A stitch in time

This week we received with dismay a report about scams targeting the global oil and gas sector that were traced to Nigeria.

The report, written by a Spanish cloud security company, Panda Security, exposed a largely unknown targeted attack on the global oil and gas industry, designed to steal information and credentials for defrauding oil brokers.

The report disclosed that dozens of companies have been defrauded,even though they are not willing to come forward for fear of drawing global attention to risks in their IT security networks. It is disheartening that a report like this should come up after years of substantial declines in cases of advance fee fraud due to government’s unrelenting effort to tackle the menace.

The companies that were defrauded by the Nigerian scammers refused to report to the authorities, but nonetheless, news about it has broken, putting a fresh dent to Nigeria’s batteredbut recovering image. It doesn’t help matters that the report is coming out just weeks after Indonesia executed 9 drug peddlers, 4 of them being Nigerians.  The message this sends out is that Nigeria is sliding back to the days when its image was inseparable from advance fee fraud and drug trafficking.

Needlesstosay, during those dark days, lots of legitimate Nigerian entities suffered fromblanket opprobrium as a result of the activities of the scammers. In fact,at a point in the sordid past, international media entities published the allegation that advance fee fraud was actually studied as a course in Nigeria.

Nigerian non-governmental organizations were automatically blacklisted from receiving much needed aid for development programmes; more stringent and unfair measures were used in assessing Nigerian businesses and citizens for deals and visas compared to businesses and citizens of other countries. It became so bad that to introduce oneself as a Nigerian in foreign shores was to attract to oneself all the odium that an unrepentant convicted criminal could get.

A particular kind of scam was even given the epithet, The Nigerian Letter, and some world leaders and opinion makers came out openly to describe Nigeria in unprintable words. All this led to massive loss of economic opportunities and a plummeting of Nigeria’s geopolitical influence in Africa and beyond.

But of recent, Nigeria’s efforts to push back against advance fee fraud began to yield some noticeable fruits.For instance, PayPal, the internet money transfer giant last year ended an embargo on allowing Nigerians use its services for fund transfers. Also, Nigeria has fallen far down in the rankings of the most corrupt countries in the world.

But the incoming Buhari administration most not rest on that oar, seeing that the Panda report signifies that Nigeria’s malady of advance fee fraud – which is perpetuated by a few Nigerians but tarnishes the image of the entire nation and was thought to be on its death throes- is still alive and kicking.

The EFCC must be given the kick it needs to fish out these criminal elements that operate mainly from cyberspace and a good place to start is to approach Panda Security to release information that will lead to the identification and prosecution of those fraudsters, as the company has said that it is willing and able toshare critical information on the perpetrators of the oil sector scams it uncovered.

“Panda Security stands ready to identify the individual to authorities …,” the company has said.

Also the firm discovered that “scammers attempt to use real documents so that if the broker wishes to check their legitimacy, they will see that they are real.” The government should find out which officials aid in giving out restricted government documentation to scammers and must close any open loopholes that allow them to do so through technological solutions.

As we continue our manifest destiny of leading Africa into a new era of development and international respect, the government should project such positives as Nigeria’s emergence as the largest economy in Africa, and not allow such narratives to become swamped by stories of massive scams by petty criminals. We do not need to be told that the price for not taking action will be costly dents on our international image.

Copyright Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to www.shipsandports.com.ng as the source.