Fridays in Nigeria’s megacities like Benin, Lagos, Abuja and Owerri have taken another turn in recent times, with flashy cars ornating club-houses and environs. You would struggle to reconcile an ‘extremely poor’ economy on paper and the level of flamboyance in the streets, especially when the so called ‘Yahoo Boys’ roll out to ‘flex’, a coloquial language for enjoying money.
Over the last four years, Business Day has reported that year on year diaspora remittances have increased past oil revenue, with the 2018 diaspora remittance figure standing at $25bn.
PwC’s Chief Economist, in a report titled, “Nigeria Economic Outlook: Top 10 Themes For 2019”, noted that remittances to Nigeria represent 6.1 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and translate to 83 per cent of the Federal Government budget in 2018.
All of these would be a great news, if a huge chunk of these remittances are not purpotedly from ill-gotten wealth via internet fraud by some Nigerians based abroad.
News broke on ABC Chicago of the investigations into an 80-man ring of fraudsters, considerably made up of Nigerians, which has possibly earned N400BN in fraud in just 6 months, spanning January to July 2019.
Is there a reason to think that a huge part of Nigeria’s diaspora remittances, which makes up a large part of the economy, is fraud-funded? In the words of the ABC reporter, “a huge part of the money found its way back to Nigeria.”
ABC Chicago reports, “according to the indictment, the accused used business email compromise frauds, romance scams and schemes targeting the elderly to defraud victims out of millions of dollars.”
Unarguably, in less than a week, Nigeria has had three key internet-related cases to its name– the Invictus Obi fraud case, the Jumia fraud case (But is Jumia a Nigerian company though?), and the 80-person fraud ring.
It is okay to dismiss the issue at hand, recalling that other countries like China and Russia have far more phishing incidence than Nigeria, but what is not okay, is to expect to enjoy ‘Russia-level’ privileges with Nigeria-level money.
Sim Shagaya in reacting to how fraud, especially the Jumia case, hurts legit businesses, states;
Does it mean that for the country to keep enjoying what Dr Chife referred to as ‘our lifeblood’, we have to accept fraud as a part and parcel of our economy?
Oh, Wait. Do we exactly reject fraud?
On many occasions, celebrities and Nigerians without celebrity statuses, have spoken up against the tacit acceptance for fraud in pop culture, and the society at large. On more cases, they have been shut down, with people like Simi and Folarin Falana (Falz) hounded based off their family members.
A so-called Instagram ‘Big Boy’ and influencer, Oyemykke led the lines, campaigning against people who called out fraudulent activities by Nigerians. As if this was not enough, he got a lot of support from Nigerians, often dismissing the issue by citing corrupt government officials and world order.
Perhaps the country cannot do without proceeds from fraud. If this is the case, what if Nigeria becomes a little more creative and toes the line of Asemota’s business proposal; ‘Digital Defense Education’?
What would it take?
A CAC registration and some rehabilitated ‘Yahoo boys’, a colloquial term for people involved in fraudulent activities. Security is big money, whether physical or digital, and a lot of people will pay for this service. Don’t you think?
Increasing diaspora remittances may possibly come at a cost, and that cost is far greater in magnitude because it spreads across the country to legit businesses. In an article on Talkaboutmag, it reads on the effect of fraud to Nigerian devs, designers, writers and freelancers, “Recently, Freelancer.com removed Nigeria from countries it supports wire transfer to. A number of Nigerian freelancers work there, and they have been likely left stranded by this move. “
Not enough? This Business Insider article states the possible effect of fraudulent remittances on the larger Nigerian entrepreneur, “Okeke’s claim to fame in the business community happened after he appeared on the cover of Forbes Africa in 2016… In light of his arrest, local and international media houses might be less willing to feature up-and-coming Nigerian entrepreneurs which would limit their exposure and thus affect the reach of their potentially positive impact.”
As the public seemingly pays lip service to this issue, it all boils down to the moral deficit in the Nigerian society– how Nigerians believe that every person that goes abroad must come back with a truck-load of money.
How churches and mosques supposedly allocate respect and blessings according to the size of donations, and the possible ‘moneyfication’ of the country’s once morally-imbued culture.
Possibly, the society is seen to fund the moral deficit which some Nigerians carry with them abroad, and remit to the economy as fraudulently acquired millions and in this case, billions of dollars.
“You don blow,” they would tell people whose source of wealth is questionable, without due diligence. And yes, this is likely normalized in the Nigerian society.
All of these feed off the country’s non-existent goodwill, leaving the country’s image severely battered in the foreign space.
Is it then possible that the price we’d pay as a country, for increasing diaspora remittances, is a ‘goodwillometer’ that’s in red, and reads negative?