCabal that his Fidelity Bank account was frozen around the same period. He told TechCabal, “I sent several emails to Fidelity Bank but got no response.”

He remained in the dark until his friend, who was a second beneficiary, saw his name in the court documents and told him about it. According to the document, Awaka’s
Fidelity bank account is a fourth beneficiary and received ₦1,199,291 from an account named Nnam Monday Kingsley at Providus Bank. Awaka said that he traced the
transaction and discovered that it was from a bulk sale of alcoholic drinks—350 crates of Trophy and 27 crates of Budweiser alcoholic drinks.

Awaka is a sales manager at an international brewery and he claimed he makes these sorts of transactions regularly. He didn’t suspect that he had become a beneficiary
of some of the N2.9 billion illegally transferred from Flutterwave accounts. He has since emailed his bank several times with the receipt of his transaction but has
received no response. “Fidelity Bank is so complacent about the matter,” he said. According to him, there are about 180 people in a Whatsapp group whose accounts have
been frozen after making one legitimate transaction with someone who received money that came from the Flutterwave account.

 

Source: The Tech Cabal

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NASRE Advises FG On Food Crisis, Forex Shortage Amid Calls To Suspend Import Ban

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As Nigeria finds itself at a critical crossroads, grappling with simultaneous challenges of a food crisis and a foreign exchange (forex) shortage.

 

This is even as the nation seeks solutions to mitigate these pressing issues, the debate over whether to open its borders for importation has intensified.

 

The food crisis gripping Nigeria has raised concerns about food security and access to essential nutrition for millions of citizens.

 

Adverse weather conditions, supply chain disruptions, and other factors have contributed to dwindling food supplies and soaring prices, placing a significant strain on households and exacerbating the vulnerability of already marginalized communities.

 

Meanwhile, the forex shortage has hampered Nigeria’s ability to import essential goods and raw materials, further exacerbating supply chain disruptions and exacerbating inflationary pressures.

 

Industries reliant on imported inputs, including agriculture, manufacturing, and healthcare, have been particularly hard hit, impeding economic growth and development.

 

In response to these challenges, some stakeholders advocate for opening Nigeria’s borders to facilitate the importation of food and other essential commodities.

 

Proponents argue that increased importation could help alleviate immediate food shortages, stabilize prices, and provide relief to vulnerable populations facing hunger and malnutrition.

 

However, others caution against the potential risks of opening borders amid a forex shortage. Critics raise concerns about the impact on domestic production and self-sufficiency, as well as the long-term consequences of relying heavily on imported goods. They emphasize the need to prioritize investments in domestic agriculture and infrastructure to build resilience against future crises.

 

As Nigeria navigates these complex issues, the government faces the daunting task of balancing short-term relief efforts with long-term strategies for sustainable development and economic resilience.

 

Proffering suggestion on how the government can address the unending inflationary pressures, Forex shortages, food prices hike and revitalise the nation’s economy, the Nigerian Association of Social and Resourceful Editors (NASRE), has advised the Nigerian government to adopt collaborative efforts involving policymakers, industry stakeholders, civil society organizations, and international partners to identify holistic solutions that address both immediate needs and underlying structural challenges.

 

On the debate over whether Nigeria should open its borders for importation amid the food crisis and forex shortage, the President of the advocacy group, Mr Femi Oyewale, underscores the urgency of coordinated action and innovative thinking.

 

According to him, now more than ever, solidarity, cooperation, and forward-thinking policies are needed to ensure the well-being and prosperity of all Nigerians.

 

“The question of whether Nigerian borders should be opened for food importation in the face of a food crisis is complex and multifaceted. However, there are factors to consider, which basically, Domestic Agricultural Capacity. Because opening borders for food importation could undermine domestic agricultural production by flooding the market with cheaper imported goods.

 

“However, if domestic production is insufficient to meet demand, importing food may be necessary to avoid shortages,” he said.

 

On the economic implications of borders opening, the President of NASRE, Oyewale, said: “Importing food can have economic ramifications, both positive and negative. On one hand, it can provide access to a wider variety of foods and potentially lower prices for consumers. On the other hand, it may negatively impact local farmers and exacerbate trade imbalances.”

 

The resourceful editors, while commenting on Food Security, pointed out that relying heavily on imported food leaves a country vulnerable to supply chain disruptions and price fluctuations in the global market. Therefore, it urged the federal government to develop a robust domestic agricultural sector, which is crucial for long-term food security.

 

According to Oyewale, the Nigerian government must consider its broader economic and agricultural policies when making decisions about food importation. This includes evaluating subsidies, tariffs, and investment in agricultural infrastructure.

 

“Importing food often involves long-distance transportation, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation. Promoting local production can help reduce the carbon footprint associated with food consumption.

 

“Food is not just a commodity; it is essential for human well-being. Government policies should prioritize ensuring access to nutritious and culturally appropriate food for all citizens, particularly those most vulnerable to food insecurity,” he added.

 

The Nigerian Association of Social and Resourceful Editors, NASRE, therefore, noted that the decision to open Nigerian borders for food importation during a food crisis should be approached cautiously, taking into account the country’s domestic agricultural capacity, economic implications, food security goals, environmental concerns, and social welfare considerations.

 

“A balanced approach that supports both domestic production and responsible trade practices may be necessary to address immediate food shortages while also promoting long-term food security and sustainability,” the Association stated.

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Lagos State Government to prosecute 11 suspects for extortion

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The Lagos State Government said 11 suspects arrested at the Ibeju-Lekki junction and Akodo area of the state will be prosecuted to serve as deterrents to others extorting residents and motorists in the state.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation, Olawale Musa, disclosed this while addressing journalists on Wednesday.

He added that the suspects parade themselves as enforcement officers to extort unsuspecting motorists and residents in the state.

Musa said, “Lagos State Government has declared zero tolerance for extortion of unsuspecting residents, especially motorists, by miscreants parading themselves as enforcement officers at the Ibeju-Lekki junction and Akodo area of the state.

“We have announced severally that nobody is allowed to collect money for the local government on the street of Lagos, and the government has set up a team to ensure that anybody that does that is picked up and from that Lekki axis.

“They will be charged to court to explain themselves, and I want to sound a note of warning to others that do the same thing that we will not relent; the government is all out for them.”

He noted that it is unlawful for any local government area within the state to place personnel to conduct such operations on the highways.

“If you have any issues, you call us, and we will come and address them, but when you have people coming on the road on the guise that you want to have revenue at this hard time, collecting money from motorists on the road is not fair, and it is illegal in Lagos State to resist it.

“It is illegal for any local government area in the state to deploy people on the roads as it negates the Lagos State Road Traffic Law, Section 18, 2018, which empowers only the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority to carry out such operations on the roads,” he added.

In March 2023, The PUNCH reported that the Lagos State Government arrested four suspected hoodlums in some parts of the state over extortion.

The suspects were arrested in the Amuwo-Odofin area of the state while attempting to extort motorists.

 

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N10bn fraud: EFCC to arraign Abdulfattah Ahmed, ex-Kwara Governor Friday

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission will arraign the immediate-past governor of Kwara State, Abdulfattah Ahmed, for alleged N10bn fraud on Friday, The PUNCH has learnt.

Credible sources in the anti-graft agency said the ex-governor would be dragged before the Federal High Court in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.

“He is going to be arraigned on Friday at the Federal High Court in Ilorin for diversion of funds, amounting to N10bn,” the source told our correspondent.

The ex-governor has been detained by the EFCC since Monday when he honoured an invitation for interrogation.

His Chief Press Secretary, Alhaji AbdulWahab Oba, confirmed his principal’s visit to the EFCC office on Monday, stating that it was only “procedural and routine”.

“Dr Ahmed’s visit to the EFCC is procedural and routine. He was invited and he honoured them as he’s always done. He’s always ready to respond to any query or question regarding his tenure as a governor of the state.”

On Tuesday night, Oba lamented that the EFCC was still holding on to Ahmed, saying he was given stringent bail conditions.

“Yes, he is still with the EFCC and we are now in a dilemma over the issue because they keep changing the goalpost during the match. The case is taking a new dimension, which we don’t really understand for now.

“Initially they said they wanted him to produce two sureties who are federal directors. The sureties came and were asked to provide landed properties in Abuja. We see this as a contradiction. The case was initially handled by the EFCC office in Abuja before it was transferred to Ilorin over the issue of jurisdiction. Additionally, he has been denied access to his doctors, medication and direct access to his cook,” Oba said.

Meanwhile, members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in Kwara State on Wednesday staged a peaceful protest to the EFCC zonal office in Ilorin, where Ahmed was being detained.

The protesters, who carried placards with various inscriptions, expressed displeasure over Ahmed’s detention.

Led by the state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Olusegun Adewara, the party members alleged that the All Progressives Congress in the state was behind Ahmed’s troubles.

Some of the inscriptions on their placards read: “EFCC should stop being a tool in the hands of Abdulrazaq led-APC”, “Governor Ahmed was very transparent”, “EFCC is not a department in the APC, EFCC, stop the harassment”, “The opposition cannot be silenced”, “Maigida will not join the APC no matter the persecution”, “EFCC, don’t instigate political crisis in Kwara State”, “No to illegal detention. Respect the rule of law”, among others.

But addressing the protesters, the zonal commander of the EFCC, Michael Nzekwe, said Ahmed had been given an administration bail but he could not meet the conditions.

“We’re wrapping up. Once we wrap up, the law will take its course. The anti-graft agency, being a creation of law, would not go contrary to law.

“Everything we’ve done is within the ambit of the law. The former governor is cooperating with us and we’re making good progress following rules of law. As I speak, he’s with his lawyer, a SAN; he attends to everyone who comes to see him, and he has a doctor who has attended to him. He eats what he wants to eat. I urge us to allow the law take its course. We’re not partisan nor prompted by anybody. This body is solely sponsored by the Federal Government,” Nzekwe said.

 

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