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Published On: Thu, Jul 31st, 2014

419: When deliberate deception festers in Abuja

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efcc-chairman bossWhile the security agents insist that they have curtailed criminal activities in the Federal Capital to the barest minimum, victims of fraudsters have faulted their claims saying that they are now leaving at the mercy of swindlers who have devised new means of swindling their victims. Ochiaka Ugwu writes.

Gloria Michael is a sad woman today due to the fact that she was swindled of her life savings by fraudsters who are on the prowl in the Capital City. Gloria, who no longer has course to glory narrated to Peoples Daily, how a man accosted her at the popular Nyanya market, a suburb of Abuja, making her life to become a nightmare.

According to Gloria, “On my way to Nyanya market on that faithful day, a well-dressed young man approached me. This very man looked stressful and helpless; he said he just arrived from Japan, and that the cab he boarded went away with his bag, that a man told him he could go to the last bus stop. (a popular bus stop within that axis), and see if he could see the driver.

Continuing, the Akwa-Ibom State born mother of two said, “As I was still speaking, suddenly a man came up pleading that both of us should assist the man since he was a stranger in the city. I agreed and ended up becoming a victim of 419 as I could not understand how I emptied my account for them”.

This experience may seem strange to many people, but this is a similar confession of many who had been victimized by 419 syndicates in Abuja.

In 2013, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, reportedly arrested one Dr. Princewell Arinze Chukwueze, an alleged serial fraudster, over a $92,000(Ninety-Two Thousand United States Dollars) scam.

Chukwueze was said to have been arrested in Abuja by operatives of the EFCC after more than two months’ frantic manhunt for him. His arrest followed an allegation of fraudulent transactions involving him and a notable Bureau de change operator in Lagos on May 10, 2013.

“Specifically, Chukwueze fraudulently introduced himself as Aboki J. Brown, a Director of African Development Bank based in Cote D’ Ívoire to the Bureau de change operator at Sura Shopping Complex, Sandgrouse, Lagos. He initially offered to buy $65,000 (Sixty-Five Thousand United States Dollars) from him but later increased it to $92,000(Ninety-Two Thousand United States Dollars). To pay the naira equivalent of the dollars, he requested the operator to meet him at a branch of Wema Bank Plc in Lekki, Lagos.

“When the operator got to the bank with the dollars, Chukwueze fraudulently changed the bank where he intended to offer him the naira equivalent of the foreign currency and pleaded with the operator to accompany him in his siren-blaring Toyota Hilux Pick-Up Van to a “nearby branch of Zenith Bank Plc”. En route to the bank, Chukwueze picked up two armed men on the road who forcefully dispossessed the operator of the $92,000(Ninety-Two Thousand United States Dollars)”, said the report.

Although, it is said that fraud is as old as humanity, but what makes it thick in Abuja is the way and the manner these fraudsters are growing in number and devising new means in which they dupe innocent Nigerians of their hard earned money.

419 scams are a type of fraud and one of the most common types of confidence trick. The scam typically involves promising the victim a significant share of a large sum of money, which the fraudster requires a small up-front payment to obtain. If a victim makes the payment, the fraudster either invents a series of further fees for the victim or simply disappears into thin air.

In could be recalled that the Code emanated from one of the sub-sections of Nigeria constitution where all the criminal acts are grouped, but today it has become a cliché for the phrase “obtain by tricks”. To some people, 419 is just a common language used among their colleagues, for those who had fell victim of 419, it is dealing that attracts the wrath of God, while those fraudsters see themselves among the group of Nigerians who are gainfully employed.

A repentant scammer, Emmanuel Uche dismissed the act as an evil one deserving of severe punishment both from the authority and God almighty. His words, “419 is an evil act, no matter how you paint it, those who engage in it are just an assemblage of wicked and soulless people who have no conscience in dealing with their fellow human beings. It is unfortunate that they have given it different names just to beautify it.”

On why he joined the forbidden trade in the first place, Uche said he was pushed into it by condition and greed, maintaining that the later outweighed the former. Since poverty or bad state is not a justification to misbehave or a license to steal.

He also hinted that while in the heinous trade, they also have some informants within the security circle, who always alert them when they are coming for a major raid in their hideaways.

A female victim (names withheld) will never smile again and even if she has to it will certainly not be now.

While narrating her terrible experience in the hands of the fraudsters, the victim told Peoples Daily that she was taken to a lonely place in a forest where they disposed her of all her belongings including the money she planned to use in getting some items from the market.

Her story was better imagined than told as she was beaten, abandoned in the bush and even got home the next day with bruises all over her body. The traumatized victim informed that she was hospitalized for days before regaining consciousness.

In the same way, another victim, Kenneth Odom said he fell victim in their hands early this year when preparing to travel for the Easter break. According to him, “it was an experience I will live with for the rest of my life. I don’t think I will ever recover from that particular temptation”.

He served his master for about three years, all the money his master gave him to set up his own business ended in the hands of these fraudsters when he fell victim.

He lamented that his three years of apprenticeship had just became a waste.

On his next line of action, Odom appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan and the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed to come to his aid.

Funny enough, 419 syndicates in Abuja have progressed to the point of having offices in different locations within the city. A source told our reporter that they have offices in Wuse, Jabi and Dape village very close to Karmo, where they always bring their victims and summarily dupe them.

However, Dape has been notorious for being the home of fraudsters in Abuja. But what surprises many is that Dape, is just two to three kilometers away from Life Camp Police Division, and three kilometers to Karmo Police Division, major police formations that have the capacity to arrest the ugly activities of these fraudsters, but on the contrary they own the land and dictate to the residents.

Ironically, an inside source revealed that they always settle the police men to enable them carry out their activities without any distraction. The source added that the business is rewarding because every day the 419ers go home with reasonable amount of money.

A police source who doesn’t want his name in print told Peoples Daily that police have never and will never compromise their lawful duty of protecting civilians against hoodlums. When confronted on the daily activities of these fraudsters and their presence in Dape village, he said “these criminals popularly known as “419ners” are not static in one place; we are always chasing them up and down. We have arrested many of their members and we have charged them to court.”

While many have blamed this on high rate of unemployment in the society, others have questioned the rational of people becoming a terror to the society just because of a common problem which is prevalent in every human setting. Be it as it may, what Abuja residents want is security of life and properties, and cannot continue to suffer for no fault of theirs. How the relevant security operatives in FCT set to achieve this remain to be seen.

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