Anjarwalla’s disappearance, Bobrisky and Portable’s comic act, by Kazeem Akintunde


Two major events happened in Nigeria last week that ordinarily should give many Nigerians serious concern about the sordid state of affairs in the country, but which did not shock many of our compatriots.

Rather than Nigerians expressing outrage, many took to social media to “catch cruise” and move on to await the next topic.

Those issues have become more or less comic relief for many Nigerians. As they say now, nothing can shock us in Nigeria again. We are beyond ‘shockability’.

Indeed, if the disappearance of Nadeem Anjarwalla, a top executive of Binance, who was in the custody of the federal government did not shock you, then you are truly a Nigerian. Anjarwalla and his colleague, Tigran Gambaryan, were arrested and detained by the office of the National Security Adviser, on February 26, upon their arrival into the country. Anjarwalla is of dual nationality as he was born in Kenya but also holds a British passport.

Alongside Gambaryan, a US citizen, the duo was picked up at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja by security operatives. The two men are senior executive officers with Binance, a crypto trading platform through which huge sums of money in foreign currency left the shores of Nigeria. Few days later, a criminal charge against the two executives was filed before a Magistrate Court in Abuja by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission.

At the end of its proceedings, the court granted the EFCC an order to remand the two men in custody for 14 days and also ordered the Binance men to provide to the Nigerian government, data/ information of Nigerians trading on its platform. The court also directed that their traveling documents should be in the custody of the government. Following Binance’s refusal to comply with the order to name Nigerians trading on its platform, the court extended the remand of the officials for an additional 14 days.

However, on March 22, the Nigerian government approached the Federal High Court in Abuja and slammed a four-count charge on Binance Holdings Limited, Anjarwalla and Gambaryan, accusing them of offering services to subscribers on their platform while failing to register with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) as well as failure to pay all relevant taxes administered by the Services and in so doing, committed an offence contrary to, and punishable under Section 8 of the Value Added Tax Act of 1993 (as Amended).

The Federal Government disclosed that over $21.6 billion was traded by Nigerians whose identities were concealed by Binance, and that unscrupulous elements in the society were using Binance for money laundering, terrorism financing, currency speculation and market manipulation, thereby distorting the Nigerian economy and weakening the Naira against other currencies.

But the usual ‘Nigerian factor’ came into play when Anjarwalla escaped from security agents that took him to a Mosque from a guest house where he was taken to observe the Jumat prayer. He was able to get into a car which took him to the Abuja Airport and armed with another passport, succeeded in sneaking out of Nigeria without any of our numerous security agents aware of his movement. He simply disappeared into thin air. What a country!

Zakari Mijinyawa, Head, Strategic Communication, at the office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), confirmed that Anjarwalla, who has dual citizenship, fled Nigeria using a smuggled passport. Hear him: “The Office of the National Security Adviser confirms that Nadeem Anjarwalla, a suspect in the ongoing criminal probe into the activities of Binance in Nigeria escaped from lawful custody on Friday, 22 March 2024.  Upon receiving this report, this office took immediate steps, in conjunction with relevant security agencies, MDAs, as well as the international community, to apprehend the suspect. Security agencies are working with Interpol for an international arrest warrant on the suspect. Preliminary investigation shows that Mr Anjarwalla fled Nigeria using a smuggled passport. The personnel responsible for the custody of the suspect have been arrested, and a thorough investigation is ongoing to unravel the circumstances that led to his escape from lawful detention.”

Anjarwalla, according to many Nigerians, simply played the game most Nigerians understood. He beat the system that put him in detention by ‘offering’ huge sums of money to those in charge of his security who facilitated his escape from the country or through powerful Nigerians whose reputation might be in ruin if the court eventually forced Anjarwalla to reveal their names for trading $21.6 billion worth of crypto through Binance.

Aside from the arrest of the security guys that led Anjarwalla to the Mosque for Jumat Prayers, nothing has happened to anybody. The NSA, Nuhu Ribadu, alongside heads of other security agencies are still keeping their jobs. Even the Commander-in-Chief, Bola Tinubu had not said a word on the matter. Life goes on. With Anjarwalla out of the country, his colleague, Gambaryan has even filed a fundamental rights enforcement suit against the NSA and the federal government. He has briefed Nigerian lawyers who are now trying to get him out of NSA’s detention, this time, through lawful means. We are doing well in Nigeria.

Now, we are looking up to the international Police, the Interpol to help us in arresting Anjarwalla and bring him back to us in Nigeria. I wish the federal government well in their search for him. For as long as we continue to treat serious issues with levity, the entire world would not take us seriously. In actual fact, do we take ourselves seriously? Let’s continue to catch cruise.

Eniola Ajao, a Nollywood actress also wanted to ‘catch cruise’ in her bid to promote her latest film, ‘Ajakaju- The Beast of Two Worlds’, when she and her boss in the industry, Femi Adebayo, decided to award crossdresser, Bobrisky, the Best Dressed female guest at the premiere of the movie in Lagos last weekend. It was Adebayo who announced Bobrisky as the winner of the competition with a cheque of N1 million in her name. But the announcement of Bobrisky as the winner did not sit well with many Nigerians particularly other women at the event who queried the rationale behind the selection of Bobrisky. Their anger stemmed from the fact that Bobrisky is a man who has taken up the identity of a woman and should never have been considered for such an award.

The award did also not go well with Portable, (Habeeb Okikiola), an enfant terrible in the Music industry who lambasted Bobrisky through a voice note that has gone viral on social media. Idris Okuneye (Bobrisky), also replied Portable and the whole social media was in a bedlam for the most part of last week. Twenty-four after gbas gbos, Portable released a track title ‘Brotherhood’ which became an instant hit, and has become one of the most streamed tracks in the last few days.

But with the film getting no review as the Bobrisky/Portable war overshadowed the main event, the film producer, Eniola Ajao had to come out to make a public apology to Nigerians. She said that the award to Bobrisky was a mere stunt which was to get people to talk about the film so that many would eventually watch it in the Cinemas.

But rather than the film getting the necessary mileage in the hearts of Nigerians, it was the stunt created by the award that became the talk of the town. Indeed, another great example of how not to promote a film! Though there are unconfirmed reports that the police have invited Adebayo to come and explain why he is promoting transgender activity in the country, I do not believe anything tangible would be achieved in that line.

Bobrisky has been in the news for over 10 years and no police officer has ever invited him/her for choices made despite there being a law that criminalises transgender activities in the country, it has never been applied alongside several legislations in our law book.

The same-sex Marriage (prohibition) Act, 2013, signed into law by then president Goodluck Jonathan, prohibits a marriage contract or civil union entered into between persons of same sex. It also provides penalties for the solemnisation and witnessing of the same in the country. In the north where Sharia Law is applicable, those that indulge in same-sex unions are liable to be stoned to death as prescribed in Sharia law.

In April 2022, Muda Lawal, a lawmaker representing Toro Federal Constituency in Bauchi State sponsored a bill to prohibit cross dressing. The legislation sought to add two new sub-clauses to section 4 of the existing Act. It passed the first reading at the lower legislative house but since then, no further legislative work has been done on it.

In recent years, the government has raided and shut down events associated with gays, lesbians and transgender parties, gatherings or marriages between same-sex couples. In 2019, Bobrisky had a brush with the law when the police got information that he was planning his 28th birthday party and that homosexual activities might take place at the venue. The then Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Zubairu Muazu, ordered the deployment of over 100 police officers to the venue to prevent a ‘potential breach of public peace’.

Since then, he has received some form of recognition and acceptance by women, particularly those in the entertainment industry, who are always inviting him to their functions. He was given a new name ‘Mother of Lagos’, and has undergone several surgeries to look and act more like a woman. But despite his tolerance in the midst of women, the recent award was a shock to many.

Now, Portable and Bobrisky have provided comic relief for most Nigerians. It is better not to think about the economic hardship most Nigerians are going through now so that many won’t develop high blood pressure. If the government and the big boys who have brought the economy to its knees are desperate to cover their tracks by allowing Anjarwalla to escape from custody, I guess Nigerians should feel ready to create other diversions to happiness and forget their sorrows, albeit, temporarily.

See you next week.


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