Saturday, December 13, 2008

Corruption Incorporated

At a function held recently for the Nigerian High Commissioner to Australia, HE Professor Olu Agbi by the Nigerian Community Association in Queensland, the High Commissioner noted the damage done to Nigeria’s image overseas as a result of internet scams, and steps taken by the EFCC and the government to tackle this menace.

It is common knowledge that the name Nigeria is now synonymous with financial and economic crimes. There is a joke in the UK that, if you tell a police officer that a lady has just been raped, and you suspect the rapist to be a Nigerian, he will say – ‘it is impossible’, but you mention credit card fraud, fake documents etc, further investigation into the suspects nationality will be a waste of time - as you can be sure that a Nigerian is involved.

Having lived in the UK for while, I was used to reading about stories on Nigerian fraud in the media almost every month. However, it came to me as surprise when after just two days in Australia, one of the national television stations ran a programme on some Nigerians trying to scam a family in Sydney. These guys were exposed by an undercover journalist who played along with these guys as an accomplice.

The Nigerian internet fraud has grabbed some much headline is Australia, that one of the state police authorities now organise a yearly symposium on fraud, which is titled ‘the Nigerian internet scam’. The event attracts a large audience from financial institutions all over the world, and it costs about $300 to register for the event.Some people, including the High Commissioner are of the opinion that victims (called ‘mugu’) of internet scams are accomplices themselves, because they want easy money and looking to reap where they did not sow. I’m however not interested rationalising this argument.

In tackling this problem, the High Commisioner noted that the EFCC is currently looking to have a bill passed through the parliament that will make owners of cybercafés accountable for activities undertaken in their premises. In effect, the onus is on a cybercafé to monitor what a customer does with their computer. So I will expect managers of cybercafés to ask their customers for names of email recipients and contents of their email, etc. This for me is total nonsense! Any legal expert who is responsible for helping to draft such a legislation should be sent back to re-write is LAW101 exams. How such legislation will stack up against a legal challenge beats my imagination. It is only in the Nigerian parliament (which is full of clowns and jokers) that such legislation can be passed.

Instead of the government to address the root cause of internet fraud in Nigeria, they are busy legislating silly policies. We need to ask ourselves why desire to perpetuate fraudulent activities is waxing stronger among Nigerian teenagers. Unfortunately, there is a current generation in the society today, who do not know that an individual can be ‘successful’ by doing legit business. They believe you either have to be a politician or 419ner to be wealthy. Can you blame these kids? You can’t because they have no role model and they see is glorification of 419ners, and institutionalised stealing in government. The days of hard working businessmen such as Timothy Odutola, Amzat Adebowale are long gone.

Also, the government somewhat now believe that 419 scam is the greatest criminal offence one can commit. But the issue is can one crime be described to be greater than the other? What about the politician and civil servants put in position of trust and authority but who have continued to launder the nation’s resources? Are these not the same people sitting in the parliament, responsible for passing stupid legislations such as the one described earlier? The truth of the matter is that we are all bunch of hypocrites as a nation. We are quick to condemn the 19yr-old boy trying to defraud westerners from the shanty cybercafé in downtown Lagos but ‘glorify’ the pot-bellied politician stealing from his luxurious apartment in Abuja.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning cyber crime or exonerating their accomplices. However, the point is that the government should tackle the root cause of this problem by creating jobs, social welfare system and improve quality of life. An idle hand they say is the devil’s workshop.And if they choose not to, glorification of internet scams by the likes Olu Maintain has also just began…..

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