One of the earliest letters I received from Nigeria (before the Internet – postage/envelope/letter inside/a “real” signature) invited me to help out an individual there who was a relative of a prince and had a very substantial bank account in New York, but they could not access the funds there (millions of dollars) without my help. Hmmm….
Nigeria has had a reputation for scammers for a long time. The Internet gave these scammers new fuel and new ways to catch people in their lair. These scammers are sophisticated and the reason they don’t give up is because it works. Nevertheless, the reputation that has befallen Nigeria is not one that should be allowed to perpetuate. I remember the first time I met my good friend from Lagos, attorney Ayo Kusamotu, on a phone call and we talked about a legal problem regarding trademarks and online dispute resolution for a long time. He suddenly interrupted me to say “thank you.” I asked him “for what?” And he said “for not bringing up the Nigerian scammers.”
It never occurred to me to bring up scamming – it is everywhere and it shouldn’t be attributed to one country or another. Ijeoma Ononogbu, another Nigerian colleague of mine, began her recent presentation on the state of justice in the African Union during Cyberweek, and she pointed out that Nigeria has adopted a broad based cybersecurity initiative designed to increase trust for online commerce; an absolute prerequisite for its growth. And last week, yet another colleague from Lagos, Morenike Obi-Farinde LL.M, FCIArb (UK), (founder of www.e-consumersolve.com), organized a first ever training program between InternetBar.org Institute and the Nigerian Bar Association on the use of practical technology techniques for online dispute resolution. Led by IBO board member Dan Rainey, there were 41 attendees.
Scamming may be endemic to the Internet – but building the foundation of trust to overcome it is in the genes of my Nigerian attorney friends. Transformation is in their hands, and they are doing great works.