COMMENTARY No. 66
a CANADIAN SECURITY INTELLIGENCE SERVICE publication
NIGERIA: PROSPECTS FOR STABILITY
COMMENTARY is a regular publication from the Analysis and Production Branch of CSIS. Inquiries regarding submissions may be made to the Chairman of the Editorial Board at the address below.
This month's author is Dr. Robert D'A. Henderson, an Ottawa-based trends analyst. He may be contacted by writing to Box 9732, Stn "T", Ottawa, Ont., K1G 4G4, or by fax: (613) 842-1312.
Disclaimer: Publication of an article in the COMMENTARY series does not imply CSIS authentication of the information nor CSIS endorsement of the author's views.
On 1 October 1995Nigeria's 35th independence anniversaryNigeria's present military head-of-state, General Sani Abacha, announced yet another attempt to transfer national governance from military rule to a civilian "Third Republic"a process likely to take at least three years and probably beyond. Yet the New York-based human rights group Freedom House, in its 1995 annual rating survey, reported that Nigeria had slipped into the "worst human rights violators" category because of "its increasingly brutal military dictatorship and rigged judicial process."
Then, during the Commonwealth leaders' summit meeting in New Zealand and in the face of international calls for clemency, the Abacha régime hanged nine dissidents of the minority Ogoni ethnic groupincluding Ken Saro-Wiwa, a well-known human rights critic and environmental protesterafter being sentenced to death by a secret Nigerian military tribunal, in what South African President Nelson Mandela called "a heinous act" and British Prime Minister John Major called "judicial murder". In response, the Commonwealth leaders suspended Nigeria from the organization, cut all development assistance and gave it two years to return to civilian rule or risk being expelled from the Commonwealth completely.
Implications for Canada
Enjoying cordial political and commercial relations with Nigeria since its independence in 1960, Canada's bilateral trade relations have centred around the petroleum industry. Currently, several small Canadian firms are involved in Nigerian offshore oil exploration as well as imports of Nigerian oil amounting to about US$600 million annually (less than 1% of its oil exports). Even so, the Canadian government was among those who strongly called for clemency for Saro-Wiwa and the other dissidents, release of all political prisoners and a rapid return to civilian rule.
However, widespread corruption under military rule and a deteriorating economy have raised a number of concerns, both to the country's own stability and to the international community, including Canada. These include corruption at all levels, international financial scams, criminal gangs operating drug trafficking networks and currency trafficking. As its previously astronomical oil revenues fell in the late 1980s, Nigerian robber barons and their syndicates (criminal gangs) have sought new ways to make money and, as exiled Nigerian academic Julius Ihonvbere has pointed out, "the only ways were drug trafficking, currency trafficking and Section 419 frauds¹".
Since 1994, the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit has rated Nigeria as one of the world's highest-risk business locations, behind only Iraq and Russia. Corruption continues to be endemic throughout Nigeria, with some economists suggesting it could constitute up to 10% of the country's GDP. At the grassroots level, officials and administrators ask for gifts of "dash" or "bread" for conducting even the most basic paperwork, although increasingly this is due to having to wait months to receive their already low salaries. Upon arrival in Nigeria, foreign business people are regularly asked by customs and immigration officials, particularly at Lagos, if the visitor has brought a "gift", especially American dollars
(New York Times, 19 December 1994). At the national and senior government levels, corrupt practices have almost become institutionalized, particularly with regard to contracts for "super- projects" and for the sale of import licences for scarce consumer goods. With contract tenders, a 10% to 15% "overpayment" in the tender offer is expected to be passed on to the government officials' overseas bank accounts. Another practice is the "sale" of import licences for the importation of goods, particularly scarce consumer goods such as medicines, rice, cooking oil and machinery parts. Often amounting to millions of naira (the national currency), these over- payments, skimmings, bribes, etc., are reported in the Nigerian media as "leakage" from the national economy.
Internationally, a variety of financial scams have been perpetrated from within Nigeria against business people in more than 75 foreign countries, according to Interpol data. Named after Section 419 of the Nigerian penal code, these "419 scams" include credit-card frauds and cheque forgeries on a global basis, multiple-identities schemes to secure overseas welfare benefits and academic grants and perhaps the most common, letter scams for money transfer frauds. Together, these activities result in annual financial losses in the millions of dollars, physical intimidation and, in some cases, even murder of visiting foreign business peopleall within Nigeria.
Internationally, syndicates within Nigeria and amongst the Nigerian diaspora overseasprincipally in North America and Europe but also in a variety of Latin American countries and in parts of South and Southeast Asiamanage criminal operations for money laundering, drug trafficking, etc. Profits from these operations have been estimated at over US$750 million annually (InterPress Service, Rome, 2 February 1995). Nigerians were originally used as drug carriers for foreign drug producers, but more recently Nigerian syndicates are purchasing drugs in the regions of production and arranging for transshipment through Nigeria and other parts of Africa and on to consumer countries. In the case of heroin, they are involved from the purchase in South Asia, through its transport via East Africa and Nigeria (or another West African country), to Europe or North Americaand sometimes distributed through their own "marketing" network there. An estimated 30% to 40% of the heroin entering the United States is handled by these syndicates. Along with heroin transshipment, Nigerian media reports suggest that the relatively cheaper Indian hemp (marijuana) was being brought into the country for domestic users as well as being smuggled into the financially better-off consumer market in South Africa [known there as dagga], leading to significant increases in domestic use in both countries. In the case of cocaine, there is evidence that these syndicates are acting in partnership with South American cartels to move cocaine into North America.
Within Nigeria, drug trafficking has risen to such an extentwith accompanying criminal profits and violencethat a National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) was created in 1989, but it, too, developed a reputation for greed and corruption. After heading the government inquiry into the NDLEA's failure to stem the domestic drug trade, Major General Musa Bameyi was appointed its new chief in 1994 with authority to reform the agency. Among his first steps was a call for the return of the death penalty for the country's "drug lords". Even so, the Nigerian connection to the worldwide drug trade is still on the rise (The Economist, 26 August 1995).
A diverse Nigerian "nation"
While not the largest African country in territory, Nigeria has the largest population at about 100 million according to the as yet unproclaimed 1992 census, with a mosaic of more than 250 ethnic/linguistic groups. The three major ethnic groupingsthe Hausa-Fulani in the north, the Yoruba in the southwest, and the Igbo in the southeastaccount for about three-quarters of Nigeria's population. Traditionally, there have been social and economic tensions between the Moslem north and the mostly Christian south. Further, there is now a sparsely-populated middle belt of states composed of Moslem ethnic minorities. Although Nigerian military régimes have been dominated by Moslem northern officers, they have not imposed Islamic laws (Sharia) nationwide, and even Nigeria's 1986 membership in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) was allowed to lapse. Further, the military has forcibly put down serious outbreaks of Moslem-Christian violence in the north involving Islamic fundamentalists.
There have been constant "population politics" involving attempts to inflate regional population figures, as national censuses determine the allocation of federal funds for administration, infrastructure, education, health, etc. Although the 1952/53 pre-independence census was done only by rough count, the northern portion of the country was deemed to have about 55% of the population. Since then, none of the national censusesthe discarded one in 1962/63, the officially repudiated one in 1973 and the currently unproclaimed 1992 census suggesting that a majority of the population might now reside in the Southhas been acceptable to all sections of the country.
Linked to "population politics" have been continuous calls for creating more "new" states within Nigeria to provide administrative voices for minority ethnic interests as well as increased networks for patronage. Beginning with three (later four) regions prior to the Nigerian Civil War (1966-70), the Nigerian Federation was later divided into 12 states (April 1968). The federation grew to 19 states by March 1976, 21 states plus a new federal capital territory at Abuja by 1987, and 30 states by August 1991; the current 1989 constitution provides for the creation of even more. Creating more states out of a constant land area can be seen as an attempt on one hand to blur the country's regional, ethnic and religious distinctions and on the other, to create additional "patronage fiefdoms" which cut into regional power bases of traditional political elites.
25 years of military rule
Since its independence from Britain in 1960, Nigerians have experienced over 25 years of military rulewith only short periods of civilian administration. Military intervention into Nigerian politics began with the 1966 coup and subsequent counter-coup which ended the civilian First Republic (1960-66) and led to the attempted secession of the Igbo-dominated eastern part of the country, renamed Biafra. After the federal military defeat of the Biafran forces in the east, the Supreme Military Council under General Yakubu Gowon continued to rule, claiming that national reconciliation and reconstruction was possible only under a "neutral" military administration. During this period, Nigeria became OPEC's fourth largest producer, reaping windfall revenues from the 1973 world oil price rises. This oil wealth became the basis of the country's rapid industrialization efforts, its constant state of political turmoil and its rampant corruption.
Nigeria's military rulers spent billions of the country's petro-dollars on developing a range of prestige mega-industrial projects as well as construction of a massive new national infrastructure of autobahns, airports, telecommunications, universities, government complexes, a new capital, and a network of military bases and advanced weaponry. But, for a country awash in oil money, such grandiose projects provided extensive opportunities for corruption schemes, including overpayments on contract bids and advanced fees frauds on actual and fictitious oil sales.
Despite its petroleum wealth and over two decades of industrialization programs, Nigeria has not reached two intertwined national goals: elected, accountable government and an industrialized economy. Rather, massive government expenditure and pervasive corruption from its once immense oil revenues have reduced Nigeria to its current status of being considered a least- developed country by the United Nations Development Program. Only its widely touted efforts towards its other national goal of being acknowledged as "the African regional superpower"in terms of its population, size of economy and military forceappear to have been recognized, at least in West Africa.
General Obasanjo's hand-over of power
In 1975, General Gowon was overthrown after going back on his promise to "return power to civilian rule by 1976." The new régime under General Murtala Mohammed took rapid steps to remove corrupt officials and emphasize national development and elections, but Mohammed was killed in an unsuccessful counter-coup in February 1976. His chief of staff, General Olusegun Obasanjo, assumed Mohammed's post and his promise to hand over political power. After a series of elections in 1979, Obasanjo voluntarily relinquished power to the civilian Second Republic government (1979-83) under President Shehu Shagari.
The failure of this second attempt at civilian rule stemmed as much from massive political patronage and continuing corruption as from the poor quality of politicians. By 1983, the military again intervened, and General Muhummad Buhari deposed Shagari. Buhari was replaced in a palace coup in 1985 by General Ibrahim Babangida. Despite initial popular support, the Babangida régime also failed to provide for economic growth. It rejected the International Monetary Fund's harsh terms for financial assistance and continued its predecessor's policies of national austerity and monetary control. Falling world oil prices continued to undermine the economy, leading to labour unrest and increasing student riots to protest military rule and the ban on political activities.
Failure of "African democratization" in Nigeria
Although the Babangida régime repeatedly expressed a commitment to return the country to civilian rule, it slowly devised another "complex process" within which political parties could operate. On 12 June 1993, Nigeria held presidential elections for the Third Republic. However, half-way through publishing the voting results, General Babangida annulled the elections, which international observers had declared free and fair, and denied political power to the acknowledged winner, Chief Moshood Abiola.
After this "stolen election", protests, particularly around Lagos, increased with the formation of numerous opposition organizations. Many opposition leaders were jailed, while some were co- opted into government posts by the military régime.
With many of the opposition leadership, including Chief Abiola, imprisoned or under house arrest, there is currently no nationwide democratic movement, nor a government-in-waiting. The recent formation of the National Liberation Council of Nigeria, as announced by the country's Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka (now in exile) is attempting to coordinate the various opposition grouping. There has also been talk of creating "a strong military-backed party" on the Egyptian pattern, but can Nigeria's military class fit into a democratization process?
While Nigerians continue to see their standard of living decline, there is still no central focus for coordinating their anger and calls for reform. While the Abacha régime continues to boast of Nigeria's regional power status during its campaign for the proposed African seat at the UN Security Council, national self-esteem plummets. The régime's increasingly repressive response to popular discontent has become the focus of nationwide popular outrage. But, as military and civilian élites alike are deeply corrupted, Prof. Claude Ake, one of country's leading intellectuals, has noted that "our [Nigerian] problems go beyond democracy.... We prefer to consume without producing; that is why we contest political power so fiercely. Political power gives us abundant coercive resources to appropriate and consume" [New York Times, 30 October 1995]. Until political power is separated from embezzlement and personal enrichment, particularly on the scale conducted in Nigeria, democratization process appears impossible.
Crisis of national legitimacy
In its 1994 annual report, the Central Bank of Nigeria conceded that the country's economic conditions had worsened for the fourth consecutive year. National industrialization prosperity for the professional classes and industrial workers had not taken place. Universities, long seen as a key path to personal prosperity and higher social status, had been under-funded for a decade. Anti-military protests by staff and students repeatedly led to institutional closures by successive military régimes. In addition, many Nigerian students sent overseas for professional and technical studies chose not to return or, after the country failed to achieve economic take-off, rejoined the Nigerian diaspora overseas.
The continued inability of domestic agriculture to supply basic food stuffs at what amounts to subsidized prices demanded by urban residents has led to growing discontent. With many urban Nigerians unable to feed themselves adequately on their salaried earnings (often months late in being paid), the government has been forced to search for international financing for massive importation of food items to stem urban unrest. Basic health and social services continue to deteriorate. AIDS-related deaths continue to claim many lives amongst government officials, business people and professional groups in urban centres, while the HIV virus has continued to spread along the major transport arteries and into the rural areas.
This failure of the Nigerian dream for accountable government, national industrialization and international status has resulted in a severe crisis of national legitimacy for the central government. Although critics of African economic development note that Nigeria suffers from a familiar African cycle of poverty, coups and ethnic violence, Nigerians see their large though diverse population with its vast oil wealth as a source of strength and a potential basis for a successful economic take-off. Nigerian military and political élites have shown a barely concealed jealousy for South Africa's continental ascendancy, following its successful general elections in 1994 which gave nationwide legitimacy to its multi-racial government.
Weaknesses of Nigerian military régimes
During 25 years of military rule, military-dominated "supreme councils" have dictated national policies, allocated federal funds, co-opted opposition politicians with "perks and posts", and slowly established regulationsand then revoked themfor future political activities. Despite claims to organizational and nation-building skills, military régimes have repeatedly shown a lack of expertise in managing Nigeria's economy. Rather, they have co-opted former politicians, academics and others into ministerial posts. The total breakdown of accountability for public spending was highlighted by Pius Okigbo's 1994 report which found that from 1988 to June 1994, some $12.5 billion (US) in government revenues in the extraordinary "Special Accounts" were unaccounted for [Africa Confidential, London, 4 November 1994].
Continuing weakness of Nigeria's "mono-economy"
With the majority of its population involved in subsistence farming, Nigeria continues to depend on oil exports for most of its government revenues. However, despite being the fourth-largest OPEC oil-producer, over the past decade Nigeria's external debt has risen to over $30 billionthe largest in Africa and equivalent to the country's GDPrequiring a debt service of $5 billion annually. According to a November 1991 World Bank internal report, "Nigeria's systematic mismanagement of public resources is unsustainable" [Christian Science Monitor, Boston, 5 August 1992].
With an economy based on a land transport system of trucks and "long-distance taxis" for distribution, Nigerians repeatedly suffer from regular fuel shortages. Unemployment is widespread and growing, with inflation approaching 100% annually. Against this deteriorating situation, total annual oil revenues, accounting for between 80% - 90% of the country's foreign earnings, have declined by more than half through a combination of mismanagement and falling prices [New York Times, 10 July 1995]. In order to have sole access to the still-sizeable oil revenues in the Petroleum Special Trust Fund, the military régime under Decree No. 25 (1994) placed the trust fund under the control of the head of state, namely General Abacha, and a 10-man special body appointed by him to manage the fund.
International pressure for democratization
Even prior to its suspension, the Commonwealth had been conducting "quiet diplomacy" to pressure Nigeria's adherence to the Commonwealth's 1991 Harare Principles on good government. In December 1994, its Secretary-General, Chief Emeka AnyaokuNigeria's most senior international civil servantstrongly condemned military rule, pointing out that the Nigerian "army should have no place in politics... Military government is the polar opposite of accountable governance" (Commonwealth Currents, London, January 1995). Similarly, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)which included Canada's Flora MacDonaldinvestigated the Nigerian situation. Its 1995 report Nigeria: Stolen by Generals called for acceptance of the 1993 election results and the release of all political prisoners. Unlike the Commonwealth's decision to suspend Nigeria and consider imposing sanctions, the December 1995 Le Francophonie summit in Benina neighbouring country to Nigeriachose only to adopt a "soft criticism" of the Nigerian situation.
Alternatively, South African President Nelson Mandela has campaigned for strong sanctions against Nigeria to ensure that democracy is attained in "the shortest possible time". Although he has criticized the opposition movement for being "weak and ineffectual", Mandela has pointed out that the removal of General Abacha ultimately depended on Nigerians themselves [The Independent, London, 27 November 1995]. Interestingly, it is South African criticism that has drawn the most vehement reactions from the Nigerian régimepartly due to Nigeria's financial support in the anti-apartheid struggle and its efforts to enforce an oil embargo against white-ruled Rhodesia and South Africa.
The value of an embargo on Nigerian oilif specifically targetedis that the loss of export revenues would show the Abacha régime that adverse and totally unacceptable deterioration of the economy, and with it national stability, would result if the sanctions continued. The African- American TransAfrica lobby group in the United States, whose campaign for sanctions against apartheid South Africa led to the imposition of American sanctions in the late 1980s, would welcome international solidarity for its high-profile campaign for American sanctions against Nigeria.
An international oil embargo would have a massive impact on Nigeria's shaky economy leading to renewed labour strikes and urban rioting. This could provide a "national security" pretext for the Abacha régime to hold onto political power. But, a collapse of central governmenteven if it is a military régimecould prove to be the final tear in the country's very fragile "nationhood" fabric, almost certainly removing the last supports to the national economy and fracturing the country. Existing factions within the military would attempt to establish martial control over the oil fields in the southeast and the major urban centres in the north and southwest.
Becoming "a failed state"?
Even without economic sanctions, Nigeria is in danger of becoming what the UN Secretary General has called "a failed state", such as Yugoslavia, Haiti and Somalia. The UNDP Human Development Report 1994 for "predicting societal disintegration" cited Nigeria as a prime possibility, given the wide social and economic disparities between its states, noting they were among the worst in the world. And if Nigeria does crash into anarchy, it would take some of its West African neighbouring countries with ittransforming the region into a global crisis zone.
For the short-term, any prospects for democratization in Nigeriaand with it, a halt to its economic deteriorationare linked to the possible emergence of a political leadership, whether military or civilian, that zealously abhors the gross corruption and oppressive brutality that have increasingly characterized the Abacha military régime. It is just such an extreme reaction which most worries General Abacha and his inner circle of military commanders. They continually fear future counter-coups which would depose themparticularly coups by junior officers from states in the Middle Belt and the south. On the other hand, the civilian opposition currently poses little threat; it is divisive and lacks a central focus, despite efforts by the recently formed National Liberation Council. Further, many opposition figures and former political leaders continue to be susceptible to being co-opted into government posts. Similarly, there is little evidence of secessionist sentiments amongst Nigeria's various smaller ethnic groupings. Such fragmentary pressures have been channelled into calls for more new states, hinged to the central government's monopoly over petro-dollars revenues.
Internationally, in the face of growing foreign criticism, the Abacha régime has disdained the protests by Western governments, international organizations like the Commonwealth, and human rights critics. The one exception has been the régime's sharp reaction to the South African government's call for an oil embargo. This current high-tension relationship between the two African countries might provide President Mandela with leverage to mediate a possible transfer of power deal between the Abacha régime and a civilian administration lead by Chief Abiola.
If Nigeria's current societal and economic trends are not reversed, there will inevitably be a number of medium- and long-term consequences. With little funding for maintenance of existing infrastructure and equipment, government services and manufacturing industries will continue to decline. As the economy collapses, little new foreign investment in Nigeria will take place, except possibly "high risk/high gain" capital inflows. But even such short-term funds are likely to be directed towards currency and investment fraud, money-laundering, and other illegal activities.
Linked to this dismal current outlook, a number of disruptive events could bring about the country's societal and economic collapse. Politically, the death in prison of Chief Abiola, who is presently in poor health, could provide the spark for massive urban unrest, especially in the southwest. The Abacha régime appears to be prepared to risk such a "martyr's prison death" rather than release him during its declared political transition. Economically, various international factors could undercut the already shaky Nigerian economy, including a further decline in world petroleum prices and resultant revenues; another devaluation of the naira and/or collapse of its convertibility would have massive repercussions on its balance of payments and debt repayments; a drastic fall in foreign exchange reserves would halt imports. Socially, renewed outbreaks of Christian-Moslem fighting on a massive scale in northern Nigerian cities, possibly provoked by Islamic fundamentalists, could detonate regional tensions.
What is certain is that nationally there will be further societal disintegration from such disruptive factors as a continuing weakening of public health services coupled with rising cases of HIV/AIDS, increasingly erratic electrical supplies and inadequate domestic agricultural production coupled with government restrictions on food imports. As regional and urban unrest rises, there will be further coup attempts and with them, the possibility of a successful coup by junior military officers.
Alternatively, Nigeria's prospects for stability appear to rest on finding a permanent political role for its "military class" within any process of democratization. Failure to do this will see the continuation of the status quo: military rulers administering the country's slide down the slippery slope to becoming "a failed state". Such a state of anarchy would lead to regional armed groups fighting over the country's urban areas and its principal natural resources, in particular the oil fields in the southeastprobably with the intervention of foreign interests. This would necessitate massive international humanitarian action to assist the millions of displaced civilians as well as lead to calls for a regional peacekeeping operation to separate the combatants.
GLOSSARY OF KEY NIGERIAN PLAYERS (as of January 1996)
General Sani ABACHAcurrently chairman of the governing military-dominant Provisional Ruling Council (PRC), President/Head of State, Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, and Minister of Defence since seizing power in an October 1993 coup which overthrew the Interim National Government (ING) that followed the ouster of previous military ruler General Ibrahim BABANGIDA (a northerner from Niger State) in August 1993. Abacha had participated in the 1983 coup which ended the civilian Second Republic (1979-83) under President Alhaji Shehu SHAGARI and brought General Muhammadu BUHARI to power and in the 1985 coup which brought Babangida to power and served as his defence minister.[Return]
Chief Moshood Kasimavo Olawale ABIOLAas the reported winner of the military-annulled June 12, 1993 presidential elections which would have transferred power to a civilian Third Republic, he has been imprisoned in June 1994 on treason charges by the current Abacha military regime. Abiola steadfastly refuses any conditional release from prison , despite his worsening health, that does not recognize his electoral mandate. In January 1996, Nigerian media reports stated that military authorities were now demanding that Abiola must not only halt all his political activities, but also leave the country in exchange for his freedomsomething he has refused to do.[Return]
Chief Emeka ANYAOKUthe Commonwealth Secretary General based in London (UK) and a former Nigerian foreign minister in the 1970s, he gave a 19 December 1994 speech in the national capital Abuja strongly condemning military rule in Nigeria.[Return]
Lt-General Oladipo DIYAas Chief of Defence Staff after the ouster of General Babangida, Diya assisted General Abacha in the October 1993 coup. Currently Chief of General Staff, he is second in command of the Provisional Ruling Council after Abacha, acting as the military regime's prime minister.
National Liberation Council of Nigeria (NALICON)formed in June 1995, the 17-member council hope to focus and coordinate domestic opposition to the Abacha regime, according to its spokesman Professor Wole SOYINKA, Nigeria's Nobel Prize laureate for literature who was forced into exile in 1994.[Return]
General (rtd) Olusegun OBASANJOafter the assassination of General Murtala Ramat MUHAMMED in February 1976, Obasanjo (a Yoruba) as his Armed Forces Chief of Staff assumed control of the then Supreme Military Council (SMC). When Obasanjo voluntarily handed over power to elected civilians in 1979, he became the only military ruler in Nigerian history to do so. On 13 March 1995, Obasanjo was arrested for treason for allegedly planning a coup against the Abacha regime as well as being part of the opposition movement calling for a return to civilian rule.[Return]
Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade SIJUWADEmost prestigious paramount traditional leader among the Yoruba ethnic groupings in southwestern Nigeria, as Ife is deemed to be the origin of all the Yorubas.
Chief Ernest SHONEKANchairman of the Transitional Council, created in January 1993 and composed of military officers and civilian ministers handpicked by General Babangida to assist his transition to civilian government.
Lt-General (rtd) Shehu Musa YAR'ADUAformerly Chief of Staff under General Obasanjo and retired with him during the 1979 handover of power to civilian rule, zYar'Adua was a major participant in the 1994 National Constitutional Conference. He was subsequently arrested on 10 March 1995 and is still under detention for alleged "coup-plotting" against the Abacha regime.
¹The "Section 419 letter scams", at their most basic, work as follows. Foreign business people are contacted by letter or fax on official stationery of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the government-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, or one of a number of government departments (especially the Department of Defence) with an offer from a Nigerian "senior official" who has received a contract "overpayment" and needs to establish an overseas bank account for the sum, always in the millions, to be sent to. If the foreigner will set up such an overseas account, the senior official will share 30% of the overpayment with them. Then, the senior official begins to need some up-front money to cover various costs within Nigeria and asks the foreigner to send or bring to Nigeria this "administrative sum", usually in the tens of thousands. Once in Nigeria, this sum rises to hundreds of thousands and becomes a condition for the foreigner leaving Nigeria safely. After the foreign funds have been transferred, the senior official either vanishes or, upon being confronted in Nigeria, threatens the "foreign mark" for more money. Based on greed and Nigeria's reputation for massive corruption, the scams continue to work, as all the criminal activity takes place within Nigeria and there is repeated evidence of collusion of Nigerian officials and police with the fraud rings [Time, 18 April 1994 and Report on Business, 25 April 1995].[Return]
The views expressed herein are those of the author, who may be contacted by writing to :
CSIS P.O.Box 9732 Postal Station T Ottawa, Ontario K1G 4G4 FAX: (613) 842-1312
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