Online crimes and advance fee fraud in Nigeria ‐ are available legal remedies adequate?

Published date01 April 2005
Date01 April 2005
AuthorAbimbola O. Salu
Subject MatterAccounting & finance
Online Crimes and Advance Fee Fraud in Nigeria Ð
Are Available Legal Remedies Adequate?
Abimbola O. Salu
Fraud originated in the Garden of Eden and is there-
fore as old as man himself. The ®rst recorded case of
fraud was when Jacob deceived his father, Isaac and
collected the blessings meant for his brother, Esau.
Since then, deceit and fraud have become so prevalent
and pervasive in every society that no single country
can claim to have a monopoly on them. Some
countries, however, have managed to draw a great
deal of international attention to the acts of their citi-
zens through unsavoury acts of some members of
that society. One such example is the case of advance
fee fraud and Nigerians. With a population in excess
of 132 million,
Nigeria ranks among the most popu-
lated countries in the world. Out of this number,
however, only about 10,000 of its citizens engage in
advance fee fraud `or `419', named after the section
of the Criminal Code that bears that number.
section is on obtaining goods by false pretences. The
purpose of this paper is to examine the reasons why
this type of fraud is so prevalent, examine past case his-
tories and examine the Nigerian laws in place to
combat this crime. Possible solutions will be proered
Who are the main actors?
Before the use of computers became prevalent in
Nigeria, it used to be that this type of fraud was perpe-
trated through the use of surface mails, telephones,
telex and fax. Recently, however, the use of e-mails
has opened the ¯oodgates for this type of fraud. It is
interesting to note that the ratio of personal computers
to each person is still very low in Nigeria. This is
because the cost is prohibitive, coupled with the fact
that access to telephone lines that can work with a
computer are not readily available. Furthermore,
there is a long waiting list of those who want this
service; the telephone system itself is not very ecient
and an erratic power supply also constitute reasons
why many people do not own personal computers.
All these odds, however, have not dampened the
enthusiasm of the average Nigerian to access the inter-
net. The main solution to all these problems are cyber
Âs, which have virtually mushroomed at a very fast
rate in every nook and cranny of the towns and cities in
Nigeria. It is a very lucrative business and in some
places, patrons queue to make use of the service.
Dierent types of individuals patronise cyber cafe
Indeed cyber cafe
Âs have become a melting pot for all
types of character in society. They range from persons
who genuinely seek to get some information on the
internet and maybe access their e-mails, to high
school students who view a lot of game sites and some-
times pornographic websites (this is currently a serious
cause for concern). There are also the unemployed.
The last group constitutes the majority and can be
sub-divided into two. The ®rst sub-division is made
up of a group of young school leavers, frustrated and
unemployed young men (and women too Ð due to
the presence of gender equality in Nigeria). They
belong to the class that you see congregated around
computers in cyber cafe
Âs, writing very poor English
and seeking the advice of their peers as to what correct
terms to use. Most of them type their letters in capitals
and such letters are usually full of grammatical errors.
They represent the majority of those involved in this
type of fraud. Those who constitute the other group
are indeed the most dangerous. They are mostly uni-
versity or college graduates who, because of the
poor economy, are unemployed. They undergo
additional training at recognised institutions where
they learn all that there is to learn about computers,
including program writing, software development
etc. When they take to computer crimes, they can
think of a thousand and one ways to lure an unsuspect-
ing victim into their web. They sometimes engage
in bank fraud, that is, breaking into the computer sys-
tems of banks in order to steal money. They also break
into data banks and steal names and addresses, which
they use to perpetrate crimes. They are highly organ-
ised and see their crimes as a form of reparation for
what they perceive as the injustice of the past arising
from such evils as colonialism and the slave trade.
The second set of actors in this dangerous game
are the victims. There should sound a note of warning
Page 159
Journal of Money Laundering Control Ð Vol. 8 No. 2
Journalof Money Laundering Control
Vol.8, No. 2, 2004, pp. 159± 167
#HenryStewart Publications

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