When ethnicity trumps nationality, unity cannot abound

Nigeria was thrown into chaos yesterday when news of a published United States domestic intelligence and secret police service, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) list broke. While Nigerians are known in the bad image of perpetrators of fraudulent activities, the citizens and government alike have done nothing to actively change the narrative. Instead, angry debates along ethnic lines began trending on social media. #IgboYahooBoys

80 #IgboYahooBoys have not been found guilty of fraud but 23 Nigerians who are all from the two tribes that were claiming sainthood, yoruba and hausa-fulani are to be executed in Saudi Arabia cos drug trafficking. Dis is a case of ité igwē calling kettle black. #Yorubadrugdealers pic.twitter.com/6FtEoBEQE3— DANGOTE SIDE CHICK 💧 (@honilatte) August 25, 2019

A 252-count United States’ federal grand jury indictment charged 77 Nigerian nationals with participating in a massive conspiracy to steal millions of dollars through a variety of fraud schemes and launder the funds through a Los Angeles-based money laundering network. The indictment follows alleged uncovering of fraudulent activities by the FBI for which full details and identities of the 80 suspected fraudsters were released.

The FBI which is the lead federal agency for investigating cyber attacks by criminals, overseas adversaries and terrorists have already began arrests of indicted Nigerians in collaboration with Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). Many chain stores and financial institutions, on the other hand, have withdrawn their Westen Union Transfer services to Nigeria after the full names and details of the alleged Nigerian fraudsters were released.

However, in a dire situation involving reputation, investor relations and the possible hindrance of future business transactions involving Nigerians, the government is failing to step up to its duties. Citing previous success with extraditing Nigerian citizens to the United States, attorney Nicola Hanna says the United States will seek to extradite indicted defendants believed to be in Nigeria.

In an interview on Nigeria’s Channels Television, Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu stated that, “Every citizen of this country who travels out of the country is required to obey the laws of their host countries. The (Nigeria) government would not stand in the way of the justice system.”

While it is not satisfactory the Nigeria’s crimes commission is assisting in attempting to rid the country of crime, what is unwelcome is that a foreign government alleged that Nigerian citizens committed fraudulent crimes and instead of seeking evidence, demanding a fair trial or conducting a counter investigation, the government has already assumed they are guilty and are willing to extradite those in Nigeria to the United States to face trial.

The list included names of high profiled Nigerians, including Forbes 30 under 30 Obinwanne Okeke who was arrested in an $11 million Business Email Compromise (BEC) fraud case.

Obinwanne Okeke aka ‘Invictus Obi’, the Nigerian Businessman, that was arrested by the FBI for a $11 million fraud, was a Forbes Contributor & a Young African Business Leader nominee. He was on BBC News Africa, CNBC Africa, London School of Economics Africa Summit and TEDxYABA. pic.twitter.com/hbazhUqlO9— Africa Facts Zone (@AfricaFactsZone) August 17, 2019

Quite alright internet fraud has been on the increase, however, the FBI list and the perception that Nigerians are fraudulent people have failed to ensure nationalism triumphs over ethnicism. According to a report, by one of the world’s largest providers of financial markets data and infrastructure, Refinitiv, titled Innovation and the fight against financial crime: How data and technology can turn the tide, almost 72 percent of organisations have been victims of financial crime over the past 12 months with a lax approach to due diligence checks when onboarding new customers, suppliers and partners.

Nigeria is home to over 250 ethnic groups that speak over 500 languages. The three largest ethnic groups are the Hausa 27.4 percent, Yoruba 21 percent and Igbo 14.1 percent. Ethnicity has been a political tool used to divide Nigeria from time immemorial and it has been a major challenge to national unity.

In place of a single identity as one Nigeria, ethnic consciousness propagated by the largest ethnic groups have stimulated inter-ethnic tensions and have led to the death of nationalism. Sadly, a bad reputation was not strong enough to unite Nigerians.