The 419 ideology: An economic pollution which seems to be elevating poverty in Nigeria

The shadow market seems to be taking a large share in the running of our economy, especially through the proceeds from international economies by 419 scammers. The term 419 which symbolises a bad reputation for Nigerians was derived from section 419 of the Nigerian criminal code that mirrors advance-free fraud. Advance-free fraud scams has become a norm, a pop culture which has now been identified with Nigerians all over the world.

Unemployment and the growing monetary frustrations in the economy has lead to a boom in 419 fraud and its local acceptance, due to the benefits it creates for the increasing rate of the nation’s underemployed. It has become a normal standard in a society which struggles to elevate poverty from a family line. While some identify it as a despicable act of cruelty and an unlawful means of livelihood, others perceive the gains as divine blessings and a product of hard-work. The culprits which are mostly the youths are proud to identify themselves with this business module by the lavish lifestyle it promises. They make quick money, generally spending it overnight by generously gifting themselves with expensive presents, funding their family domestic needs and promoting other peoples businesses. By exercising such extravagance, they elevate livelihoods and promote small, medium and multinational business. Hence, improves the runnings of the economy.

One way or the other the money is used to boost the Nigerian economy when it is used to pay rents, taxes, hospital bills, as it supports individual spending habits and trickles down to even benefit the women in the market who sell pepper. Whereas, someone somewhere has just lost their live savings or made a bad investment that might have lead them to either bankruptcy, death or jail, and aside from the financial cost, many victims suffer from severe emotional and psychological cost.

How do we then judge this act in all ramification. There is a saying which states “The rich gets wealth to the detriment of the poor”. Hence, for someone to win somebody has to loose and for someone to get a promotion someone else has to be laid off. Since this issue is very sensitive, it is very difficult to decide a conclusion as to what is acceptable or intolerable on a broader spectrum, even though the odds are majorly against internet scammers.

For a better understanding, some say that the dishonest scheme is predominantly due to low human capital and the poor state of the economy. Nevertheless, it is also assumed as a branch of business which exists everywhere in the world and contrary to popular belief it was not invented by Nigerians. Truth be told, advanced-free fraud (419) dates way back in history even though it has sophisticatedly matured. The not so recent but popular “Nigerian prince” scam can be traced back to a similar “Spanish prisoner” scam dating back to the late 18th century and also the transnational scam in Germany, which became popular in the 1980’s. In 2006, the US held a record high on internet criminals with 61%, followed by the UK with 16% and Nigeria with 6%. South Africa, Spain, Ivory Coast, Togo and the Netherlands are also amongst nations with high occurrence of advance-free fraud. However, Nigeria has been on the forefront, regrettably earning her a strong reputation for email scammers. One of the reasons being that, aside from the perpetrators in Nigeria, a significant proportion of Nigerian youths living abroad are either receiving jail sentences or repatriation due to their involvement in fraud practises.

Report has it that the US lost $198.4 million in 2006 and the UK loses nothing short of 150 million pounds per year to internet fraud. In response to this a few people were of the opinion that these are the consequences of enslaving and colonising us, as we still suffer from the expropriation of many artefacts which were stolen from our villages and the theft of our forefathers who were used to develop foreign economies. Others who are of similar notion also believe it to be a “survival instinct” and both parties are greedy, insatiable enough to be involved in quick-money-making, especially foreigners who sometimes are aware that it is a dodgy business. This is why many gullible people cannot report the crime and therefore one cannot estimate the total loss as it widely varies. Nevertheless, what about love related scams which can send a normal thinking person into depression and suicidal practices or the local 419 scammers who defraud their fellow countryman living in the same difficult country as early claimed.

This is a very reactive concern and I will indulge carefully. I think there should be a limit as to how far internet scam artists should trade, since they have individual justifiable reasons as to why they should take up such profession. It always takes two to tangle for the birth of any condition. So therefore, foreigners should desist from encouraging these said criminals. Last time I checked know one had a gun to the fellows neck. He was willing to partake in this dubious deal in other to make quick money. When someone tries to find a quick method to cheat the government by hiding, syphoning or laundering money through unstandardised means, he too should be blamed for being greedy when he becomes a victim of a scam, because the intention at the end of the said transaction was to obtain large sums of money which he did not work for. Furthermore, for those who descend so low in tricking victims through love promises and marriage proposals, that I think is very despicable and wicked, regardless of if the money is used to save a life, you might just have caused another persons life.

In addition, if the reason for “419” was as a consequence of slave trade, colonisation, and the poor state of the country, then why do local fraudsters trick and illegally obtain money from fellow inhabitants, who by one way or the other is experiencing similar imposed hardship by the government. The same government bodies perpetrators are blaming for their actions. For this reason I think there is no justifiable reason why anyone should defraud someone else of their belongings be it foreigners or locals, as it is only an act of greed, dishonesty and laziness. Nevertheless, a wise man once told me that there is good in every bad and evil in every good. We are never meant to win regardless of our opinions, as what is seen as reasonable in this part of the world might be insupportable on the other side of the globe.

Just maybe, these “scam artists” could have the most pleasant taste of honey with amazing personalities. A hidden meaning of having the sweetest soul when one gets to meet and understand them, regardless of what they do as it could just be a phase. Anyway, at the end of the day I am not a public officer who is appointed to decide cases in law courts and even if I were, I will still make some mistakes, as I am only human in a world full of bias. So therefore I rest my case to further conclude without judgement. Everyone is free to go and face life’s consequence. Karma as they say is never far off.
Class dismissed.

X pj.

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