Oxford Online Dictionary defines criminality as an action or omission which constitutes an offence and is punishable by law. Recently, Nigerians are becoming more notorious for committing criminal acts especially in diaspora. This negative development does tarnish our national image especially at the sight of international community.
In the last few weeks alone, there have been numerous reports of Nigerians being involved in one crime or the other, and arrested for the same reason, and these are reported cases from Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Malaysia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and the United States.
Reuben Abati writes, “the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) reports that in 2018, 73 Nigerians were sentenced to death in Malaysia for drug-related offences. When the figures for 2019 are collated, that number is likely to be higher. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, there are 144 Nigerians serving various jail terms for drug crimes; and according to the NDLEA, all 144 convicts are from one Nigerian village – “Nnewi in Anambra State”.
“In Thailand, 650 Nigerians (650!) are in prison for drug trafficking. In Saudi Arabia, there are, according to reports, 23 Nigerians currently on the death row, again for drug-related offences. Saudi Arabia is a religious and spiritual destination for many Nigerians.
It is shocking that some of those Nigerians who go to that country for pilgrimage also carry on them narcotic and psychotropic substances. Saudi Arabia has a very strict death penalty law. Not a few Nigerians have been executed in the Kingdom for drug-related offences.
“In March 2019, six Nigerians were members of a 10-man gang of fraudsters who were found guilty of online fraud, hacking software, in a total of 228 diversion frauds over a period of four years. They were convicted and sentenced. The gang was led by one Bonaventure Chukwuka.
“They robbed their 69 victims of a total of 10.1 million pounds. In May, a 28-year old Nigerian, Gloria Makanjuola, described in the UK media as a “Nigerian serial robber” was also convicted. Her specialization: theft of bank cards which she used to make contactless payments.
He added, “there is also the report on three siblings (the Nakpodias) who in August 2019, were jailed in the UK for a total of 16 years for helping “the Black Axe syndicate” to launder about one million pounds through the UK banking system. The trio and their patron also face criminal charges in Greece for advance fee fraud.
“In the last decade alone, more than 10 Nigerians have been executed in Indonesia for drug-related crimes, four of them by firing squad in 2015, despite pleas for leniency by Nigeria, the United Nations and Amnesty International. About 153 others are still on the death row in Indonesia. Across Asia, it is reported that about 16, 500 Nigerians are in prison, and in South East Asia alone, up to 600 Nigerians are on the death row.”
But maybe the most nerve-wracking report of criminal conduct by Nigerians would be two major cases reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States and another one by the Saudi Arabian Government.
The first case involves Obinwanne Okeke, 31, also known as “Invictus Obi” who has been arrested by the FBI over an alleged $12 million fraud. When Okeke came to limelight, he emerged as a role model for young persons in Africa. In 2016, in recognition of his investments in real estate, oil and gas and the construction industry in Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia, he was listed by Forbes Magazine among Forbes 100 Most Influential Young Africans.
Okeke was also nominated for the All African Business Leaders Award. In 2017, he was recognized as a panelist at the Wharton Africa Business Forum. In 2018, he gave a TEDx talk in Lagos. Okeke was also later featured on BBC’s “Focus on Africa”. The BBC described him as “an inspiring entrepreneur”.
The second trending case is the indictment again by a US Federal Grand Jury of 77 Nigerians on August 22, 2019, for their involvement in massive conspiracy to steal millions of dollars through Business E-mail Compromise (BEC) scams, romance scams and other fraudulent schemes.
The FBI has already arrested many of these persons while the remaining suspects are believed to be at large, in Nigeria and elsewhere.
The last but not the least was a news report on Saturday which said that 23 Nigerians will be executed in Saudi Arabia over drug trafficking. The suspects were said to have concealed the narcotic substance in their rectum, an act the Saudi Government says contravenes its narcotic and psychotropic substances rules.
There may well be many other cases that are yet unreported or that may never be reported, but the most baffling trend about criminal conduct in Nigeria is that people now consider it right for persons of their ethnicity and religion to amass wealth through criminal means.
What this worrying trend symbolizes is that we are all united by criminality.
The aforementioned fact also shows that perpetration of criminal acts has become pervasive and gone beyond any boundary in Nigeria. It transcends class, color, ethnicity and religion. As put by Dike Chukwumerije in one of his popular poems titled ‘The Revolution Has No Tribe’:
“Do you not know that corruption is not from Nekede?
He will not hear that Ife had no dealings with Modakeke
He will wake up all of our children at might with hunger
So, when the drums sound, let everybody answer.”
In spite of the tremendous damage occasioned by criminality, the narrative of ethnic sentiments aimed at protecting our kinsmen is ginormously gaining momentum and, in consequence, gives more impetus to the proliferation of criminality and existence of criminal elements in Nigeria.
Ethnic profiling of criminality has serious devastating effects on our national unity, peace, progress and development because for these kinds of stereotyping is increasingly tearing Nigerians apart, reinforcing the differences among us and isolating us from one another.
For Nigeria to be reborn there has to be a shift away from the habit of ethnic profiling of criminals and their acts.