The Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, America’s usually effective intelligence agency with enormous global influence was right. Internet fraud is a scourge that must be tackled and stopped. The FBI recently treated the world to yet another cocktail of bewilderment when it disclosed how it busted an internet fraud in which 77 Nigerians were involved among over 80 persons in the satanic syndicate of wired fraud. A good $6 million had been skimmed off Americans by members of the syndicate with the possibility of another $40 million before the bubble burst.
Eight FBI officials, all men, mounted the dais to address a press conference. The video clip showed all 8 men mournful, sad and melancholic. Their faces flushed in distressing cheerlessness. How could some men deploy the Internet to defraud American families? The FBI officials were visibly angry and they should be. I am angry too, even angrier. Reactions from Nigerians showed we are pissed at the few black sheep that have continued to taint the rest of us.
I shall indulge the FBI with the other side of this criminality. But first, let me inform the FBI and indeed any other person that the criminal acts of a few Nigerians cannot and should not define the Nigerian people. Even in America, Nigerians have shone with zillion stars as a hard-working, disciplined and responsible people. We break academic records in American schools and elsewhere. We are rated to produce the highest quantum of university graduates and professionals among immigrants in US. We excel in sports, science, entertainment, the liberal arts, in fact in all aspects of human endeavour. Our citizens in US, Canada and all over the world work their socks off to finance their education and still top the class. We are simply incredibly brilliant. That’s who we are: zesty, intelligent, virtuous, hardworking and humongously enterprising.
Let me also tell the FBI that in Nigeria, we receive the same scam emails just like any other citizen around the world. But we rarely fall for it. In fact, we don’t fall for such. Reason? Nigerians are also an example in self-control and contentment. The average Nigerian is a happy bloke in his hood. He has learnt to mind his own business, live within his means, provide his own electricity, potable water, and minimal comfort. He just gets by with the little he earns legitimately. Only a few Nigerians are driven by greed. They are the ones that write scam mails. They are the ones that fall for it. As a well-exposed media professional, my email address and phone numbers are in the public space. I get scam calls, scam mails but trust me, I won’t fall for such.
And this brings me to the other side of this criminality. I concur with the FBI that e-fraud is evil. It’s abhorrent as it is devious, lacking in morality and decency. I sincerely sympathise with FBI and Americans especially those who have already lost their life savings to these crooks. But I would wish that FBI deploys the same machinery and legendary efficiency to track Americans and American banks who warehouse stolen money from Africa especially Nigeria.
One irreducible fact is that Nigerian politicians and public officials have over the years stolen Nigeria blind. Their brand of primitive kleptomaniacal disposition is such that has produced a new generation of digital natives whom we now brand as Yahoo Boys. The social discontent created by such stealing manifests in growing youth unemployment and varnishing opportunities. The reason you have a surge in Nigerian migrants across the globe is because their leaders have emptied the treasuries and constricted the space for genuine enterprise to thrive.
It’s a very sad development. But it’s even sadder when you know that all the money looted from Nigerian treasury at home are comfortably sitting in American banks and in banks across Europe including United Kingdom (Brexit or not). This should be the next and by far the most defining assignment for the FBI. Expose those American, UK, European and Asian thieves (Yahoo Boys or Men) warehousing stolen billions of dollars from Nigeria.
The US and the United Kingdom are the biggest recipients of funds looted from Nigeria. This is not my verdict but that of Mr Mathew Page, former United States intelligence community’s top expert on Nigeria. In October 2017, Mr. Page, a senior policymaker at the White House, State Department, Defence Department for more than a decade, dropped this bombshell in Abuja at a roundtable organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), a civil society organisation.
These bold and blunt submissions were contained in a paper titled, “From Maitama to Mayfair: How International Financial and Property Markets Fuel Corruption in Nigeria’’. Mr. Page who was guest speaker noted that current banking, property and corporate laws in the US and UK did not only lack adequate safeguards, but were designed to facilitate illicit financial flows from Nigeria.“ Did you hear that, FBI?
Mr. Page continues: “Nigeria’s kleptocrats deftly use both Nigerian banks and the international financial system, especially anonymous shell corporations and offshore tax havens, to launder stolen public funds and stash them overseas, often in the form of high-end real estate in London, Dubai, New York, and California.
“Despite possessing robust discretionary powers, the US and UK rarely deny visas to corrupt officials or report cases of suspected corruption or unexplained wealth to law enforcement agencies back home. “The UK is one of a small number of global financial centres that play a key role in processing substantial levels of corrupt capital,’’ he told the world.
Quoting Transparency International, plucky Mr. Page said an estimated £57 billion was laundered within and through the UK in 2013 alone, representing 3.6 per cent of that year’s national real GDP.
The FBI may also wish to note that another European nation, Switzerland, is a major recipient of stolen billions of dollars from Nigeria. Worthy of note, Switzerland has begun the process of atonement. In July, 2018, it confirmed the repatriation of the sum of $1.2 billion cash money stolen from Nigerian coffers by the late military dictator, General Sani Abacha. There are many more billions of such illicit money (far worse than internet scam) lurking in US, UK, Swiss and other vaults across the globe.
I am writing this piece from a little corner in my small office pleading with FBI to help Nigerians uncover these billions in US, UK and elsewhere, name and shame the Nigerians and their Western partners who domiciled these monies knowing they are slush funds. Nigerians would be eternally grateful to FBI if it could just name and shame these Western banks and their operators who conveniently warehoused stolen funds knowing such to be so. Before opening a bank account, a basic KYC (know your customer) check is done to establish the identity of the customer and source of fund. But UK, US and Swiss banks ignore this. I admire the sense of duty of FBI worrying about cash leaving US pockets and going to other countries. It should also worry about cash leaving other nations and coming to American pockets.
This is where FBI should focus, this time.