The year 2000. The new millennium. I and my wife marked the occasion by doing what comes naturally to people of our age. I’m sure I needn’t go into all the details. As soon as June had arrived, we abandoned our shyness, went up to the spare bedroom in the attic and indulged ourselves for the first time ever. The future was now. We surfed into the internet. And what a wide weird wired dotcom world we found. At the press of a button, and after a bit of a wait for the connection, much of humanity began to reach out to us through the laptop. Our own name, Dykes, called up many interesting pages. And the communications I’ve been honoured to receive since almost defy belief. I have discovered that I’m famous, particularly in parts of western Africa.
My first inkling of this came with the receipt of an e-mail from no less a person than Dr George Akin. Dr Akin is the Director and Funds Co-ordinator of the Finance/Contract Department of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, based in Lagos, Nigeria. In July he kindly informed me, “this ministry is now compiling beneficiaries to be paid this first quarter of 2000”, and very punctual too. He and his colleagues had uncovered certain accounting irregularities, and had tracked down US$41.5M to the Apex Bank, which they thought best to transfer abroad. Touchingly, they wondered whether they could store the money on my bank account, and offered me 25%. They also sought to rely on my advice as regards investments in blue chip companies in my country.
Three months later, I was entrusted with a confidential communication from Togo. A family, originally from Sierra Leone, had been left without a father; an unnamed victim of war. His illiterate, but mathematically gifted wife had virtually nothing left with which to feed her children, other than a few trinkets stored in a vault in Lome. She estimated them to be worth hardly more than US$250 million. Her good friend, Mr Jika Abdulkarim informed me of this horror. He sought an honest person to assist in his efforts to help. My reward would be handsome.
A message arrived in December from the desk of Dr Sherrif Musa. This capable piece of furniture supports the work of “THE PRINCIPAL ACCOUNTANT TO NIGERIAN NATIONAL PETROLEUM CORPORATION (NNPC).” Its keyboard skills are impressive. Most tables can’t type at all, and its inability to use lower case letters is a trivial matter. Dr Musa’s desk went on to report its membership of a “FIVE MEN COMMITTEE….TO VERIFY AND INVESTIGATE CONTRACTUAL PAYMENTS OF THE MINISTRY.” These diligent souls discovered US$14.5 million “FLOATING IN A SUSPENSE ACCOUNT”, which sounds interesting but is apparently not unprecedented in Lagos. In its own words, “WE DISCOVERED MORE SEVENTY-TWO SIMILAR CASES BUT WERE RECOVERED TO THE GOVERNMENT CONFER.” My name was recommended to the desk by Ms Regina Huchmutt, the Paraguayan lady who works at the World Information Technology Institute. I don’t wish to offend furnishings furnishing business opportunities, but I can’t help thinking three million for my services is a bit low.
Christmas came and New Year went, so it was nice to be reminded of the season of good will by the cheery greetings from Usman Bello, received on January 9th. Mr Bello, I hardly need say, is the Chief Auditor of the Review/Audit. Surprisingly, his committee have “uncovered a floating amount of $50.5 USD in a deliberate act of over-invoicing”. I assume he means millions. This would appear to happen daily in Lagos, where my good friend Usman also lives. Perhaps he should get in touch with Dr George and Sherrif’s desk.
Two days later, I received more sad tidings from Togo. I was informed by his first son, Dr Victor, that CJ Sankou had been killed during the fighting in Sierra Leone. Whilst in government, CJ had secured US$20.5 million, which he kept in a metal trunk in the vaults of his villa. I never knew villas in Sierra Leone had vaults. Before his death, he gave everything to Dr Victor for safe keeping. This was shortly after CJ’s mother “died as a result of heart attack when she was carrying a 6 months pregnancy,” something many pensioners would find hard to cope with. Having lost their father, grandmother and unborn uncle or aunt, you would have thought this family had suffered enough, but unfortunately life can be cruel. “Now we are on exile here in Togo since after the coup, we are suffering here in Togo. We are Subjected to severe hard conditions, please sir help us in the name of God almighty the most merciful and most gracious.”
My heart goes out to Dr Victor and surviving family members. Stuck in Togo with nothing other than a mobile telephone, a computer, 20.5 million dollars and a good friend who works at the Ministry of Chambers of Commerce, Mines and Agriculture, who gave him my name. He also had the decency to offer 30%.
On January 15th, Dr James Osondu, of Eco Bank of Africa, told me about one of his customers. A plane had crashed in November 1997, and the poor man and his entire family were killed. “We have been expecting his next of kin to come over and claim hismoney,” (unlikely in the circumstances). “But unfortunately,” he continues, “his supposed nextof kin or elation died along side with him.” That his elation should have perished suprises me not. In Togo, the banking law “erestipulates that if such money remained unclaimed after five years,” (it would) “be transfered into the Bank treasury as unclaimed fund.” Dr James asks me to be that nextof kin, also for 30%. He received my details “through one lady who works with togo chember of commerce”, which might indicate a contact of Regina Huchmutt’s.
It was eleven days later when the e-mail from Iky Nobis arrived, The Chairman, Contract Awardind Committee of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). He’d found my information in a directory from the Togolaise Chamber of Commerce and Industries, where I appear to be a household name. Iky asks me to forgive his indignation, should his message be a surprise. He has no reason to be indignant. All his colleagues were impressed with my profile, which is nice to know. This explains why they wish to place US$10 milion into my personal or company’s bank account, money accrued from the ECOMOG intervention in Sierra Leone and Liberia. “This DEAL was deliberately hatched out and carefully protected with all the attendant lope holes sealed off.” Their belief “in the non-stable and sporous political nature of this sub-region,” could not fairly be called groundless. But I’m not sure that, for only 15%, I’m prepared to accord my unalloyed and due co-operation as asked.
Nevertheless, I shall leave the last words to Mr Iky Nobis. “We hope to retire peacefully and lead a honourable business life afterwards: There are no risks involved.”
(Forgive me, Dr.koffi Kilo of Togo. Your news of $US 45M arrived too late for this article.)
This essay is part of an on-going examination of the theme. As of 25.6.2004, the author has received 7,976 tempting business offers. His personal fortune presently amounts to $194.323 billon and he’s easily the largest economy in West Africa. The fatal casualties total 9,875, 574 of whom are President Abachas.
Update to Update
Chief Richard Ferdinand, Mr Frank Eze, Mr Kelvin Koffi…