Friday, April 11, 2008

Christian Morals, Western Ethics and the Nigerian Dilema

Scams campaign: Launched by Nigerian authorities

First off I am not a supporter of these scammers and don't have any interests in Nigerian con scams. (Just had to make sure we are clear).

This post has been inspired by one at The Field Negro's
Why take the check about mostly Nigerian and Ghanaian Internet scams that we have all seen. They look something like this;

"... Dear friend, TOP SECRET RE: TRANSFER OF ($6.5 USD) SIX MILLION FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS) I want to transfer to overseas the sum of ($6.5 USD) SIX Million Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars) from a Prime Bank in Africa . I would like to ask you to quietly look for a reliable and honest person who will be capable and fit to provide either an existing bank account or to set up a new Bank a/c immediately to receive this money...'.

Needless to say there is an interesting debate going on over there. The general impression I get is that people in America laugh them off as obvious and silly attempts by some third world thugs trying to get a piece of their pie. If you spoke to the British, these scums are way bigger than a piece of a pie as per this BBC report;

"...Such scams are thought to cost the UK up to £3.5bn a year and are growing because of abuse of the Internet and mobile phones.
They include such scams as people being offered cash or prizes in exchange for a fee, as well as men being conned out of thousands of pounds by fraudsters on dating websites...". Full report Cost of Nigerian Scams to Britain

The general approach to this discussion by Americans is that the scammers are African thugs, robbers, lowest of the low etc. One thing for sure is they are laughing their way to their banks.

Alright, let us backup abit, what these scammers are doing is wrong?! According to who? Its not Ethical? To whose ethics? Universally acceptable ethics you say. Okay let us define Universal then.

The Nigerian con philosophy is very simple. "The Europeans stole from us, took all our gold and now we have to go to their lands and get back what is owed to us".

I believe the Western part of Africa was the most plundered and exploited before independence of all parts of Africa. Ghana was then known as the Gold Coast and it was. Today is has no gold to boast of courtesy of the Europeans. The coast was so rich in Gold that during Mansa Musa's reign, a trip to Egypt by his entourage caused an inflation that lasted 12 years. All this changed with the arrival of Europeans. West Africa in particular lost more because it became the main source of slaves during the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade.

What were the moral and religious values of the time that let the Europeans plunder a continent so recklessly? For this one has to look at the works of Philosophers and religious values of the time.
All condemned such injustices to human nature. However there is a little problem, In old texts, philosophies and Christianity of old, ( And someone please correct me if I am wrong), the African being (we will stick to being for now) was not prominent/included in these texts and the works of the then greatest advocates for human rights. Africans were indeed a part of the Roman empire but they are close to non existent if you read the history books.
Even the bible is quite unclear except for the infamous Noah fable that is a recent spin.

Later Philosophers like Locke actually justified slavery of the African and it is said that he owned slaves himself. The Christians convinced themselves that the African was not fully human and so it was like owning a horse. The later "scientists" endorsed these beliefs with their "facts".

In short, universal ethical standards were applicable to everyone else except for the African being and this resulted in the complete dehumanization whose effects we still see today.
As a result of the abuse some have decided to 'reimburse' themselves because they know for sure no one will do it with a polite request.

The UK and Nigerian governments are working together to address the problem. I see this as a further waste of resources. Nothing is going to stop these guys.

So to those so quick to slam the scammers, ask, what ethics should the Nigerians be following? Those written by the West that never and still has trouble recognizing them as human beings with the same rights? What is the incentive there?

This is not to say that Africans don't have ethics. Every culture has its own ethical standards. One group may have a strong work ethic, while another is more relaxed and encourages street smarts.

Because of varying ethical values some laws in my country are not complete. For example our Parliament has failed to pass the domestic relations bill because of clashing values between tribes. (e.g. some embrace polygamy while others don't. So there has been a stalemate since independence).

So from a Western perspective with Western values, the Nigerian Scammer is a criminal but to the Nigerian scammer, he is fighting for his right to retrieve his stolen property that built the West and to restore his battered humanity.
And restoring his humanity may be a core value in his ethics. Does he not have the right to do that? How does one follow ethics written by humans that excluded him out of the humanity picture in the first place, exploited him and still won't recognize him as an equal?

Note; These same scammers have some equally talented western partners. We should not pretend that there are no outsiders involved.