The Crooks, The Gullible, And 419 Scams Or Wallowing In The Mud ?
By: Paul I. Adujie
New York, USA
April 1, 2003
Everyday, there is something new about the 419 scams and the perpetrators or 419ers? The latest episode is the new twist that I read from the web page of gamji.com, new twist is now even not so useful a term in this context, as there is always a new twist or modus operandi by these crooks.
There are now several websites specifically dedicated and devoted to this nuisance, yes it is more nuisance than anything else. This is not writing to defend the scam artists, but I am beginning to wonder why 419 scam artists are now the only Nigerians that people want to talk and write about? I understand that some members of the international public has this huge appetite for scandals, especially when it emanates from Africa, therefore only stories form Africa that titillates is fit to appear in the newspapers and on the internet; Ebola! AIDS! War in Africa! Three Kenyans dies fishing for cell phone in a cesspool!
Nobody seem interested in the fact that there are more than 26,000 Medical Doctors of Nigerian origin in the United States, nobody seem interested in the other uncountable professionals of Nigerian origin in Europe and America, Lawyers, Doctors, Economists, Information Technology Professionals, Nurses to name a few.
We know it is said that, it is big news when a man bites a dog, but it is no news when a dog bites a man, but even so, why is it? That those who talk about a few shady characters of Nigerian origin are happily oblivious of the majority of Nigerians who are hardworking and are exceptional and exemplary citizens in Nigeria, in America, Europe and Asia? Why do they suffer from this shattering amnesia when it comes to positive Nigerians and positive events emanating from Nigeria and all of Africa?
Majority of Nigerians the world over contribute immensely to the communities in which they live, they work, they pay taxes, these Nigerians participate in all that is good, they volunteer their time and money to improve their place of residence outside of Nigeria.
It has become tiring and irritating that 419ers or fraud is the only dinner joke that some people are happy to repeat about Nigeria! Let us talk about Philip Emeagwali the Information Technology whiz kid instead, he is of Nigerian origin! And many, many more overachievers of Nigerian origins! Let us talk about Shade Adu the singer, he is of Nigerian origin! Let us talk about people of Nigerian origin who are contributing their quota of service to international institutions, persons of Nigerian origin currently serve the World Bank, International Court of Justice and even the United Nations!
Nigeria is a country of more than one hundred and twenty million people, and like every country, Nigeria has her share of the good, the bad and the ugly, but too many people are singularly focused on Nigeria's few bad apples, why?
I recommend that Nigerians and Nigeria should stop losing sleep over the above scams and schemes, and for the following reasons:
The following paragraph which is in quotes, appeared in the Guardian of Nigeria recently
"And speaking on how to curb the illicit trade, the Nigerian Ambassador to Czech Republic, Mrs. Julie Ayorinde, has asked foreign governments to prosecute their nationals who collaborate with Nigerians in the scam. She told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at the weekend that the foreign collaborators are as guilty as their Nigerian accomplices are.
But giving details of Pacovsky's interaction with the embassy, the statement explained that "It is on record that any time Pacovsky was in the embassy, the deceased would spend hours attending to him, advising him against getting involved in fraudulent business dealings with people he did not even know." It claimed that the fraudulent activities of Pacovsky in Nigeria were well-known to the Czech authorities.
"The deceased had on several occasions attempted to stop Pacovsky from continuing with his fraudulent activities, but to no avail." The embassy lamented that instead of heeding Wayi's advice, the Czech murdered him "in cold blood" and shot another embassy official who attempted to assist the deceased.
"Pacovsky shot both his victims several times at point blank range, which shows a clear premeditated intent on his part," it added.
Ayorinde, however, said that it is criminal for anybody to want to get easy money through dubious mean, and asked, "is investing money to steal someone else's money not criminal enough for the authorities?" She lamented that at present, the onus is on diplomats to pay for the crimes committed on both sides, and noted that prosecuting the collaborators by their home governments will drastically reduce the scale of the scam.
The envoy disclosed that some recipients of '419' letters were difficult to convince that the letters were fraudulent, adding that some of them still obliged the fraudsters even after being warned by the embassy. "Some of them don't believe these letters are fake. When they burn their fingers, they come back to us. Why should an educated person fall prey to faceless fraudsters?" "Why should people send their account details to someone they do not know, or go to another country to deposit money?" she queried."
Another reason why Nigerians should lose no sleep regarding scams; Colombia is a country reputed for its Cocaine production and supply to entire world; So, If someone from Colombia, writes to you and informs you that he has $50 million worth of Cocaine, this is criminal and you know, then he ask that you supply your personal information, including your banking details, to enable him process the drugs/narcotics, to bribe the Customs and other Security or Law enforcement officials etc; Would you oblige him? Probably not, I certainly hope not!
But suppose that you are gullible, stupid and criminal enough, to volunteer your personal information and banking accounts details? To enable someone and yourself engage in what you know is a criminal enterprise/undertaking?
The crooks are very HONEST, they tell the gullible sucker from the beginning, that they, the crooks are attempting to perpetrate fraud on someone else, other than the gullible sucker, and the gullible sucker says to himself, WOW! This is one DUPE, this is one FRAUDSTER, this is one CRIMINAL that I can TRUST, Look! The crook is not trying to dupe me! The crook is trying to dupe someone else, some country elsewhere or some company elsewhere!
The gullible and sucker, then says to himself, Let do it! And engages the crooks in the art of meaningful dialogue and negotiations, then, the HONEST crook, now dupes the gullible sucker!
Why do Nigerians and Nigeria have to apologize for these?
These Gullible and Suckers, even have the audacity to want to enforce their illegal and criminal transactions in courts! What temerity they have!?
How is trying to steal money from the Nigerian government or company or from taxpayers any less criminal than trying to aid and abet a crook in his efforts to import or export Cocaine? $50 million is $50million! Whether stolen from Nigerian taxpayers or as proceeds from drugs/narcotic transactions! Helping to commit any crime is EGREGIOUS!
Why are foreigners who shamelessly display avarice and greed and the highest moral turpitude portrayed as victims of crimes? They are no victims, perhaps only victims of their own greed and get-rich-quick schemes! Why do they do it?
Anyone willing and able to do legitimate business in Nigeria should go through legitimate channels e.g.
Nigeria High Commission, Embassy or Consulate
Chambers of Commerce of any Country
Chancery sections of Diplomatic outposts
Banks and Financial Institutions
Physical Visit to Nigeria
Consult your home government first
Rotary International (there are sister chapters in Nigeria)
And many more legitimate avenues/channels, unless of course, you believe the HONEST Fraudster and Dupe over and above the list A to H!
Even some of our citizens seem to glorify and elevate these scurrilous and odious disparagement, it has become such a recycled garbage, that one would think that we as Nigerians should begin to re-examine our role in repeating this slander against our country; Every visit to chat rooms on the internet where Nigerians are present, inevitably lead to a discussion about the latest of the latest of latest 419 stories!
Henceforth, well meaning Nigerians should desist from wallowing in the mud with those who are glad to malign Nigeria or bring Nigerians and Nigeria to disrepute, the idea of repeating this slander or even embellishing it, does not help Nigerians, whether at home or abroad, it ruins our collective reputation, it acts as a stigma to our collective decency and integrity.
Perception is reality, and image as they say in public relations, is everything! We should not give currency and credence to the odium being spread about Nigerians, Majority of Nigerians are law abiding! Why should we allow others to define Nigeria's collective reputation, solely based on the negative behavior of a few bad apples?.
Perhaps it will help to drive the message home to always remind ourselves that we are no participants in these scams and further, that we personally know of nobody in our family that is involved and moreover, the percentage of our population involved in this negative conduct, is alarmingly insignificant, hence we should reject the automatic response of those who are quick to resort to sweeping generalization about Nigerians and African!
We should realize that those who repeat these titillating stories to us about these fraudsters are really talking about us, not the fraudsters! We should not join the hilarity of dinner jokes when it includes these sweeping generalizations about Nigerians and Nigeria, We can broaden the horizon of those present by discussing Nigerians who have excelled in legitimate professions or any calling of human endeavors.
We should not recoil in shame or embarrassment, We should not be cowered or cowed, commentaries relating to these bad apples are usually to make the Nigerian cringe or feel uncomfortable and apologetic, it is mostly an attempt to distract and humiliate, always ask the commentator, 'Is there anything else that you know about Nigerians and Nigeria?'
A good beginning could be informing all those present that we are 120 million Nigerians, we are good, decent and hospitable people, narrate Nigeria's human and mineral endowment and more, if the listener is receptive, recommend a visit to different websites where more relevant positive information about Nigeria can be gleamed.
But if she is belligerent, mention to him and her that you regularly receive junk mail regarding spurious offers for the enlargements of different body parts, but that you casually ignore such offers! Add that you know hair transplant and all claims to grow new hair on a bald head is hocus-pocus and that you usually promptly discard such mails.
I personally receive up to 100 junk emails daily, making all kinds of propositions, legal and illegal, 'earn a college degree without a day in class or study' and I do not call the SWAT team, the US Marines or my lawyer for help, the a function on my computer called delete!
News Flask/Breaking News! When you receive solicitations? Delete!
While at it, remind her of the fact that, you regularly receive junk mails informing you that 'you may already have WON TEN MILLION DOLLARS!!!' but that you do not get excited or sue any company or country, you just trash the outlandish and outrageous offers of deceits and get-rich-quick schemes! Mention that crooks are beasts of no nation, that the recent spate of corporate failures including Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia etc were not because of Nigerians! There is a loss of more than $42 billion to fraud yearly in the US and none of these frauds are connected with the 419ers pittance of nuisance value.
Is Mafia, Corruption or Fraud a Hausa, Ibo or Yoruba word?
Self-respecting Nigerians should reject these negative stereo-types, labels and stigma that we do not deserve, we should quit wallowing in the mud with pigs and detractors of Nigerians and Nigeria, they are actually enjoying it! Stop them!
You may also ask if him to tell you where the 'pyramid schemes' were invented, or where 'cold call telemarketing' was invented, or to explain 'piggy-backing or' 'churning' or 'lemon law' or 'bait and switch' are all about? There are endless examples of fraudulent examples that people with negative bent indulge in, negative people who are not Nigerians!
Give Nigeria a break! Enough already!
Everyone is welcome to do business in Nigeria, with Nigeria, but do so legitimately, do so through proper channels.
There are abundant and boundless opportunities in Nigeria. God Bless you as you take your businesses and investments to Nigeria
Paul I. Adujie is a Nigerian Lawyer and an Information Technology Professional