BEING DUPED BY A FAMILY MEMBER...

Monday, June 30, 2008

Earlier this month, I posed a question on values in the context of Nigerian society. I wanted to get a sense of what values the readers would describe as 'Nigerian'. It was an interesting exercise to say the least. I continue to hold the opinion that too many people have disregarded the difference between what is right and wrong. To me, this disregard connotes a devaluation of previously understood and shared value systems. And this opinion is reinforced by the fact that, in Nigeria, there appears to be a growing trend amongst a few who choose to dupe and betray their own flesh and blood.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO FAMILY?
I recently heard a story about a kidnapping that happened earlier this year. Now, for disclosure sake, let me confess something. Whenever I read a news story about an individual being kidnapped in Nigeria, I don't bat an eye. For some reason, I am immune to such news. I simply acknowledge the information and move on with the strong belief that the victim will be released in no time as long as certain 'conditions' are met. Thank goodness, I haven't been proven wrong yet.

So it was with a relative share of nonchalance that I was told a story of a kidnapping in Nigeria by a close friend of my mother's. He recently traveled to Nigeria to visit friends and family and also help his son's philanthropic organization. During this time, he discovered that his son's friend, a Nigerian American playing in the NFL, got a frantic phone call informing him that a family member had been kidnapped. The kidnappers wanted a hearty sum of N2 billion.

Well, it turned out that the kidnapped family member was actually taken by a cousin! The NFL player was being betrayed by his own flesh and blood. But that wasn't the only story I heard about individuals being duped by their family members. In fact, from what I am learning, that is becoming common fodder for many Nigerians.

WHAT IS GOING ON?

It is unbelievable that a family member would kidnap a relative simply to extort money. However, on this issue, I have learned to "shine my eyes" (as Nigerians say) and realize that for some, family is no longer sacred. All one need do is check out this recent news headline - Kidnappers of Bayelsa SSG's Wife Finger His Cousin.

But, since when did it become acceptable to dupe a family member? How did this practice become so common and why? Stories of family members asking for money to feed their children but then using that money to build lavish houses are far too common. Many readers have of course heard stories of others taking money from relatives who live abroad and instead of using that money on an assigned task, they usurp that money for their own private use.

Now, I am not claiming that this behavior is limited to Nigerians. That would be absurd especially since history has proven that merely sharing DNA is not enough to prevent bad people from doing bad things to their relatives. Nevertheless, how do we quell this growing trend before it becomes uncontrollable? Or, is this issue one that is already beyond the point of return? I sincerely hope that is not the case because I cannot envision a future where taking advantage of relatives, or any person in particular, is a common practice.


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28 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

Marin said...

Na real wa o! Me I'm speechless. When money, and peoples bellies become their gods, when people become celebrated for money, irrespective of how they come by it and not for tangible achievements.....this is what happens. I am not sure the trend can be easily reversed. mmh

Shubby Doo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shubby Doo said...

‘the love of money is the route of all evil’…

like you I do not bat an eye when I hear about kidnappings too…reading this makes me realise that I am part of the problem because ‘the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’. That is how it grows…

Looking at my own personal experience of ‘it’, I remember a family friend who felt entitled to my stuff because that is what her mother had taught her…with age we parted ways.

Looking at the nation when ‘it’ started and then progressed to “…taking money from relatives who live abroad and instead of using that money on an assigned task, they usurp that money for their own private use”…who put a stop to it? Nobody! Instead, people were rushing to copy ‘it’ so they could get their own share of ‘something for nothing’.

Sadly I am not surprised that somebody is trying to dupe their cousin for N2 billion.

Mwangi said...

I can assure you that such betrayals also take place on the Eastern side of the country and it all basically comes down to one thing.......fear and hunger because of scarcity of resources.
As much as I hate being materialist in my thinking, I think its pretty amazing how many of society's ills would quiet down and lessen if we simply worked on creating a more egalitarian society.
As far as I can tell, most Africans don't have crazy levels of ambition, once they have enough, they will be content.

My 0.02

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

@ Marin: Oh my, I hope you are wrong on the possibility of reversing this trend. In fact, I desperately hope so. But you raise a key issue - far too often, we confer respect to people simply because they have wealth with no distinction for how it was obtained.

That is exemplified in the number of chieftancy titles and other 'honorary' titles conferred upon people in Nigeria for their financial success. Why don't we offer that same or similar respect to teachers who don't get paid a living wage?

I hear that the Nigerian government put a ban on 'showering money' or something like that. They might want to take the time to discourage actions that further fuel the increase of fraudulent behavior in the nation.

Thanks so much for starting the conversation. Much appreciated.

@ Shubby Doo: "‘the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’"

so, my sista, what can we do? Other than discourage such behavior amongst those we know and of course encourage much more stringent enforcement of anti-fraud laws, what can one do? Unfortunately, like you, I am no longer shocked by news that family members will kidnap their own flesh and blood so that they too can do 'effizy' and achieve 'Alaye Baba' status. how sad. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and leave a comment on this issue.

@ Mwangi: "As far as I can tell, most Africans don't have crazy levels of ambition, once they have enough, they will be content."

I used to believe in this as well. But, now, I am beginning to sing a different tune. I honestly believe, like you, that as long as people have the basics they will be satisfied and carry on with their lives. But, nowadays, I think that there is a growing number of people, young and old, who watch too much tv and seek infamy and wealth. I think of them as 'longathroats', basically people who are never satisfied and want everything their eyes see. An egalitarian society will definitely help, but we would still have to find a smart way to dampen the effects of the longathroats'. In our capitalist societies, there is only so much that we can do, I think.

Anyway, thanks for swinging by. It's good to see you here. Take care!

Mwangi said...

Indeed, marketing has had an absolutely devastating effect on our psyche as people, to the point that we genuinely, honestly believe we need the most luxurious and frivolrous of items, such as fancy cars, homes, expensive bird's nests on one's head. I think first that would definitely need to be kept under control, marketing free zones perhaps? and then we definitely need to keep people with selfish interests either under control or sublimate their selfish energy towards higher community goals e.g. "the whole argument of big businesses, create many jobs" being actually true over and over and over again.

Some quick ideas.

FineBoy Agbero said...

Quote from post: I simply acknowledge the information and move on with the strong belief that the victim will be released in no time as long as certain 'conditions' are met. Thank goodness, I haven't been proven wrong yet.

You were proved wrong yesterday, dear. According to The Guardian: "Bandits Kidnap, Kill Bayelsa Official"

report: "... suspected gunmen kidnapped and later killed the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Secretary to the State Government, Dr Ekparipa Apiri..."

Duping relatives? Happens everyday! Even Christ warned: "a man's enemies shall be those of his household..."

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

@ Mwangi: Hmm, market free zones would be an interesting feat. Especially in light of a recent BBC story on British Tobacco manufacturers and their marketing to young children in Nigeria and Malawi. BTW, thanks to Ms. T for sending me that story....

Unfortunately, it will be hard to sell such an idea as most of our countries need/believe they need foreign investment to achieve required development. Nevertheless, it is definitely an idea worth thinking about and considering because the marketing push has arguably corrupted various beneficial African traditions that desperately need a resurgence...

@ FineBoy Agbero: oh my really? I stayed away from the news over the weekend. I obviously missed this story. How unfortunate. Well, I guess I have been proven wrong. May God have mercy. I'm going to go read that story. I wonder if his death was deliberate or an accidental result of the kidnapping. How sad.

As to the 'duping relatives' syndrome, I guess we have all shined our eyes, eh?

Thanks for stopping by. Don't be a stranger.

notjustok said...

A whole ₦2 billion!!! I heard about the kidnapping trend in Naija by family members, this is the 2nd time i am hearing about it... may be this is the new hustle in Naija...Sad though...

rethots said...

'tis so very annoying, most especially when people expect 'some relative' abroad or working to dole out money to them (for whatever reason). I think 'tis simply wrong 'cos when you look at it, most times 'these' relatives (& the receiver) usually have the same opportunities to education. They just probably choose to be lazy and until this habit (doling out money to relatives) is stopped we are yet to see the worst.

Overall though, i think it just goes a long way to show how much we (as a nation) have embraced decadence.

ababoypart2 said...

I have a few 'cousins' that I wouldnt inform of my movements when I hit Niaja. Them go arrange...Signs of the time...no blames laid.

Standtall said...

We need to revalue our value system actually.

Mwangi said...

I think what we would need is one moment where society is forced to just stop and think outside of the marketing noise. I am yet to meet anyone who steps outside of all the hype and advertising and product pushing noise and doesn't come back in quite aware of how determinental it is.
One could also easily make the case that increased circulation of money within Africa has actually resulted in greater poverty than in any advancement of society.

nneoma said...

hmmmm, what a coincidence. I just received a call this morning from one of my cousins whose brother, along with his cult members, robbed one of our houses in Naija dry (dry as in dry - they even removed the water heater from the walls - nothing was left, nothing). For that reason, like ababoy, we have decided not to inform *ANY* of our relatives (only trusted friends) of our travels and movements. ANY. Sadly, the expectation is that we should forgive this family member since we adhere to "Nigerian" national values, which for some reason, my cousin did not adhere to. Anyway that is another story.

Like you said, no ethnic group or nation is immune from the ability to kill or harm your own relative - look at Cain and Abel, the Menedez (sp?) brothers who killed their parents, and time without number we witness news reports in the West of fathers raping their young daughters (note the recent case in Austria, I believe). The capacity for evil in the human heart is great...and universal.

Going back to Nigeria, the reason why this phenomenon goes unchecked is because the environment encourages it. Values are almost always trumped by selfishness - trumped when those values don't suit the individual - always. In my own personal example, we decided not to press charges because a campus cult was involved and they could possibly retaliate. Also, few weeks before we found who the culprit was, we heard of a man coming from the US who was duped by his relative. When the man pressed charges, he was later murdered. Of course, the police was highly ineffective in his case.

To curb this madness, issues concerning security - the joke that is the Nigerian police force and the local courts - should be adequately addressed. Unfortunately this takes time and unfortunately the short-term vigilante system is easily prone to corruption. In addressing security (its funding, regulation, and the sort), we can put in check the excesses of human capacity to do evil.

bumight said...

apparently, blood is only as thick as cranberry juice in this time and age.

Femi B said...

i think the habit of giving people money should be banned lol.....(where the heck am i taking this too) Give a man fish every day and he'll be lazy, but in this case...he'll steal from you but teach him how to fish and he'll become a fisherman and not bother you again. I know its hard to help ALL family members stand on their own feet but the N1,000 today N5,000 tomorrow does not help at all. It only keeps them greedy and hungry for more. And i guess its easier for relatives to steal from you because, they are in close proximity and are tempted cos what they cant have....is under their nose.

Everyone Loves a Naija Girl said...

It's sad that relatives lie to each other like that, and unfortunately it is all to common in the Nigerian society. What hurts the most is that Nigerians abroad don't have it as easy as some would like to think. And to know that hard earned money is given out of kindness, just to be used on something else is sad. Let's hope that Nigerians can wake up and change this behavior, because it is not helping anyone.

nneoma said...

@femi b - i wish that were the case that if you teach a man to fish he will leave you alone. but in my personal experience, we sent this cousin and his siblings to school in naija and were in the process of bringing them over to the us for graduate education. The human heart is essentially greedy. Once the person learns how to fish, he may desire to add some free fish to his existing coffers.

Atutupoyoyo said...

Hmmm.....if this NFL player is of Igbo extract then I think I know the family in question. I will not expand on that for the sake of any libel issues.

The idea of defrauding family is hardly a novel crim in Nigeria. My cousin who lived with us stole regularly from my mother. Not to mention an incident in which she used her name to secure a bank account.

Whenever I go back, close family members hyper inflate the price of everything, taking advantage of my naivete. In many ways I almost factor this in when I am trying to assist with their education costs, transportation and accomdation requirements. It is the Nigerian way - give an inch and they will take a freaking mile. All this with smiles and offertory prayers. When I actually confronted a cousin once who was asking for 30000# as JAMB fees, he smiled at me winningly, saying "Bros, how for do? Ground no dey level"

Allied said...

This thievery has started since oh. Example is aso-ebi. Family emebers will tell you its $100, when they bought it in Balogun for 13,000 Naira. Men some people are thieves’ sha!

Jinta said...

those who dupe do not have boundaries - dont forget the saying that only those close to you can harm you

NoLimit said...

Well I am not very surprised...everytime I hear news like that I am shocked...but the shock drains away quickly...When it comes to family...as far as I am concerned one can't be too careful...for instance if a relation wants you to borrow him/her money,you better be sure you give out money you can afford to lose...well I haven't been duped by any relative but then...one can't be too careful!

guerreiranigeriana said...

...as others have already pointed out, this is definitely not a new issue...some people and some life situations facilitate such corrupt behavior...someone 'innocently' picking five dollars from the floor of a relative's house (that is stealing as it is not your money since you don't live there) and it being condoned as okay leads to the tacking on of a couple extra thousand nairas to the price of school fees...greed/gluttony and general lack of behavioral control...as much as you want to trust your family and friends, you better shine your eye well, well...

Anonymous said...

AFC: Avarice, Fraud and Corruption

The AFC is a good idea, whose execution has been flawed by a corrupt and fraudulent CEO. Please read more.

About this time last year, the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) was launched with much fanfare. It was projected as a noble and visionary idea to help mobilize private and public capital for investment in Nigeria's and Africa's infrastructure, industrial and financial assets. It was viewed as the best example of public-private partnership: an international organization, with diplomatic status, capitalizing on private-sector driven development of Africa. About $1 billion paid-in capital was mobilized, with almost half from the CBN. Several competent, credible and innocent professional staffs were persuaded to join the AFC from reputable local and international institutions: Citibank, KPMG, ADB, DBSA, IFC, World Bank, etc. Many joined the institution believing in a noble and visionary cause. But they are now disappointed, disillusioned, and demoralized! What a difference one Year make? The AFC is now being investigated by a Panel set up by the Federal Government. There have been a torrent and flood of commentaries on the issue in Nigerian newspapers. What went wrong within 12 months? Several things went wrong. There is nothing wrong with the CBN playing a catalytic role in initiating and establishing the AFC. Other Central Banks in large countries such as China, India, Brazil, and South Africa have done similar things in their own countries and region. Inspite of procedural mistakes in the process of initiating the AFC, it is still a bold, noble and visionary concept. However, while most newspaper commentaries have focused on the virtues of AFC and condemning the Federal Government and the Panel, they have ignored what most credible staffs of AFC regard as salient features of the internal mismanagement of AFC. Some of the Press commentaries are misplaced. But it is also understandable that some of the journalists were being bribed by Austine through Delele Alake. Some of the internal mismanagement features are discussed below. AFC and AO: The greatest error made regarding AFC was the appointment of Austine Ometoruwa (AO) as the CEO of AFC. There was no proper due diligence done on AO before appointing him. His records at NAMBL and Citibank were nothing to write home about. He was implicitly fired from those institutions. He has no respect for the rule of law, procedures, and policies either at those institutions or at the AFC. He was known for stealing with both hands at those companies. Several revelations have been made regarding corruption and fraud by the CEO of AFC. Several revelations have been made regarding corruption and fraud by the CEO of AFC.A staff audit clearly reveals that he lacks the basic qualifications to get a job as a professional in any international organization, talkless of becoming the CEO of one. Yet he is paid a basic salary of $460,000 and other benefits amounting to more than $1 million, more than what the President of the World Bank or any other international financial organizations earns. Remember that the CEO of the World Bank manages a global institution with more than $150 billion in capital and almost 10,000 staff and 175 member countries, compared to AFC with only $1 billion and less than 40 staffs, and only 3 member countries. Austine stayed in a hotel at $1,000 per day and $360,000 per year in a country and continent, where most people live on $1 a day or $360 a year. Yet, he claims that his mission is to develop Nigeria and Africa. When the monkey is made to wear a crown, it is about time to leave town. AFC and ADC: From Citibank, AO went on to head Aliko Dangote Capital (AD Capital or ADC). His mediocrity quickly led to ADC becoming moribund. He then rode on the back of his affiliation with Dangote to become the CEO of AFC. Originally conceived as an international public-private institution, AO turns AFC into effectively a subsidiary of Dangote Group. Thus, the Panel is right in noting that AFC has deviated from its original intention of being an international public financial institution with immunity, diplomatic, and tax-free status. We understand that Austin now runs the AFC as a subsidiary of Dangote Group. AFC is occupying Dangote's building, renovated at very exhorbitant and over-inflated cost. All the businesses and projects that AFC plans to do involve Dangote and WEMPCO, notably: KOGI COAL, Olokola, Cement, Port Harcourt Ring road etc. Any other projects are rejected without clear reasons. He gave Dangote group $120 million without any due process. The fact that Dangote, Austine and Tung were on the Presidential Power Committee on NIPPS was no mere coincidence. It was part of an elaborate plan to conner government assets into the hands of a few private oligarchs. They already and secretely formed a private company comprising AFC, Dangote, and WEMPCO to take over those assets. He gave $100 million to WEMPCO, who in turns, used the money to buy shares in AFC. AFC and AFC: Austine has given the real AFC a new meaning, Avarice, Fraud and Corruption, or better still Austine Fraudulent Corporation. He employs his in-laws and friends in strategic positions. His actions are done secretly, without an iota of transparency, between him and his special adviser, who was once declared a persona non- grata in South Africa. Austine deliberately put non-Nigerians, especially an Irish, a Gambian, and a Ghanaian, his fellow fraudster and special adviser in charge of key operations of AFC and its illegal subsidiaries----Costellor, AFC Asia Holdings, and Africa Infrastructure, Africa Electric as it is easier for him to commit fraud with those people. He pays less qualified non-Nigerians more than their Nigerian counterparts. As an insult to the AFC and to Nigeria, the institution is now been balkanised. A Gambian deems it fit to recruit only his fellow Gambians in his Unit without proper procedures inspite of the fact that Gambia has not even joined the institution and pay any financial contributions. Ditto for Austine's special adviser from Ghana. Austine is the sole signatory on the account of AFC Asian Holdings with UBS. He and Lewis Tung, a chinese owner of WEMPCO, signed a resolution in January 2008 to open the account. Austine's intention was to use the account to commit fraud. Austine plans to steal $30 million through Costellor in Ghana, and get away with a large part of the $100 million in AFC Asia Holdings. He connived with WEMPCO to establish Gloria Investment in Hong Kong, and allocate shares of AFC to himself and some prominent people. He and his special adviser gave a contract of $14 million for Environmental Impacts Assessment for KOGI Coal Project. The money will be given to the mother of one of the staffs very close to Austine and his special adviser. Austin has hired a consultant, reportedly close to the comptroller-general of the immigration to obtain permits for non-Nigerian staffs working at AFC. The staffs will be treated as consultants. This amounts to lies and dishonesty. It is unimaginable that the head of the Nigerian immigration will be involved in such a scam. Austine refused to employ a chief risk officer, internal auditor, and human resource manager. We understand that he is now making a frantic effort to have somebody seconded from KPMG. What a deceitful person! Financially, he has proven to be very reckless spending money as if he is running a free tap water into a basket. Operationally, he has nothing to show after one year. Management wise, he is termed management by blackberry (MBB). He lacks any iota of people management. AFC and DD: The Board members of AFC are now seen as the Dirty Dozen that have cornered Nigeria's financial markets and industrial assets. This is unfortunate as some of them may have made their money legitimately. Take for example, the CEO of Oceanic Bank, a decent woman from a decent family running a decent institution. She initially supported the appointment of Austine, but we now understand that she is regretting it. However, their collective actions in appointing Austine and his special adviser and, their inactions in removing Austine as the CEO, in the face of the massive AFC (avarice, fraud and corruption) within the AFC has paralyzed the institution. In any other decent institution facing a similar governance crisis and probe, the CEO would have been asked by the Board to step aside.The AFC is now regarded by market operators as a risky venture to do business with. There is nothing the AFC is doing now that the investment banking arms of UBA, Zenith, Oceanic, First Bank, Access, Intercontinental, Union Bank, etc can not do on their own, once the original concept of an international public-private organization is lost.. One of the reasons for the AFC having diplomatic immunity and tax free-status is to allow it to do businesses in several African countries without being bogged down by administrative procedures that will be required from a purely private corporation. AFC Brand: The AFC brand has been damaged almost beyond repair. It will need a surgical restructuring starting with the removal of Austine as CEO and his special adviser. We must send a clear message that Nigerians and Africans can start and run efficient and corrupt-free institutions for the betterment of our people. The AFC will be a test of how serious the present government is with the rule of law and anti-corruption posture. Given his propensity for avarice, fraud and corruption, Austine Ometoruwa should be behind bars, and not as the CEO of an international organization.

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