Friday 15 September 2006

Certifying gullibility in Nigeria

Great opportunities in Nigeria

Somehow, I have always had a sixth sense about when a scam is in the offing. This goes back long way when I was a service technician in the eighties with an IT services firm in Nigeria which had very good initiation ideas but got run down by the happy-go-luck lifestyle of the owners. Quite sad.

I owe a lot in my career to the foothold IT Systems Limited gave me into IT and other interesting things I when on to do with high volume desktop publishing with Deji Sasegbon & Co Publishers who published the Nigerian Supreme Court Cases in 30-something volumes then using PCs and Xerox Ventura Publisher which put us well beyond the work Gani Fawehinmi was doing with older publishing methods.

Almost dazzled with red mercury

So, this interesting day, we got a call that from an office in a Lagos suburb of Ketu to help them fix computers. Hardly had I gotten there, another man arrived trying to get us interested in some deal that involved red mercury and turning black pieces of paper into wet 10 Naira notes.

Red mercury has always been the stuff of unbelievable myths, enough to engage and where you lose your guard you are done.

Somehow, he had 4 million of those notes that he had to pick up from the airport and he needed financial assistance to acquire more red mercury to process the notes, I was to raise 10,000 Naira and would eventually end up with 4 million Naira.

Now, would sound incredible to anyone, but I just knew within me that nobody makes money that easily except in a lottery, the danger was that once the deal was completed, there was so much at stake that rather than flying with the mile-high club, one would steady six feet under with the inheritors being the partners in the crime.

I walked away and thankfully, I had left no details about myself with them, now, in Europe, I would have been off to the police, in Nigeria, it was best to pretend nothing had happened live your life in peace.

Same crime different medium

So, when I started getting emails pertaining to the Advanced Fee Fraud419 scams, it did not take too much to realise this was variation on my earlier experience.

Unfortunately, many are too wide-eyed with gullibility to some extent, greed in others and plain foolish having suspended reason for fantasy, they get their fingers burnt and are fleeced of the pennies and pounds they have saved up all their lives.

Nigeria now has an anti-graft agency called the EFCC, this somehow strikes fear into those who cannot account for how that have come into so much wealth. Sometimes, it is as if everyone is a Cinderella with a fairy god mother who waves the wand and the next day you are rolling in money like it is going out of fashion.

There are many who are getting hounded justly to account in much more detail about the provenance of their wealth, some have even fled the country to avoid being apprehended, but the interesting part to it is how many of the old hands on the oil tiller are getting implicated by these investigations.

An instrument for bias?

Despite all this, the agency is susceptible to accusations of bias and the possibility of being used as a political tool for people who can pull strings in the agency like to Presidency to get at political opponents.

A number of cases have arisen where Nigerian citizens nabbed for money laundering abroad and rather than the Nigerian exercise the kind of interest that would allow for those cases to be dealt with in Nigerian courts and under our justice system, our Attorney General gets carted off to argue cases to keep those culprits abroad.

That ploy has in cases backfired because sometimes foreign justice systems would rather not wade into the murky waters of explaining the intricate matters of the Nigerian constitution or do the dirty work of other vested interests.

The Emperor’s funny certificates

Anyway, what is most interesting is that another scam as a result of the work of this agency is now being perpetrated; some people are issuing corruption-free certificates very much like one might get with a credit reference.

Some people are buying these certificates which they hope would be some sort of absolution testimonial when seeking political office or engaging in some business activity.

Well, what can I say? Does having a corruption-free certificate give me the confidence to deal with someone who has been so easily fooled?

This is the stuff the Emperor’s new clothes is made of and whoever came up with that idea must be both enterprising and a nasty crook, just as we have been educated this week about pretexting with regards to the investigation of Hewlett Packard directors, the clever crooks have been pretexting as EFCC officials with the authority to issue certificates which might be about being corruption-free but that does not make the recipient incorruptible.

Like with every scam, a fool and his money are soon parted.

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