It is no longer news that a Nigerian youth by the name Ramoni Olorunwa Abass popularly known as Hushpuppi was arrested by Dubai police in the United Arab Emirate, handed over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), extradited to the US, detained and has made appearance at a Chicago court for offences bothering on cybercrime and money laundering though he is yet to be found guilty.
It is another sad development which many people argue is a dent on the image of Nigeria and her citizens especially those in the diaspora.
It has also generated a lot of mixed feelings.
Some people are unperturbed hinging on the saying that; “He who does the crime, will do the time”.
Some see it as an indictment on the many law abiding and hardworking Nigerians living abroad while others are sympathetic to the young man’s plight and blame the lack of opportunities for budding talents in the Nigerian space as a reason for the rise in the number of Nigerians involved in crimes and especially cybercrimes lately.
Despite the mixed feelings, the greatest disposition to crime, should be to denounce it and never justify it because the effect on those at the receiving end is always devastating and often times fatal.
Once we take the first step of not harbouring any crime, then we can adequately put any case that comes up into proper perspective.
The proper perspective in this instance is that either we admit or not, as Nigerians we all consciously or unconsciously have one hushpuppi around us.
How then did we get to this point?
Some attributes the dearth of norms and values in Nigeria as making it difficult for anyone not to inadvertently know a Hushpuppi, his wannabe or an alter ego of his criminality and life style simply because of the “get rich mentality” which pervades every facets of life in Nigeria at the moment, whereby the thinking of the youth especially is that money makes the world go round and solves all problems.
This failing some say is traceable to family upbringing and peer pressure.
On the other hand, some say it is the failure of government to adequately provide for the masses and address the many contending issues in the polity and economy that has given rise to the societal pressure which has made many people develop survivalist instincts which drives them to short-change or outwit the another man to earn a meal or other pecuniary benefits bearing in mind that Nelson Mandela once said that; “When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw”.
Can we then attribute the words of Mandela to the reason behind Hushpuppi’s alleged brazen rip off of close to two million victims despite him having at a time on his Instagram page shared with his 2.5 million followers; his humble background and how poverty has ravaged his lineage and family overtime?
The answer should unequivocally be; NO!
No in the sense, that; crime should not be encouraged regardless of anyone’s unfortunate circumstances in life, more so no career in crime lasts for ever.
The first thing to note is that no crime is ever perfect, as there will always be a trail.
Also, no crime empire or regime reign lasts for ever. Examples abound from the American mob, Italian-American gangsters(Cosa Nostra); The Five Families; Russian mafia (Bratva); Italian Mafioso (Sicilian Mafia) to Mexican drug cartels.
Names such as Al Capone; Pablo Escobar; Jesse James; The Kray Brothers; John Dillinger; Joaquin Guzman (El Chapo); Lucky Luciano; Carlo Gambino; Charles Ponzi; Bernie Madoff and back home in Africa with the likes of Foutanga Babani Sissoko; Maurice Ibekwe; Fred Ajudua and Emmanuel Nwude also all resonates but at the end of the day, the long arm of the law caught up with them.
Law enforcement globally is now more sophisticated and interconnected than what it was two decades ago because intelligence gathering is much sophisticated, interconnected and easier with the advancement of technology.
These days’ criminals in different locations are often rounded up at almost the same time across the globe.
It must also be noted that the police in places like America, Canada, United Kingdom and United Arab Emirate as well as Interpol who crack high profile crimes like that of Hushpuppi and his accomplices will hardly knock on your door to effect an arrest without the due diligence of ascertaining the correct address and that you are at home or any other location where the arrest is to be effected.
In May 2013, in the UK, Seven (7) people were arrested simultaneously over a £400m pension access scam and suspicion of a conspiracy in what was called the “The New Boiler-room Fraud”.
Three (3) people were arrested in London, One (1) man was arrested in Ayr, another in Glasgow and Two (2) were arrested in Cheshire, all at the same time.
In May 2015, in the UK following the Easter holiday heist on Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd where Gold, Diamond and other unspecified items estimated to the tune of £200m were carted away, Seven ( 7) suspects were picked up after raids of properties in North London, Kent and South London simultaneously.
In November 2019, in the USA, Ten (10) Nigerian men were indicted in a $1.5m romance scam.
Five (5) were arrested in Norman, Oklahoma, One (1) was arrested in Brooklyn, New York and One (1) in Long Beach, California at the same time while Three (3) remains at large.
Given the foregoing examples, the pattern of operation is always similar, the deftness of the operations and precision is often grand and intimidating enough, such that it should give others a warning and serve as a deterrent to other recalcitrant criminals but I am not quite sure it does.
What then is the allure of crime to those involved?
Some say it is greed, while others say criminals are influenced by their individual environments.
There is so much complex web around this topic because these days we find kids with good upbringing and backgrounds involved in this heinous crimes which makes it difficult to ascribe poverty, environment or upbringing as the sole reasons for involving in crime but one constant denominator is greed followed by peer pressure and avarice.
As we all know, crime is a global phenomenon, no exceptions, what we can deliberate on is the scale of culpability of individuals and nationalities of nations.
So many Nigerians are not helping matters by their act of indulgence, recently after Hushpuppi and co were arrested, a list which highlighted a number of Nigerians also surfaced, but Nigerians took to social media to decry the development stating that other nationalities who were more in numbers should have been mentioned more prominently than the Nigerians on the list who were more projected.
To those who fall into this category, I will only remind you of the admonition of Aristotle which says: “It is absurd to blame external factors instead of ourselves for falling an easy prey or to take credit for noble deeds while blaming our disgraceful conduct on temptation”.
Fine, others were mentioned, but that does not give the Nigerians mentioned an alibi or any form of justification because just in August, 2019,the FBI in the US indicted 80 people for a scam of $46m of which 77 of them were Nigerians . It was described as the “largest case of online fraud in US history”.
What sort of defence is any sane and law abiding citizen of any country supposed to put up for such accusations and criminal record that was set?
One would have imagined that advance fee fraud hitherto called 419 after the Nigerian criminal penal code section 419 which dealt with advance fee fraud and which was a prominent crime of the upwardly mobile and semi-literate class in 1990s,was easing out as a lot of the old guard who engaged in it are mostly in jail or fell on bad times but those of them who still have a means of sustenance have become politicians in Nigeria, a bad omen for Nigeria if you ask me.
Senator Nuhu Aliyu, a former Deputy Inspector-General of police who was in charge of the Force Criminal Investigations Department (FCID) and who upon his retirement was elected as a Senator and appointed chairman Senate committee on Police Affairs, expressed his consternation when he alerted the nation that while in the police force that he had investigated some of his colleagues in the national assembly. It is that bad.
At present, we have them as governors, senators, ministers, members of the House of Representatives and states house of assemblies, commissioners and others holding various appointments within the Nigeria polity.
These days, the focus has moved away from the way 419s operated, as focus have shifted to the cyberspace.
As we know, that the world is now a global village whereby someone in Osaka, Japan can remotely transact business via the internet with someone in Ile-Ife, Nigeria with the computer serving as an interface.
It is the information age ruled by information and technology.
Again, for every positive development, there will be a negative side. One of the negative sides of Globalisation and the internet age is the prevalence of cybercrimes.
That is why it is prevalent among the children born after 1990s, the millennials of 2000s who belong to the jet age and a few from the 1980s and 1970s.
In the 1970s, every child at a tender age concentrated more on excelling in his or her academics. The noticeable peer pressure an competition was on intellect and to bridge the gap, people encouraged themselves by striving hard to excel. In some cases, people were limited by financial hindrance, yet they never give up, they engage in self-help to have education at all cost and earn a decent living.
Most people of this generation had sound education and those who could not get further education has vocational skills and are forging on with life with contentment.
However, the late 1980/90s generation seems different. To bridge gaps, they no longer tow the path of education, vocational training, perseverance and contentment. What they do is look for money by all means possible. Everything is about money, ostentious living and what can be achieved through money. Hushpuppi belongs to this generation and that is why he is an inspiration to millions who fall within his age grade and the millennials who are much younger.
We must endeavour to always stress it to the youth that life is not all about riches or life on the fast lane. There is more to life than vain glory.
Where does this education start? Nowhere else other than the family which is the nucleus of any society.
How many parents knows what their wards do as an occupation that fetches them wealth and those luxurious cars that they gleefully display.
To the Christians, the bible in Proverbs chapter 22 verse 6 says; “Teach your child the path of righteousness and when he or she grows up, he or she will not depart from it”. Same goes for other religions as I believe they have tenets which gives same admonition.
The involvement of Nigerians in cybercrime is costing us a lot of damage in terms of reputation and economical advancement.
Nigeria has a market potential that is enormous as well as willing consumers who desire a lot of goods and services from outside the shores that can boost the economy, productivity, expertise and drive manufacturing and production through securing of plant &machinery, other consumables and production inputs from reliable overseas companies but the chance is limited by the lack of trust in doing busy with Nigerians and Nigerian companies over the internet and that is why the only existing choice at the moment is China and its substandard products and appalling business ethics.
It has also not availed the Nigeria consumers the opportunity of variety and to fully explore the potentials of the global marketplace. Anyone can imagine what the procedure will be attempting to do business with Caterpillar Incorporation, USA at the moment as a result of the scam pulled by Obinwanne Okeke (Obi Invictus) with the company.
As a country, we need to face the reality and appeal to our individual Huspuppis to desist from giving Nigeria a bad name.