I have had a reluctance to write this post, but because of recent happenings, including the news trending about the arrest of an alleged Nigerian online celebrity, I am compelled to make these observations.
The initial prompting was from a phone call from a young man, who wanted me to mentor him, asking if he should accept the invitation for him to become a ‘yahoo’ member. He attends one of the trending Pentecostal churches in Nigeria. He is single and earns a good salary for his qualification in present-day Nigeria. He is single, but from my discussion with him, he has big ambitions without a legitimate strategy to actualize them.
One thing with this so-called motivational preaching is that, if you motivate an idiot or criminal, you produce a more dangerous idiot or a criminal.
I tend to think of myself not as a motivational speaker, but a reality speaker—a teacher of Developmental Christianity. I mentor and model, to you, what has worked in my life. I teach you based on what is demonstrable, transferable, and replicable. You might not get there with ease and speed, but you will get there. You might not become Dangote or Adeleke, but you will be okay. You might not become Bill Gates, but you will be able to pay your bills and the gates of life and great potentials will open for you.
This period of COVID-19 has been the most economically challenging for my wife and I. Recently, Rev. Samson Bodjor gave me 5000 Naira, about 20 USD, and it meant so much to me. I screamed and danced in his presence. I personally had to go sell cucumber twice, and one of my customers was shocked to see that I was waiting for him. I have preached in his church before now. For me, I am facing reality.
This morning, a young man called me claiming to be from the Central Bank of Nigeria, that the Federal Government was distributing 35,000 Naira palliative, and that he was going to send me a code to enable me to get my own. He reminded me of my year of birth in a bid to convince me, not knowing that my date of birth is in the public domain. I pretended as if I was excited, I shouted Hallelujah! He got more excited with his dirty, village accent from southwestern Nigeria, and bad grammar, until I told him he was a fool and he hung up.
Scams and Schemes Did Not Start from Nigeria
It is as old as humanity.
The woman that scammed her friend to cook and eat her child, and then refused to bring out her own is a good example in the Bible. Even the one that laid false claims to the child of another woman after her own died, that King Solomon settled their case, is another example of obtaining under false pretense, as it is called in Nigerian law a long time ago.
In the United States of America, William F Miller, as far back as 1899, was already defrauding people of their funds by promising great returns. He was a bookkeeper, promising very attractive returns on investments; at the end of it all, he had swindled people of more than $1 Million. He ended up in jail.
Charles Ponzi (born Carlo Pietro Giovanni Guglielmo Tebaldo Ponzi), March 3, 1882 to January 18, 1949, was an Italian from a family whose fortunes had crashed and was prompted to go to America in order to reverse their fortunes. In the 1920s, he ended up defrauding Americans of millions of dollars in a fraudulent investment pyramid scheme. He had been a serial criminal and fraudulent fellow before then. After he was released from prison, he still tried other get-rich-quick schemes that failed. He eventually died poor and blind in a Brazilian hospital.
There is also the case of Victor Lustig, who, in 1925 sold the Eiffel Tower. He sold it twice.
The most celebrated in recent history is Bernard Madoff, former NASDAQ director, who stole millions of investor money. He started off as a legitimate investment broker in the 1960s but started falsifying returns in early 1990, and he did this for 19 years before he was jailed for a total of 150 years when his scheme burst.
Scams in Nigeria
I grew up to meet scammers in Nigeria. My aunty and, I suspect, my mother too, fell for one scheme when I was in secondary school. They were offered a deal to buy drinks from a ship at a very ridiculously low price and the fellows disappeared into thin air. I had an old wayo man, as they were called, then residing opposite us, when I was in the University, in the late 1990s. There were the ‘sailor men’ of Ajegunle in Lagos that lured and defrauded people with the promise of printing currency notes for them. Others offered properties that did not belong to them for sale.
Recently, with the advent of the internet, their techniques and scope now involve different spheres from love scams of lonely widows and widowers, to stealing from people’s accounts, identity theft, rituals, and all kinds of criminal acts.
The Mind of the Nigerian Scammer
1. He/she is a very heartless person governed by the spirit of Mammon
Money is his/her God.
The very successful ones can be very calm, live a very discreet and private life. They can be very generous and philanthropic, with a covering of religious activities. However, they have no sympathy for their victims.
Charles Ponzi defrauded even his workers. Bernie Madoff defrauded charities that invested their funds in his scheme.
Recently, there was a question online if girls would allow themselves to be raped for 4 million Naira. Quite a number of girls responded that they were ready to be raped daily to get the 4 million. One said, “Who has virginity helped?” That’s how depraved minds reason.
2. The older generation of scammers in Nigeria are now in their 50s and early 60s and they occupy very prominent positions in Nigeria
They started with the perception that they were on a vengeance mission to repatriate the funds that were stolen by the colonial masters and their agents, over the years, from Africa and Nigeria. They believe that the multinationals operating in Nigeria are fraudulent, so there is nothing wrong if they get their own pound of flesh from their nationals too.
However, the truth of the matter is that they also scam African Americans, who are victims of slavery and several innocent people, who have never been to, or done any business in Nigeria.
3. They believe everyone does some form of scam
They believe that everybody, especially the elite class in Nigeria, are scammers.
Even pastors who pray for them are seen as scammers, and it’s a good reason for them to continue.
When they see pastors displaying fake miracles in order to get the crowd and raise large offerings, they feel that every Nigerian is a scammer. They will mention the names of prominent rich people who made wealth corruptly from government cronies. They know those who benefited from undue government leverage and patronage.
You, sometimes, can not put a sound argument, because it is very true in Nigeria, and these are the people that are celebrated in religious settings, our communities, universities, and are given national honours.
Researchers have found that scammers thrive in very corrupt and poor countries. Though they might relocate to other nations like Malaysia, UK, Italy, Japan, Dubai, Turkey, US, South Africa, and Ghana.
4. The Nigerian scammer is narcissistic
The scammers and their gangs see every other person as instruments or objects towards achieving their financial success.
They are ready to kill close relatives for rituals. They are ready to kill innocent babies, and cut off body parts or genitals of their lovers, mothers, or harlots.
5. They are very desperate to make wealth at all costs, at a very fast rate
That’s why young Nigerian males can use bread to eat human excrement. One of them was caught near my town, and was the son of a prominent man in that area.
6. They like enjoyment, conspicuous consumption, and exhibitionist lifestyles
They try to compensate for their former state of poverty, deprivation, and rejection by ‘announcing’ their arrival. You can see it in the cars they buy, the clothes they wear, and homes they build.
Nigeria is a country where the rich and powerful intimidate everybody. They move around with police escorts. They arrive at ceremonies in grand style. The way they throw money in ceremonies and the way people scramble to pick the money has an orgasmic feeling. It reminds them of their dreams in childhood. They want to ‘pepper’ them.
Most of them have one rich African American star they admire or admired when they were poor.
There are some, I know, that when they drive their cars close to mine, they want me to know that, “Pastor, I have arrived like you”.
7. They do not fear the Nigerian police or law-enforcement agencies
They believe everything and everybody in Nigeria has a price.
There are cases where one of them attempts to outsmart the rest of the gang, and the law-enforcement agents are involved in the settlement of the case. One officer told the smart alec that, “you know say this una business dey require trust”. The case was amicably resolved. There have been cases where such smart alecs were beaten to death and nothing happened.
They are ready to go to an ATM to settle any officer, and go their way. They have bank managers on their payroll. There are bankers who notify them when the money drops. There are pastors who pray for them, such that when the deal is done, they receive their tithes and offerings.
The average religious Nigerian scammer implicates God in his criminality by proclaiming, “Oluwa is involved” or “Na God win”.
8. A lot of them set out with positive intentions of alleviating poverty from their families.
Like Charles Ponzi, a lot of them usually set out with the mindset that they want to alleviate the suffering of their families, although there are children of rich families involved.
Some are still involved even after they have become rich. Their company accounts are used to launder the money to look legitimate, and they, the dons, receive their percentage cut.
Once these young men ‘hammer’, which means a big hit, their mothers and younger ones are usually the first beneficiaries. The boy buys a car for the mum, and if the father is also criminally-inclined, he joins in the groove. The boy starts to reside in a hotel, and move big babes.
Mothers now take their young boys to an internet grand scammer for apprenticeship in Nigeria. So, it is seen as a new trade, business, or vocation.
9. They believe there are no alternatives
Sequel to the above reasons, they believe that since the government has provided no jobs, they have no alternative than to be scammers.
They initially started with the argument that they were not scamming Nigerians, but, at least, I just had an attempt to scam me this morning.
Nigerian scammers are extremely intelligent and internet savvy. They know that cougars in the western world are lonely, rich, and sex-starved. They also know that women outside Nigeria admire our physique, dress style, swag, humour, and extravagance. They also know that Caucasian women think that the average Nigerian is very strong in bed, so they use that as a bait to lure them into their net.
They, sometimes, use young girls, too, to lure men who are looking for sex tourism in Nigeria or Africa. They work on the greed of any person who sees Nigeria as a corrupt nation with great resources they can quickly exploit and run away.
They also know that Nigerians are greedy for quick and easy money, that’s why people fall for every—and any quick-returns—investment scheme.
They know that Nigerians are naive and trust easily, especially church folks. They target religious WhatsApp groups. They can hack someone’s page or number, and they offer quick return schemes, and before you realise it, people have been duped,
They also know that we are envious of each other, so they ask you to keep it a secret. The other reason is that we tolerate and celebrate wealth, even if it is criminal. They will work on your mind that the government would not want such activities made public. They will give you the names of other respectable people involved. Then, it is finished.
10. They rely on the unpredictability of our systems
They also know that many Nigerians are so much in a hurry, and because our systems are not predictable, they will put you under time constraints and pressure, knowing that you will, most likely, not fact-check.
One recently asked a group to submit their details to their alma mater, and within a few days to enable the University to compile an online directory.
Any person proposing anything, no matter how reasonable it sounds, and no matter how attractive and rewarding, please be very careful.
Always fact-check from a very calm and mature person. The issue of scammers in Nigeria are going to increase astronomically and take various dimensions. They are in all institutions from churches, banks, and they monitor every detail of your life, including this post and others I have made.
One sad reality is that most scammers end up very badly. They either end up in jail or end up losing everything and everybody, and die very lonely and sick.
Evil never pays. If the devil promises you a pair of shoes, you might lose your feet before you get them. We must discourage our young ones from fraud, build a conducive society for productivity, and also alert our people about the wiles and vices of scammers.