By Ayo Abiola
Within this write-up is a lecture given by American Jeffery Robinson who the British Bankers’ Association referred to as “the world’s leading financial crime author”. In the lecture Robinson spared no effort in asserting that every Nigerian is into the fraud business. In his words, Robinson said, “the Nigerian people…. they’ve taken fraud and made it the second biggest export after petroleum”. It is unfortunate when supposed learned men who are tagged with superficial titles as Robinson’s – the world’s leading financial crime author – will only put matters in sensational manners to score points or boost their expert’s ego.
Jeffery Robinson’s word in the video:
[Quote] I mentioned the Nigerian woman, I didn’t mean to single out anybody, but the Nigerian people needs singling out and the reason they need to be singled out is that they’ve taken fraud and made it the second biggest export after petroleum. It is a national… [inaudible]… you’ve all gotten a letter with the email right – you know what I am talking about; called 419 fraud…. Dear sir, this letter comes to you on the advice of a friend. I am present director general of the national petroleum corporation of Nigeria; we have found some money deposited in the offshore in the Bahamas………we’ve all gotten that letter. [unQuote]
What Robinson didn’t know or knew but won’t say is that the fraud he referred to has never been a Nigerian invention neither is it most popular with Nigerians than any other nationality of the world. Although as Nigerians we do agree that a small number of people amongst us commit these frauds – but so do people from other nations of the world. We also believe these frauds aren’t right thing to do; its practitioners are criminals who should be stopped – but Nigerians are not by nationality fraudsters or people whose choice trade is to take other people’s money.
Perhaps the best justice done on this issue to Nigerians is by Peter J. Riley, a Forbes commentator who had once wrote on the “Nigerian scam” and recently posted a rejoinder on the fallacy of giving fraud a Nigerian nationality. Peter Riley in his article titled “Fraud Has No Nationality – Apology to Nigeria” remarked that there is nothing Nigerian about the Nigerian scam. What better proof of this did he present other than the fact that it has been recorded that many of the so called Nigerian scammed has money transferred to China! Should we then say that fraud now has a dual citizenship – Nigerian and Chinese? No. The fact is people everywhere do fraud and it isn’t limited to Nigerians.
In our world of 7 billion people, scams and fraud has no nationality
The statistics on crime by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) shows that between 87 and 76 percent of all internet fraud reported has been committed by Americans and in 2008 while Americans recorded 66% of this crimes, the British perpetrated 10.1%; now compare this to Nigeria’s 7.8% in the same year – yet Jeffery Robinson proudly asserted that scam is Nigerian! Quite a ludicrous assertion – especially from the “world’s leading financial crimes author”. It is assertions and sensationalism from Jeffery Robinson and the likes that keep giving Nigerians an ignoble tag.
Dr. Farooq Kperogi posted a note on the British Origin of Nigerian 419 scams – a well-researched article of how the scam described by Jeffery Robinson originally known as the “Spanish prisoner Letter” from the sixteenth century (before Nigeria existed) travelled through Spain to Britain where scammers write letters to wealthy business men claiming to be part of an effort to save the sheltered but endangered child of an estate whose family member was dying as a result of poor conditions in the Spanish prisons. They do this to gain the confidence of the victim in order to extort money from them. This was rampant in Spain, extended through Europe and similar to what some Nigerians and other scam artists from other nations practise. Yet, Jeffery Robinson said Nigerians export fraud!
If Americans do much more fraud than Nigerians as well as the British – why then will Nigerians be the target of the blame? Part of this might not be unconnected with the single story factor which according to Novelist Chimamanda Adichie “creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story. The consequence..: it robs people of dignity“. This is why we shouldn’t desist from telling our own stories – the positive ones. We will no doubt reprimand negativities, but we can’t afford to allow only those to define us. Else our citizens will always seek different identities whenever they want to engage in every meaningful positive venture. How does it sound, when proper Nigerian citizen will be referred by their secondary “dual” nationality as Americans, British, German when they have done something awesome; but only when a negative act has been committed will it be mentioned that they are Nigerians?
We should tell our stories; CNN or BBC won’t do it for us and neither will Al-Jazeera. The latest gig on Al-Jazeera network on Nigeria recently is about The Nigerian Prostitution mafia in Italy. One wonders if they have finished reporting the ones from the Middle East. But it does seem that Nigerian-bashing is a selling point these days – sensational and further dragging us into the abyss of negativity. However, it remains our fault for making negativity the major stories being told of us – we can change this tone, also by ourselves – by changing our stories and creating positive occurrences.
NOTE: The number 419 is from the Nigerian Criminal Code referenced from section 4 subsection 19 that prohibits or outlaws obtaining by pretence or falsehood from others. It is Nigeria’s oldest law against fraud and not a term for fraud as widely misconstrued. To learn more about how Nigeria fights fraud visit the Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission website.
This write-up first appeared on the I AM NIGERIAN blog-page.