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Published On: Tue, Mar 25th, 2014

Scamming the oppressed

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By M.B.O Owolowo

There are different types of advance fee frauds concocted by fraudsters, from selling an asset that isn’t theirs, to promising impossible returns to prospective victims: what would be referred to as a ‘mark’ in the conman’s lingua. Call it honour amongst thieves, but part of the ‘grifters code’ is not to scam an honest person, as even con artists believe it brings bad luck to their activities. Also, it is often stated how difficult it is to con honest people, as they are most often not looking for easy moneymaking schemes. So those who choose to scam honest job seekers, who have already been oppressed by an inept system, have sunk to an all new type of low.

A monumental fraud occurred during the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) employment tests held in some parts of the country. It was a chisel deliberately aimed at the vulnerable, knowing there were no genuine plans to fill available vacancies, with those applying for the jobs. One wonders why subject the applicants to such hardships? It is the oppressor mentality! Nigerians endured many years of oppression under the military. The oppressive culture has been transferred from the military era and repackaged in our semblance of democracy. That air of oppression still pervades our society, because those manning our institutions haven’t changed mentally. Many of those in positions of authority feel it is now their turn to oppress, as some feel it is their entitlement to scam the oppressed. After all, people get away with murder in this country, their mindset is, we shall settle law enforcement and law practitioners; we can get the case adjourned till Nigerians forget about it, as they most often do.

It is the NIS we are discussing at the moment, but there are other institutions that deliberately capitalize on the unemployment situation in the country. Recruitment exercises are often used as a conduit to raise money from desperate employment seeking Nigerians. Verily, the oppressed unemployed job seekers will be scammed once again in the not too distant future, not because they are gullible, but because they are left with few alternatives and often no viable opportunities.

The life of the average unemployed youth is no different from that of the average Nigerian. It involves surviving through hardships, and trying to live without basic amenities. If it’s not weeks without electricity, it’s months without water. In Nigeria, utility bills are dutifully paid for services not often rendered. Someone once asked me, “do you know what it’s like waking up in the morning as a university graduate without purpose?” I used to know an unemployed graduate who preferred to walk a couple of miles to my house some mornings, than sit at home doing nothing, in order to avoid the embarrassment of fellow dwellers at his residence. Some cannot fathom how able men that ought to have started their own families are doing nothing but sleeping at home. These are the grave realities our nation is confronted with.

Due to no fault of theirs, Nigerian youth are victims of an unproductive and ineffective system, a system that does not primarily cater for its citizens. When a government abandons its primary duties to the citizenry, it is akin to oppression. More depressing is having a government that believes it didn’t start the problems currently engulfing the nation, so shouldn’t be blamed or held responsible. It is a multifaceted tragedy to be scammed and oppressed, and to be further scammed by the oppressor compounds the matter in it’s entirety.

If you have ever queued at the petrol station for fuel, and also paid more to purchase the fuel, in an oil producing country, whether you accept it or not, you are being oppressed.

Because of the obvious disconnect between our social classes, some of us cannot relate with the hardships endured by the average unemployed youth. Some people were wondering why so many people turned up for the NIS employment exercise. I remember someone asking, “how can stadiums could be used for the recruitment process, that would the organisers subject their wards to such hazardous degradation, all in the name of job hunting?” To highlight this tragic episode, I will use fictional names and scenarios to help in absorbing the calamity.

Chidi, 33: an unemployed university graduate. After spending 7 years in university, Chidi has been job hunting for 7 years and has been surviving by working as an errand boy at one of the sea ports.

Bode, 31: a banker who has been a contract staff for 7 years. His job was abruptly terminated because the bank wanted to downsize. He is responsible for taking care of his aged mother and 3 other siblings. His wife is 8 months pregnant and he is owing the landlord 5 months rent.

Adamu, 27: a brilliant student who graduated with an HND in Electrical Engineering, but has to survive by using his friends ‘Okada’ motorcycle to make ends meet. He borrowed money from his friend to fulfil the payment for the employment exercise.

Cletus, 25: a first class university graduate that has resorted to being a contract driver for anyone that requires his driving services. He lives with his uncle that is about to be evicted from his residence. Ada, 21: an unemployed graduate that’s 6 months pregnant and desperately looking for a job. The man responsible for the pregnancy is also unemployed. She lives with her sister, her sister’s husband and 3 kids in a 3 bedroom flat. They are all wondering how they will manage once Felicity delivers her baby.

I could cite many other scenarios we can all relate to, but what do all these characters have in common? Desperation for a better life, a steady source of income and some deserved human dignity. They are all victims of a system that does not cater for it’s future minds, nor make adequate provisions for the future. Now imagine all those depicted losing theirs lives whilst seeking a better life. I believe everyone can relate with that.

There have been rumours the government ordered a refund of monies paid by the job applicants, but, what about those who lost their lives, can their lives be refunded as well? Unfortunately, The NIS employment cozenage has claimed innocent lives and nobody has been held responsible for these deaths. More so, none of those that administered the scam of an employment exercise, have been honourable enough to conscientiously resign from their positions of authority.

M. B. Owolowo is on owolowo@gmail.com

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