First, some attempted definitions. A hushdog is a training collar worn on a dog’s neck, which effectively controls barking using gentle vibration and high frequency sound. A hushpuppy, on the other hand, is a small, savoury, deep-fried round ball made from cornmeal-based batter, frequently served as a side dish with seafood and other deep-fried foods.
It was the recent FBI/Interpol raids in Dubai that cured my ignorance of ‘the other world’ where young men fed on — and were fed by — illegalities, and enjoy wide adulation under their assumed aliases.
The name, Rahmon Igbalode Abbas, did not mean anything to many Nigerians until the FBI raid exposed the fact that he was the same guy known as Hushpuppi on social media with over two million admirers and followers. The trend in this Covid-forsaken era is for young men to hide behind nom de guerre, usually because what they do for a living can’t stand up to scrutiny. So, why stain the family name when you can hide under a new alias as you traverse the world.
Hushpuppi’s associate, “Woodberry”, whose real name is Olalekan Jacob Ponle, was also taken down in the operation code-named “Fox Hunt 2” by Dubai Police. The cocktail of allegations against the duo includes money-laundering, cyber fraud, hacking, criminal impersonating, scamming individuals, banking fraud and identity theft. The suspects were caught in a series of synchronised raids by six SWAT teams.
The director of Dubai CID, Brigadier Jamal Salem Al Jallaf, said the raid resulted in confiscating incriminating documents of a planned fraud on a global scale worth AED 1.6 billion ($435 million). “The team also seized more than AED 150 million ($40.9 million) in cash, 13 luxury cars with an estimated value of AED 25 million ($6.8 million) obtained from fraud crimes, and confiscated 21 computer devices, 47 smartphones, 15 memory sticks, five hard disks containing 119,580 fraud files as well as addresses of 1,926,400 victims”, said Jallaf.
I must be more analogue than I ever acknowledged. The first time I heard of Ismaila Mustapha was when he was arrested for internet fraud and money laundering by the EFCC as he made to board a flight from Abuja to Dubai. I later found out that the suspect was the Lagos-based social media big boy, Mompha, famous for his extravagant spending and lifestyle. He owns a Bureau De Change and has been photographed with celebrities, politicians and top government officials. He has over 600,000 followers on Instagram.
Nigerian youths have earned global notoriety for international fraud and a wide variety of internet scams. Only a tiny minority (less than 0.05% in my reckoning) is involved in these criminal activities but the world tars all Nigerians with the same brush. The Nigerian brand has been so soiled by these international criminals that the problem has been negatively affecting millions of gifted Nigerian entrepreneurs and businesses.
While some of the fraudsters fly under the radar, others operate in the loud mode of the Hushpuppies of this world. But loud or not, they all have aliases. Last August, the FBI released a list of 77 Nigerians charged for fraud in the US.
Valentine Iro, aka “Iro Enterprises,” aka “Valentine Obinna Iro ,” aka ” Obinna Iro ,” 16 aka ” Obinna Nassa,”; Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe, aka ” Christogunus C. Igbokwe,” aka ” Chris Kudon ,” aka “Atete ,” aka “Still Kudon”; Izuchukwu Kingsley Umejesi, aka ” Kingsley Umejesi, ” aka “Armeni an Man,” aka “Kingsley LA,” aka “I zuking Aka Aku”; Tityaye Marina Mansbangura, aka “Tityaye Igbokwe ,” aka “Marina Mansour,” aka “Marina Mansaray,” aka “Marina Tityaye Mans Bangura”; Chukwudi Collins Ajaeze, aka “Thank You Jesus”; Emeka Moses Nwachukwu, aka “All Man,” aka “Omalitoto,” FNU LNU, aka “Donatus Izunwanne,” aka “Izunwanne Donatus Chibuikem,” aka “Deworlddonmax”… et al.
The reason our green passport is disrespected and our citizens treated like dirt is that we have failed to clean up the social milieu that produces a steady stream of criminals tormenting the rest of the civilised world. If criminals are swiftly punished, society will get the message that crime does not pay. But can we say that in Nigeria where it has been alleged that some politicians were sponsored by international criminals?
Crime is crime, but some criminals mitigate their hellfire by playing Robin Hood with their loot. Take the case of Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug lord and narcoterrorist who was the founder/leader of the Medellín Cartel. Perhaps hoping to win the support of everyday Colombians, Escobar became known for his philanthropic efforts. He built hospitals, stadiums, and housing for the poor. He even sponsored local football teams.
Unlike Pablo Escobar, condemnable as his crimes are, Nigerians criminals are not building houses for the poor. Instead they are spreading their wings on social media, taunting hard working people with ill-gotten wealth and spreading universal grief among their victims.
There are still many hushpuppies without hushdogs roaming all over our cities, but they are safe here until they jet abroad where justice is swift and ruthless. I’m covered in goose pimples when I remember that three years after the case began, we are still playing Ludo with the trial of alleged kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, alias Evans.
In the same vein, the scheduled commencement of the trial of an alleged kidnap kingpin, Bala Hamisu, also known as Wadume, is being stalled. Captain Tijani Balarabe who allegedly led the team of soldiers who killed three policemen and two civilians, while five other police officers were injured, has never been released for trial by the Nigerian Army.
So, tell me, why will criminality not thrive in Nigeria?
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