Archive for July 2007

Jilted lovers, bachelors and the fear of marriage

July 29, 2007

By Casmir Igbokwe

Published: Saturday, 28 Jul 2007

It is not certain if Geoffrey Jones (37) could still father a child. He allegedly rejected advances from his ex-girlfriend, Amanda Monti (24), after a house party in England. The lady felt outraged. She grabbed Jones’ left testicle, pulled it off and put it in her mouth. She tried to swallow it. But the thing choked her. She spat it out just as a friend retrieved it and handed it back to Jones. Doctors couldn’t reattach the organ. At the Liverpool Crown Court, Judge Charles James jailed Monti for two-and-a-half years.

A jilted woman is a wounded lioness. She could go to any extent to deal with whoever toys with her pride. In saner moments though, she positions herself in front of a mirror and wonders why any man will pass her by and not turn his neck. Dejection becomes her lot especially when age closes in and no other man seems interested.

No doubt, almost every woman needs a man. Just as almost every man needs a woman. Even priests who have sworn to live a celibate life are not different. Some still find a way of satisfying this biological need behind closed doors. That is why the Catholic archdiocese of Los Angeles is currently battling to settle over 500 lawsuits brought against its priests for sexual abuse. The church has already paid some millions of dollars to some of the victims.

In the United Kingdom, sexual relationships mean different things to different people. Some prefer a relationship based on marriage. Some simply want to remain as partners. Some others say they are gay and lesbians. And so, what you hear mostly here is “my boyfriend,” “my girlfriend” or “my partner”. The word “husband or wife” is becoming old-fashioned.

An Assistant Residences Manager with Cardiff University, Mrs Sue Stevens, says most people now prefer partnership to marriage because marriage demands more commitment. And once you sign the dotted knots, getting out becomes a serious affair. But in partnership, you can easily quit if you get tired of the relationship. Rose O’Donovan, (60) is living with her third husband now. Mo has had eight husbands. To these two domestic assistants with Cardiff University, this is normal. Divorce rate in Britain is among the highest in Europe.

To some other people, marriage means a commitment to bear and rear children. This they see as a burden. They want to enjoy. But they don’t want the seeming headache that goes with that enjoyment. As such, abortion rate is high.

In January this year, for instance, a charity, Marie Stopes, performed 5,992 terminations. This is said to be the biggest number for a single month in the charity’s 32-year history. The figure represents a 13 per cent increase over the January 2006 figure of 5,304. Perhaps, this explains why some of these ladies find it difficult to conceive when they eventually need a child. Thus, they either remain childless or seek egg and embryo from donors. A report in The Independent of London in March quoted the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in the UK as saying that about 2,000 children were born every year in the UK using donated eggs, sperm or embryos.

Products of such donations may never know their father or mother. They grow to swell the ranks of social miscreants with its attendant cost to the society. A report earlier this month by a policy group set up by the Conservative leader, David Cameron, estimates that social breakdown costs £102bn a year to the UK. Family breakdown takes up £24bn of this figure. Crime gulps £60bn while education under-achievement is £18bn. The group, headed by former Conservative Party leader, Iain Duncan Smith, proposes a transformation of taxes and benefits to curb this trend and strengthen families. Part of the proposal is that married couples should be given tax allowance of £20 a week. This is to make it easier for one parent to stay at home to look after children. The report also recommends increasing couples’ allowances through working tax credits.

Cameron, as reported by the BBC, summarised the issues at stake in the following words, “If we get the family right, we can fix our broken society. Britain is almost the only country in Europe that doesn’t recognise marriage in the tax system. And the benefits system actively discourages parents from living together. We have the highest rate of family breakdown in Europe. And we have the worst social problems in Europe…It’s good that we’re more tolerant of social change. But I believe we have become far too tolerant of social failure.”

We have our own social failures in Nigeria. But, somehow, we still respect the institution of marriage. The word “partner” has not entered our lexicon. And many couples will tag along with each other no matter the odds.

Unfortunately, the economic situation in the country, among other factors, is trying to put some obstacles here and there. The recent story of a man who killed his wife for giving him triplets in Lagos typifies the trauma many families are going through. Some parents distribute their children among relatives because they don’t have the resources to train them. Others abandon their children to become armed robbers, area boys and prostitutes.

This scenario scares our eligible bachelors. We don’t have a social welfare system. And so, most people prefer to make much money first before they venture into marriage. But the jobs are simply not there. What some young men do is to rely on their verbal communication skills to take advantage of some girls. Those who cannot check their libido resort to patronizing low-cost whores at cheap brothels. Hoodlums among them engage in hide and rape incidents. Aging spinsters, on their part, never forget putting small mirrors in their handbags. They apply mascara on their eyelashes and paint their faces with all sorts of make-ups, hoping that one day Mr Right will knock on the door.

In Japan, single ladies have learnt how to cope with their situation. They now have a pillow specially made for them. It is reportedly called the Boyfriend’s Arm Pillow. And it is shaped like a man’s torso. It costs about £40 (N10, 000) to obtain one. Associated Press quoted one woman who is separated from her husband as saying the pillow made her relaxed. “I can hold the arm and feel something warm at my side,” she reportedly said.

We may not have reached the stage of using special pillows in Nigeria yet, nor the desperation of attempting to eat someone’s testicle. But we may soon have something close to that if the government does not halt the economic hardship that is creating chronic bachelors among our young men. Since we don’t have any social security system, the least the government can do is to create the enabling environment that will boost job creation.

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Between corrupt leaders and Turaki’s tears

July 22, 2007

By Casmir Igbokwe

Published: Sunday, 22 Jul 2007

A leader is always a good raw material for critics, comedians and cartoonists. Last week, some friends forwarded a mischievous email circulating among Nigerians to me. The message goes thus: ‘The Chief Security Officer of Ogun State Zoo wishes to thank all those who helped in capturing and returning the over 70-year-old Gorilla of Otta farm back to the zoo after its escape eight years ago. We are sorry for all the damages it caused in the land. It will never happen again. Thanks for your tolerance and resilience.’

The butt of this joke is apparent to most Nigerians. Out of frustration, perhaps, some people have chosen to weave comic relief around some actions or misdeeds of our rulers. In this practice, however, Nigerians are not alone.

For instance, Alistair Campbell recently released a 757-page memoir called The Blair Years. In the book, Campbell, who was Tony Blair’s spin doctor, jokes about how the former British prime minister, sometimes, worked in the nude. He also cites how an African leader at an international summit pinched the bum of Blair’s wife, Cherie. And just before the erstwhile Labour leader was elected, Campbell notes, a Japanese businessman had told him, “The whole of Japan is rooking forward to your erection.”

These jokes notwithstanding, serious inquests usually trail the conduct of leaders in most civilised societies. In his dying days in office, for instance, the cash for honours enquiries haunted Blair. Four people he nominated for honours were allegedly found to have made substantial donations to the Labour Party. In December 2006 and January 2007, the police questioned him as part of a criminal investigation.

This, maybe, explains why the new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, does not want to touch any penny from Mr Owen Oyston. A former chairman of Blackpool Football Club, Oyston was jailed for six years for raping a 16-year-old would-be model at Lancashire in 1996. The man was at a Labour Party’s fund-raiser held penultimate week at the Wembley Stadium. He reportedly paid £10,000 for a table at the event. Brown, who was said to be unaware of Oyston’s presence in advance, instructed that the party should not accept any donation from him.

The seriousness with which most countries view betrayal of trust by leaders was exemplified in China recently. For taking 6.5m yuan (about $850,000) in bribes, the country’s head of State Food and Drug Administration, Zheng Xiaoyu, was convicted and executed. The bribes made him close his eyes to the sub-standard medicines and tainted goods that caused many deaths in China.

In Nigeria, we had treated corruption with kid gloves. If you are a government official and you have not stolen from government coffers, your people will likely see you as an idiot. It was not until the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission came on board that we started seeing some semblance of war against corruption. Among the first major casualties of the war are the former Inspector General of Police, Mr Tafa Balogun and the former Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.

Now, the current has moved against some of our immediate past governors. So far, the EFCC has interrogated, arrested and prosecuted some of them. Former governor Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State purportedly laundered about N3bn together with his mother and one Emeka Abone. Plateau State former Governor, Chief Joshua Dariye, had earlier been charged for laundering about N1.2 billion, $110,000 and £20,000. Saminu Turaki of Jigawa State allegedly looted N17bn from the state’s treasury in one day. The sum is said to be part of the N33bn and another $20m he allegedly misappropriated within a year. At some point in the court last week, Turaki shed some tears. He cleaned them with a white handkerchief.

As for the erstwhile ebeano governor, Chimaroke Nnamani, it is not yet time to wipe tears. He will begin to respond to the 39-count charge against him when he recovers from his illness. He suddenly took ill a few days ago and was admitted at the National Hospital, Abuja. There were speculations about the nature of his sickness. But some media reports have it that the admission was ostensibly for hypertension and lack of sleep or insomnia. One report even mentioned small malaria. Could there have been plenty of mosquitoes in Government House Enugu? Or at the legislative quarters in Abuja?

Whatever, these ex-governors are still innocent until the courts find them guilty. That is when Nigerians expect the EFCC to inflict them and other past and present government robbers with hypertension and insomnia. The Niger Delta region is restive today partly because some former governors there pocketed the resources meant for its development. None of those governors has been arrested yet.

Now that some leaders are declaring their assets, it will be interesting to know how they came about such wealth. Former Zamfara State Governor, Ahmed Sanni, declared over N1 billion the other day. And last week, Otunba Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State declared N4.46bn assets. The worth of the governor’s assets on assumption of office in May 2003 was put at N5.96bn. This represents 25 per cent loss. This Daniel must be a saint. Ironically, he was among those the EFCC earlier said it was investigating. Nigerians will want to know what has come of such investigations.

Life is brutish in Nigeria today because of the corrupt tendencies of some of our leaders. For many families, hunger is the highest cause of their own insomnia. Recently, a non governmental organisation, Action Aid, organised a protest march in Abuja. It was to sensitise Nigerians about this widespread hunger in the land. The police dispersed the protesters for allegedly littering the streets with discarded polythene bags.

I pity the police. Most times, they are asked to do what they may not believe in. This hunger is dealing with most of them. But they have to obey orders. Last week, I got a mail from an Assistant Superintendent of Police. He complained of having enjoyed only one promotion throughout his 13-year-career as a police officer. This is notwithstanding his clean records and a master’s degree certificate. He has got UK’s work permit and may soon relocate to London. He is even lucky. Some of his colleagues are victims of militant activities in the Niger Delta.

This is the situation in a country blessed with enormous resources; a country with many oil wells and four refineries but crippled by fuel price hikes and fuel scarcities; a country where a ruler may assume power with N2m and leave with N20bn. How then do you blame the gorilla and zoo story tellers?

One day, it will be time for reckoning. Then, the only thing that will come handy to every corrupt ruler is Turaki’s hanky.

Junk food and obesity epidemic in UK and Nigeria

July 15, 2007

By Casmir Igbokwe

Published: Sunday, 15 Jul 2007

“What sort of food is Welsh rarebit?” That was the question my younger brother, Chidi, asked me recently. A friend of his, he said, visited a prestigious restaurant in Cardiff on the invitation of a rich friend. Among the dishes on the menu was Welsh rarebit or rabbit. This Nigerian immediately ordered it. The mere thought that he would eat real bush meat from the forest of Wales made him salivate. But when the waiter served the food, he got highly disappointed.

Welsh rarebit is a dish of melted cheese on toast. Some other traditional Welsh specialties include Welsh lamb, Welsh chocolate, Welsh cakes (flat pancakes covered in sugar) and Laver bread. The importance of food in Welsh culture is such that the humble leek is the national emblem of Wales. And each year, the nation hosts over 40 food fairs and festivals. The Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival seems to be the most popular. This year, the festival started on Friday and ends on Sunday.

In the UK generally, food is cheap. No matter how poor you are, what to eat may never be a problem. With £5 (about N1,250), you can buy food items that will last you for one week. You can get a pack of chicken drumstick containing about 10 big pieces at £1 (N250). Big supermarkets such as Tesco, Lidl and Sainsbury often offer cheaper alternatives. And if one is lucky to come when the expiry dates on the food items are near, one could get a £2 (about N500) worth of potato, for instance, for 20p (N50).

Some Nigerian students in Cardiff even find it cheaper to travel to London, a distance of about three hours, to buy some Nigerian staples. An MBA student, Felix Morka, says a £6 worth of meat in Cardiff could go for as cheap as £1 in London.

I must confess that I am not a very good cook. As such, I’ve never bothered going to London to buy meat. And being a traditional Nigerian man, I was brought up to believe that cooking is the exclusive preserve of women. That was why I ate much of Welsh rabbit in my first few months in Cardiff. I had also eaten a lot of cheeseburger, chips and fish, sandwich and fried chicken. A fast food outlet called Miss Millie’s was my favourite because it gave generous discounts. I kept getting fatter and fatter then even when I knew I was not feeding well. Pimples became a permanent feature on my face.

The first attempt I made at cooking in Cardiff was a disaster. I nearly found myself in the hospital after consuming some plates of beans I prepared myself. It appeared I didn’t cook the food well. Hence, I had some burning sensation in my stomach, which became ballooned with excessive gas. I have since learnt my lessons.

One big problem cheap food is causing in Britain is wastage. The amount of good food thrown away at restaurants and some other places almost equals the amount eaten. For reasons best known to them, some people don’t get to eat the food they ordered for. Some just take a few spoons and abandon the food. The rest are thrown away. There is no question of keeping them in the fridge and warming them the following morning. Don’t blame them. Their economy is strong. They can afford more expensive fast food. They also get a lot of social security.

Little wonder the number of oversized human beings I have seen in the UK is frightening. And the tragedy is that the fatter they are, the higher they get addicted to fatty foods. You need to visit any MacDonald’s or Burger King to appreciate the enormity of this problem. Obese people are the ones who consume more burgers and “Monster meal” (a combination of chips, fried chicken drumbeats, burgers and a big bottle of coke.)

Obesity is reportedly rising faster in Britain than in any other country in Western Europe. About 50 per cent of the adult population is said to be obese. The World Health Organisation estimates that obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally. More than a billion adults are overweight, at least 300 million of them clinically obese.

A recent report in the Western Mail, a Cardiff based newspaper, said more and more families now create downstairs bedrooms or fit stair lifts for their obese children. The adaptations, the newspaper reported, were being made for children with weight problems so bad that they could not cope with stairs. These families are also said to be making extra-strong beds and chairs and creating special bathrooms and bedroom adaptations for their obese youngsters.

Although many factors can cause obesity, the greatest cause is overfeeding. Many people tend to eat more carbohydrate and fatty foods without any form of exercise. In Nigeria, some people do sedentary work from 8am to 5pm. They retire afterwards to a joint to eat nkwobi, isiewu and goat meat pepper soup. They wash this down with some bottles of beer. For their children, fast food is the fad. Ice cream is the appetiser. Fried rice or meat pie is the main dish. And coke or chocolate, the dessert.

For those who cannot afford the nkwobi luxury, it is garri in the morning, fufu in the afternoon and amala in the night. The problem is that some of the overweight people think getting fat is evidence of good living. But in most cases, it is poverty that is at play. According to the United Nations’ Development Programme, nine out of 10 Nigerians live on less than $2 (about N254) per day. This means that only a negligible few can afford five fruits a day recommended by nutritionists. Popcorn is cheap. And so, it has become the major fruit we take.

This partly explains the upsurge in cardiovascular diseases in the world today. Diabetes, gall-bladder disease and arthritis are some other health problems associated with obesity. Experts say the sufferers are sluggish, often encounter complications during surgery and tend to age faster than other people.

Thank God for the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control. It has done some good job in putting some sanity into our food and drug business. But more needs to be done. In the UK, for instance, almost every food item on display must show its nutritional content. They have also tried as much as possible to reduce salt and sugar in the content of most of their processed food. In most developed world, ice cream or coke does not contain much sugar. Neither do their sardines contain much salt. If any food contains some ingredients people are likely to be allergic to, there will be a warning on that. And so when you choose to eat vegetable salad or pork meat, chips and chicken or Welsh rarebit, you are well aware of the nutritional value or dangers of what you are eating.

Rain doctors, floods and other summer misfortunes

July 8, 2007

By Casmir Igbokwe

Published: Sunday, 8 Jul 2007

About a decade ago, my family had cause to engage the services of a rain doctor. It was during the burial rites of my grandmother, Akudogwa. Though the weather turned cloudy soon after some local orchestra came in, we were confident that it would not shower. Heavy wind blew intermittently. That, we thought, signalled that our man was battling the heavenly water.

But no sooner had the dancers changed to some acrobatic dance steps than thunder added its drumbeats. Torrential rain followed. The rhythm of the falling water provided alternative music as drummers and dancers crammed themselves inside canopies. The downpour did not stop until late in the night. In anger, we moved to hijack the so-called rain doctor in his shrine. But the man was wiser than we thought. He had disappeared.

Rain. It is said to be a blessing. Without it, rain doctors will be out of business. Without it, our crops will wither and die. Without it, lazy workers will not have any excuse for coming late to office. And without it, Nigerians living in the rural and some urban areas will not have water to drink or even to cook. It has a cooling effect on the brain and the entire body system. And whenever it falls late in the night, lovers wish it never stops.

But it has also brought devastating flood, anguish and deaths to mankind. Last month, for instance, it affected electricity supply in over 80,000 homes in South Yorkshire and the Midlands in the United Kingdom. Thousands of people fled their homes. At least seven people reportedly died. In north Doncaster, a river burst its banks. Hundreds of people were evacuated.

The same June, somebody flushed a bra and a pair of knickers down a toilet in County Durham, England. The underwear caused a blockage in a sewage pipe and a build-up of grease and fat. Then heavy rain came, and the pipe burst. Consequently, the road above collapsed and flood took over. Northumbrian Water officials reportedly estimated that repairs would cost more than £15,000. Every year, insurers in Britain receive about 13,700 claims for damage from bad weather. The Association of British Insurers estimated that the clean-up costs of the past few weeks‘ rain and flooding alone could reach £1bn.

The MET Office in the UK said this June was the wettest in Britain since records began in 1914. The month recorded about 134.5 millimetres of rain as against the average of about 72.6mm in previous years. Weather experts blamed this phenomenon on an area of low pressure becoming anchored over Britain this summer. In previous summers, it was high-pressure areas with their attendant warm and sunny weather that developed over the UK.

Elsewhere in Europe, especially in Greece, heat wave was the problem. At a point, temperature rose to 46°C in Athens even as rescuers battled wildfires that broke out across the country because of the heat. The heat was also reported in Italy, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania. Scores of people died.

As if the crazy weather was not enough misfortune this summer, terrorists attempted to re-enact their 7 July 2005 attacks in London. They parked two cars with explosives near a nightclub in London to blow up fun seekers. They also drove a blazing car into the terminal building at Glasgow Airport in Scotland.

Some clergymen have attributed some of these summer misfortunes to perceived rising immorality in Britain. God is said to be angry. Maybe. Or how else does one describe the fact that despite the current terror alerts and bad weather, thousands of people marched to Trafalgar Square in London on 30 June to celebrate what they call gay pride. Remember that God, according to the scriptures, had earlier destroyed the earth with flood because of the wickedness and immorality that engulfed the human race then.

Perhaps, God is also not happy with Nigeria. Apart from the menace of armed robbers and assassins, we now have flood to also contend with. In the early hours of Friday, 29 June, flood, occasioned by heavy rain, reportedly brought down a building at Karaole Estate in Ifako/Ijaiye area of Lagos. Some people lost their lives. Some others sustained serious injuries. In Ikeja, Orile, Lekki, Ajah and most parts of Lagos and beyond, rain has left trails of woe.

A few years ago, Majek Fashek cried to God in his popular song, ‘Send down the rain.‘ God answered his prayers and sent down rain in torrents. That year, rain knocked down some huts in the north, blew off some roofs in the south and generally caused some devastation in the country. We took that incident in our stride just as we always withstand the shock of any tragedy.

The rainy season should be the period any right thinking person should look for a house. This is because if you pack into a house in the dry season, chances are that you may encounter a leaking roof or flooded compound when rain comes. The irritation rain causes may have inspired whoever composed the nursery rhyme, ”Rain, rain, go away, come again another day…”

The prayer point for our prayer warriors today should be that this rain should go away for now and come again some other time. This is to enable tourists and fun seekers to enjoy their summer. It is also to enable flood victims to pick the pieces of their broken furniture and mop up their waterlogged floors. Whenever it comes back, we pray it should not come with its fury. Most Nigerians may never survive that again.

The UK authorities were able to mobilise troops, emergency staff, fire crews and police constables to fight the recent flood in that country. Not only did they evacuate victims, they used hi-tech pumps to drain the floodwater. To them, public safety is paramount.

For us in Nigeria, self-help is the guiding principle. Our own government may never be bothered about such minor things as flood. Our troops are better suited to mount roadblocks and guard electoral fortunes of riggers. And our legislators are at their best in calculating increases in car maintenance allowance and some other allowances. After the rains, we will count our losses. We will levy ourselves to tackle the havoc these floods have caused us. Perhaps, we will mount prayer pressures on God to save us from the pits dug on Benin-Ore Road and some other dangerous roads by rain.

We will also count our blessings and name them one by one. One such blessing is that we are still alive in spite of all odds. Another one is that soon, the rain will fully run its course and life will return to normal. That is when some towns in Igboland will celebrate the New Yam Festival to thank God for good harvests, made possible, ironically, by rain. And that is also when our rain scientists will resurface to seek patronage. Smart alecs.

See what swindlers have done to us

July 1, 2007

By Casmir Igbokwe

Published: Sunday, 1 Jul 2007

Like an unfortunate osu in Igboland, Nigerians abroad often contend with image problems. Recently, a journalist with ITV Wales, Nicholas Whitehead, refreshed this image in my memory. A friend had given me his email address so I could contact him with regard to a research I am currently doing. I sent Nicholas an email requesting an interview. Here is his reply: “Thank you for your email which, I am sorry to say, I very nearly filed under ‘SCAMS’. This was because you addressed me as ‘Nick’, you come from Nigeria and you have a web-based email address.

“You will be aware of what is known to authorities here as ‘the Nigerian scam’ which in Nigeria, I think, is called the 419 scam. In the past week, I have collected 50 of these emails. They don’t all come from Nigeria but your country does seem to be their natural home. You know the sort of thing I mean? They begin with a friendly greeting from a total stranger who describes himself as a bank or government official in charge of a bank account with a few million dollars in it. They propose a phoney business deal involving their access to imaginary money and your bank account. However, on further reading, it was clear that my initial impression was quite wrong. I apologise.”

In recent times, I have received a couple of these scam letters. The latest one goes thus: “Congratulations! You have won the sum of $600,000 in the Euro-Afro-American sweepstake Internet lottery. This is a lottery played with randomly chosen e-mails from Europe, Africa and Asia. You are hereby directed to contact Barrister Morgan Chukwuma, our African coordinator for onward transfer of your money with the numbers +2348036611354, +2348032699515 or email Morganbbb@yahoo.com. Thanks. Sincerely from Sheik Ahmed Martins Ahmed, Manager Euro-Afro-America Lotterys, (sic) Faisal Street, New York, USA.”

The above sum is not up to the amount I won from another lottery organisation. In a winning notification it sent recently, the management of the organisation was happy to inform me that I won $1m in a London Million Internet Lottery Award. The award, said to have been held on 27 January, was in recognition of my patronage of Internet services. My award is part of a total cash prize of $48.4bn shared among 22 countries. To receive my money, I am to contact the claiming manager, Allen Smith, at 12th Avenue, Kwame N’krumah, Cotonou – Republic Du Benin.

And from the desk of Mariam Kabore (Esq.), “the Head of File Department of the African Development Bank Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso,” came a jumbo offer of $15m. Kabore said he got my contact from Yahoo tourist search. And when he was searching for a foreign partner, “I assured (sic) of your capability and reliability to champion this business opportunity when I prayed to God or Allah about you.” The money, he said, belonged to a foreign customer who died with his entire family in a plane crash in July 2000. To convince me the more, he gave the plane crash website as http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/859479.stm. Since the bank got the information, it had been expecting the deceased next of kin to come and claim the money. “Unfortunately,” Kabore noted, “We learnt that all his supposed next of kin or relation died alongside with him at the plane crash leaving nobody behind for the claim.” For this reason, they need me to claim the money as the next of kin. As the foreign partner, 30 per cent of this money belongs to me, 10 per cent will be set aside for expenses and 60 per cent for Kabore and his woman colleague. And I must keep everything secret so as to enable the transfer to move smoothly into the account I will prove to the bank. Fools!

If not for greed, why will anybody engage in or fall for this kind of scam? Some of the people doing this are wealthy and well connected. And so poverty has no business with it. Even if one is poor or unemployed, does the solution lie in fishing fraudulently where one did not sow?

When you introduce yourself as a Nigerian abroad, people tend to assume you are a criminal until you prove otherwise. In November last year, a research group, Chatham House, reported that financial crimes emanating from Nigeria had cost the UK economy billions of pounds over the past 10 years. The report said the style of incidents alone cost the UK economy £150m a year. In one single incident, fraudsters from Lagos reportedly couriered more than £20m forged cheques and postal orders to the UK. This was found at Heathrow Airport.

In spite of the efforts of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, such criminality has not abated. Earlier this month, the EFCC was reported to have arrested a transporter in Imo State for allegedly duping two Indians of N51m on the guise of offering them jobs in Nigeria.

Unfortunately, some of the tactics of the EFCC are affecting ordinary Nigerians. Sometime last year, Internet café operators in Lagos made a hundred per cent increase in their charges. A one-hour browsing that used to be N100 in most cafes jumped to N200. Most operators I spoke to then said it was the EFCC that directed them to increase the fees as a way of deterring fraudsters.

I do not know if the fee is still the same now. I also do not see how increasing the cost of browsing will stop 419. But what I do know is that the majority of Nigerians are not criminals. Nicholas and some other foreigners will stop treating us as osu the moment a few bad eggs among us develop the right values and discountenance selfishness, greed, corruption and high desire for quick riches.