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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Monday, March 31, 2008

Shine your eye

It's a manic Monday and two meetings, two interviews and one report down; I am nursing my twisted ankle (hours standing on impractical heels at the city people awards last night) and a cup of revitalizing mid afternoon tea when the call came in.
Usually, I don't pick up unknown or recognized numbers but I had got a call earlier from Chief Newton Jibunoh who with his crew (more later) had crossed the Sahara and the Atlas mountain and was excitedly giving me details. I thought it might be the indefatigable chief calling back from Rabat so I picked up the phone. It was not the chief but it was an elderly man with a heavy Yoruba accent and corresponding condescension.

Man: Is that you Iyanda?
FI: (in Yoruba) yes sir, this is Ms. Iyanda.
Man: well done my daughter, how are you, this is Engr. William from NNPC in Abuja, you remember me abi? We met in Surulere, I used to be in Lagos but I am now at head quarters in Abuja so …… he prattles on in fast authoritative tones.
I didn't remember him or the encounter but on my job, you learn to say yes sir I remember you.
Man: ok my dear, I am going to flash you from a number now, please call me back on that number and I will give you the details of the consignment, this is our control number.
FI: yes sir.
I saw the call come in and die off immediately, a flash. I sat back, my natural resistance to authority and innate sense of self preservation kicking in, besides I hate to be slave to a phone.

20 minutes later, another flash, I wait 5 more minutes then I call back.
Man: yes, yes, dear, now take down this number for Alh, he will have the consignment for you, he will give it to you at 50,000 per barrel but you know the market price is 150,000 so you can make a lot of money, I told you I will help you so call him and arrange how to pay and get the consignment o, you are a good girl always working hard, God will continue to help you and people like us will work for you with God….
FI: cutting in) excuse Mr., you either have the wrong person or you are a thief, I am a journalist and if I catch you… (He had dropped the phone pronto).
Classic 419 attempt.
Now, non-Nigerians are always puzzled by our seeming disdain for the plight of 419 victims. It is not as though we do not empathize but we do have a mixture of disregard for the inability to see through almost transparent scams and anger at the knowledge that beneath many such scams is the willingness to defraud our system, the belief that our system is so fraudulent that some of those outrageous claims are true and the complete lack of regard for us as a people.
Perhaps that is a little harsh since the realities of our lives have perhaps conditioned us better to sniff out scams. You may wonder at what point I began to suspect the Engr. in the above encounter?

Maybe it is my Nigerian "scamatograph" but
a. Absolutely nobody calls me Iyanda but my best UI buddy. Engr. William from NNPC? That is like saying John Smith from the home office.
b. I suspect most hidden numbers, what are they hiding? Then, all that flashing, typical 419 scrounge.
c. That combination of brusque, condescending Yoruba male elder thing done with such rapidity is calculated to tap into my sense of respect for elders and authority as well as give me little opportunity to think through the conversation. Then there is all the fake prayers and Christianese. Why try tug at my emotional strings?
d. Yes I meet loads of people and cannot remember every encounter but I am pretty good at locking on to the ones that most probably occurred.
e. I am a complete puritan with most things and I would never have shown any interest in a supply business. I do media and communication and a multiplicity of subsets under that broad umbrella, nothing else, no contracts, no trading, no supplies. If I saw an opportunity in any such area I would have referred to some competent person in that sphere of life.
f. Finally, with the current fuel scarcity in Nigeria, it makes perfect sense for an increase in scams about and around oil, oil services, oil products and the NNPC.

The golden rules of avoiding scams?
Do not be bloody greedy.
Do not be a damn idiot.
Do not think this country is such a basket case that such bullock you are being told might be true.
Become globally aware and don't be quick to accept stereotypes, no, I have never seen a tiger in my backyard and the Chinese are not all martial artists, neither are the Indians all dancing, turban shaking traders.
If it sounds too good to be true? It is.

Better brew myself a new cup of tea; Chinese no less, it's going to be a good week!.


wellsbaba said...

YES! i'm first here again.....lol....they tried to defraud you,they should know you are too "nigerian" to fall4such(nigerians are suspicious of any caller that claims to know them if they dont remember)
I remember one dude I met over the internet,he claims to be John Smith(can you imagine?) he said he heard telecoms is getting big in nigeria(this was in 2003) and he would lyk to ship phones to nigeria and that he needed som1 he could trust......so he "sent" the cargos via a courier service company to 9ja and sent me their address in abuja(he knew I stayed in laogs) plus their phone number then........he asked me to clear the goods!gen gen!(nollywood soundtrack) I wasnt yet suspicious,so I decided to withdraw some money,sell my phone n my mom's which she borrowed me(atleast by the time she asks4it I would have "cleared" the phones and sold them!...lol...greed was setting in) so I first called the courier company to know the mode of payment b4 going to sell d phones,everything went professionally well n they gave me a control number and account number to pay in.......it was at this point I said to myself "seun dont tear your shirt"(its a slang of mine that means seun dont disgrace yourself)..I reasoned,is there anyway to retrieve money paid into someones account you dont know in 9ja........I said,"seun you are a sharp boy now,if u pay u cant collect the money back" so I called him then his(UK)number didnt go through,now my suspicion rose like a whirlwind.I mailed him and asked why is number aint going through and asked him to send me 10pounds(LOL) to add to the money for clearing(atleast,if I eventually get 10p from him via western union that means he may be in d UK) it was at this point he was BEGGING me to clear the stuff and making all sorts of excuses....do u know what I did next?you dont wanna know,I messed him up! ow dear you raise my hopes and try to make a fool out of me!

Akin said...

Hello Funmi,

You cracked me up with your narrative and I am very into your analysis. - (The comment is a bit long - I probably should have made a personal blog of it.)

I think it is important that those points you highlighted might fare better on a separate blog.

With point (a), I once had an encounter that made me suspicious when someone called me and introduced themselves, then enquired with my fullnames - definitely, I had not spoken to that person in 20 years at least.

Point (b), I wrote something about withheld numbers, in fact, I ignore them and expect a message with contact information to be left in the message.

Point (c), that is the bulls-eye, you are supposed to let down your guard and like you note, it does not give you the opportunity to think through the conversation.

Point (d), I am not senile, but I remember very little except when you make an impression, and then you would not be applying (a), (b) & (c).

Point (e), Just like you, I know my trade and I never pretend to have another skill.

Point (f), I can only agree with you and all the anti-scam points you have made.

Dancing turban shaking Indians - now I am laughing and rolling over on a floor like a happy dog.

Good post!


Anonymous said...

omg, I swear I got several calls from this NNPC "Engineer" from Abuja or is this just a common scam i.e. they all use the same name? Seriously!

Sherri said...

pele dear.
take deep breaths.
u sef, that was bargain now!lol

Anonymous said...

Na real shine ur eye.
Just got this from a mail about a lottery i neva apply for
(24hours)Ref: UK/9420X2/68 / Batch: 074/05/ZY369

Dear Winner,

We are pleased to inform you of the final announcement today, 31th
PROGRAMME, held on the 29th Jan,2008. Congratulations,you have just won
yourself £956,420.00 pounds in the satellite software email lottery
conducted by BRITISH NATIONAL LOTTERY PROMOTION in which your e-mail
address was randomly selected by software powered by the Internet.Your
email address was amongst those chosen this quarter and you are to
our AFFILIATED COURIER COMPANY for delivery of your certificate,cheque
£956,420.00,A Dell Inspiron 6400 Laptop, A British Lottery Branded
T-shirt and A British Lottery Branded Baseball cap. When contacting
them you are to include this order Number 58412013 as your secret
number of your parcel to the courier company.
1. Full Names: 2. Address: 3. Age: 4. Sex: 5. Marital Status: 6.
Occupation: 7. Phone numbers: 8. Fax number: 9. Country

Name: Mr. Harrison Blair.
12 Ground Floor,Amburst Service,
London E8 2BT,United Kingdom.
EMAIL: ics_courier004uk@sify.com
TEL: +44- 704- 574- 5178
+44- 704- 574- 4998

Yours Truly,
Sir. Smith K. Lloyd.
co-ordinator(Online Promo Pro gramme).

wellsbaba said...

omo,this 419ers are very innovative when it comes to cookin up novel ideas for scams....they can use anything--ur uncle in shanghai,lottery,will,bank accounts,dogs,work permits,GSM networks(lol) e.t.c anything!
@Akin....lol...(The comment is a bit long - I probably should have made a personal blog of it.)

Anonymous said...

I got a call from this same Engineer!!!!! Im not kidding I swear!! The same guy, similar story!!! Na wa oh! Maybe thats a new method of 419!!

Funmi Iyanda said...

@wellsbaba, na you biko! long comment men but funny story. l have heard of those ones who then start to curse you too.
@akin, 2 funny, correct deconstruction there.
@anonymous, really? same dude?
@sherri, mami, no mind the were, he wan da agba la mu (give elder wahala, send on a wild goose chase etcetc)

Olamild said...

Eko akete ilu ogbon

One has to be vigilant

Bisola said...

hahahaha!!! "Engineer Williams" has called me seeeeeveral times! Sometimes i play along but the last time, i told him to go fuck himself, THEN his true colors began to show as he proceeded to rain insults on me. I was too tickled! He hasn't called me since then.

NigerianDramaQueen said...

cracking up @ the "Do not be bloody greedy.
Do not be a damn idiot"-funny, but true

NaijaEcash said...

Sister tell them (those who wants to blacklist all Nigerians).
Just like you narrated in this story, it takes one who is greedy (maybe just small) to fall prey to such scams.

I have received all manner of emails offering to turn me to an instant millionaire. One of them even claimed he is a solicitor to the late Head of State, General Abacha. He was generous enough to offer me some of the stolen loot if only I will provide my bank details.

Is it not obvious that if I respond to such, it is an indication that I am a "thief" too. So nobody should pity me for any loss that may come out of any romance I choose to have with the "Barrister 419".

Too many victims of scams are too greedy and hasty that they don't stop to ask simple questions such as you pointed out about "Engr. Williams of NNPC" in your story.
One of my big brothers says, "It takes a 418 to fall mugu to a 419" I guess only Naijas will understand that statement. I don't know how to put it well in English (I no be journalist)
Thanks for sharing. I do enjoy your articles. Cheers.

NaijaEcash said...

Hmmn, that is a great work you're doing at NewDawnwithFunmi.com

Ebony said...

Hi. I think i personally dont care about anybody who's been duped. The truth is wrapped up in these 2 statements:
1.You cant cheat an honest man &
2.You never get something for nothing.
I'm a young nigerian and i've listened to all the hype about internet fraud bla bla bla. I surf alot in public cafes and i've watched some young people attempt to play these scams, i think its an embarrassment to human intelligence that any of our species can fall for some of the scams i've seen(and have the audacity to blame someone else for their woes). I'll probably put up a comprehensive post on my blog some time soon. Nice post, thumbs up.

Indigenous Productions said...

Today, my mom just gisted me of this same type of phone call she had. Na wa for this people oh

NoLimit said...

You can imagine! The cheek of them,I was sent some strange mails 2ce,the second time I got the mail,i replied them o! probably cos I was on the train and there was no book in sight...so I decided to humor them and dissed the daylight of the guy/gal(whoever it was!)
I put my response on my blog...you can have a laugh

Smaragd said...

very nice post. lol @ the "do nots", they are certainly true.

luckily i have never received any call from this infamous engr williams and his cohorts, but i have received several mails from the yahoo boys...lol

why would a whole engr williams @NNPC need u to call him back anyway? smelt rats already at that point!

I was at the city people awards as well and u actually presented the award my company received! my comments on that ceremony are well,...reserved.