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Sunday, May 19, 2024

When couples are partners in crime

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On 4th of January 2024, yours faithfully woke up from the wrong side of my bed, feeling like I don’t want to go to work today even when as the head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA), I had scheduled a major media conference which is the first in the new year 2024.

What came to my mind was a particular popular song by some European singers few years back who were actually singing that they don’t want to do anything on a particular day and that they will simply sleep, wake up, have their bath, eat and go back to sleep.

I really cant figure out the identity of those musical team members but i can remember graphically that they were each mimicking in a video recording, series of decorated monkeys who were just lazying joyfully around the room.

The rhythm of that award winning song promoting relaxation dominated my thinking faculty except for one necessary distraction: my daily reading of news copies from Nigeria and globally.

That necessary distraction not withstanding, the nostalgia of the just ended Yuletide period which I spent in my hometown of Arondizuogu, was hanging all over me like a sweetened bunch of banana fruits falling on top of me from a very well cultivated farmland somewhere in Arondizuogu.

So, I decided to just relax some more hours on my bed before heading out to carry out my mandatory press briefing which we had long scheduled at our non-governmental organisation.

It was whilst I was in a relaxation mood, browsing through the Internet for local news about Nigeria that I ran into a particularly intriguing news copy from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Mind you, the EFCC has recently become the cynosure of all eyes from curious Nigerians who are simply imagining if this government anti-graft institution has become a new body that will say and mean what they say regarding the crusade against growing trend of corruption and economic crimes involving top government officials. If truth be told, the majority of Federal government ministries, agencies and parastatals, have become cesspool of corruption.

Recently, the EFCC tweeted a so-called interview granted by the erstwhile Petroleum minister Mrs. Deziani-Alluson Maduekwe which purports to state that she made s confessional statements which a section of the British media carried in which the current governor of Zamfara was implicated in alleged money laundering. But the EFCC quickly deleted that post from their social media account. Predictably, nobody in Nigeria is concerned about such a mind-blowing revelation for whatever it is worth.

But this story isn’t just about the routine news copies about the EFCC parading some youngsters over suspected cases of been involved in advanced fees fraud. It is not about the fallacy made by the EFCC’s head in which he accused 7 out of every higher institution’s students of doing ‘yahooyahoo’ or advanced fees fraud.

The story was of a deeper genre which have both the social and cultural dimensions which I think the scholars of social studies or sociology ought to go into broader research to ascertain the trigger for such a social trend.

The story is about the observation made by the EFCC that couples in Nigeria are increasingly getting entangled in criminal cases of frauds and advanced fees fraud.

Also, the EFCC did something particularly impressive: they proffered the fundamentals behind the unprecedented scale of couples in Nigeria getting involved in such crimes as aforementioned.

The Head, Cybercrime of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Nura Buhari, attributed the increase in the number of couples committing crimes to greed and loss of traditional values.

“It’s just the 21st century generation where people believe they can make money through the internet by identifying a glitch or system weakness and committing fraud,” Buhari said in an interview with one of the nation’s fast growing online newspapers.

The EFCC official was reacting to the rising number of couples caught by the agency for their involvement in internet fraud.

On 28th November 2023, the Commission arraigned a couple, Oriyomi Idowu and Ruth Idowu, before Justice Mojisola Dada of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos over false pretence, money laundering, stealing, retention of stolen property and forgery to the tune of N2,757,188,000.00.

The couple were arraigned alongside Food Commodity Processing Enterprise, Bonway Food Processing Company Limited, Samee Idowu Company Limited and Farmex Integrated Companies Limited, which all belong to Ruth Idowu.

According to EFCC, sometime in 2023 in Lagos, Ruth converted the sum of N10,000,000 to purchase a GLK Benz, purchase sum derived from converting the sum of N500,000,000 belonging to Creditpro Business Support Services with the aim of disguising the illegal origin of the funds.

The accused also dishonestly retained the sum of N936,619,876 in UBA account, property of Creditpro Business Support services, knowing same to be funds fraudulently obtained from Creditpro Business Support Services but the defendants pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.

EFCC also arraigned another couple, Aisha Malkohi (a.k.a Ummitah, Arab Money) and her husband, Abubakar Sadiq Mahmoud (at large), over alleged fraud involving the sum of N410,518,000 meant for the purchase of cars from Saudi Arabia.

They were arraigned on 8th December 2023, before Justice Aisha Mahmud at Kano State High Court after they obtained the sum of N225,259,000 belonging to Farida Ibrahim between 6th January to 16th December, 2022.

The said money was reportedly paid into a Zenith Bank account bearing Abubakar Sadiq Mahmoud for the purchase and supply of 64 cars, from Saudi Arabia.

But Malkohi pleaded not guilty to all the five counts read to her.

Malkohi was arrested by EFCC investigators in Kano following a petition from two people–Farida Ibrahim and Ibrahim Mohammed Abdulrahman–alleging that she conspired with her husband and defrauded them under the guise of supplying them with cars, gold, electronics and kitchen utensils from Saudi Arabia.

EFCC carried out an investigation that revealed the defendant had collected a total sum of N410,518,000 through bank accounts belonging to her company–Golden Grass Hill International Ltd– and her husband’s Zenith Bank account.

Further investigation also revealed that the defendant, alongside her husband, who is still at large, diverted the monies into several bank accounts.

On 19th December 2023, the Enugu Zonal Command of the EFCC arraigned another couple, Mr. Udeani Sunday and his wife, Udeani Amaka, before Justice M.G. Umar of the Federal High Court sitting in Enugu.

They were arraigned on three-count charges bordering on obtaining the sum of N2,750,000.00 by false pretence in an alleged land fraud.

According to EFCC, between 10th July 2019 to 19th December 2019 in Enugu, the couple lured one Onugu Chinyere to deliver N2,750,000.00 to them under the pretence that they’d sell a plot of land behind Ebenezer Anglican Church, Ala-Uguaji along Enugu/Port Harcourt Road to her, but like the other couples they also pleaded not guilty and the case was adjourned till February 6, 2024.

Looking at these cases and the established harmonious pattern of couples increasingly becoming partners in the crime of fraud from a deeper philosophical point of view, is actually left for philosophers and free thinkers like us to weigh in. So why are couples who ought to behave as embodiment of good behaviour and the supposed teachers of morality and ethics to their children, now turning around to become undesirable social elements?

The EFCC has actually done us the philosophers the favour of pointing towards a very disquieting development in the underworld which should and must be further researched upon to reach a far-reaching understanding of the various underlying dimensions.

This is exactly what I set out in this essay to achieve and first, my initial point of call was a researched document done for the Pontifical commission by some scholars who I believe are Nigerians given the background of the information they shared concerning the genesis, essence and texture of what family means especially in the African milieu.

These Pontifical scholars saw the family as the smallest and oldest institution in society is important for the growth and development of society. It is the building block of society. The family takes a central role in the survival of the society as a whole, both for biological and social reproductions (Olutayo & Omobowale, 2006).

These scholars argued that in Nigeria, marriage is a pathway for the existence of the family. The family is considered a primary aspect of an individual’s life. There is a high value placed on marriage and the family, and most individuals will identify their families as the most important thing in their lives.

However, in their understanding, with modernization, industrialization, urbanization, and globalization, there is a shift in how marriage and family are now viewed. This is so true. Marriage in the 21st century is even beginning to take certain unpalatable shapes which is diametrically opposed to the entrenched traditional implications of marriage especially from the angle of what exactly constitutes marriage as it were.

Nevertheless, these scholars aforementioned stated that marriage and family have experienced fundamental changes, and this has major consequences to individuals and the society. Therefore, this presentation will focus on the changing patterns of African marriage and family in Nigeria and will discuss the historical analysis of marriage and family systems in the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial era; the delimiting factors affecting marriage and family systems; visible areas of changes in marriage and family; the future of marriage and family; the importance of family in the present generation; and practical ways to improve marriage and family systems.

On the definition of marriage and family (the philosophical, social, and economic viewpoint of marriage), the social scientists stated that marriage and family are crucial systems in society. They are always linked together. They have a historical background and are as old as man on earth. The present definition of marriage is different from what it was several years ago. Marriage was defined as the union of a man and a woman for reproduction reasons. However, the definition has changed globally. Today, marriage can be defined with different viewpoints, as an institution, a partnership, and as a responsibility. Generally, marriage can be defined as the legally recognized union between two persons that is based on a sexual relationship. The philosophical basis for this union is that man should not be alone, but rather have a union that is completely legal and long-lasting; a legal union that is socially and religiously acceptable for sex and procreation. Socially, marriage forms the base of a family that helps in the transmission of cultural values from one generation to another. Economically, marriage is regarded as a legal union between two people that creates room for mutual gainful interdependence.

Similarly, there are various meanings people give to what constitutes a family. The conservatives will define the family as a social group made up of the father, mother, children, and other extended family members. Sociologically, what constitutes a family is much more complex. A family is defined as a social group that is joined by either blood, marriage, and adoption that serves as the economic unit of the society. Because the family is the bedrock of a society, the state must protect families. The Nigerian marriage and family systems have undergone several changes in society and these changes keep defining whether marriage and family are really functional or necessary in modern society (https:/www.pass.va/en/events/2021/family_ecology/eghafona.html).

There are actually a formidable body of scholarly works on the renowned African cultural values, one of which states that in Africa, the sense of family unit, ethics and etiquette are fundamental to understanding who the African is at all times.

Interestingly, a reputable philosopher and theologian, Reverend father Oliver Onwubiko one of our professors during my years as a Philosophy student in Nekede Owerri under the Claretians Institute of Philosophy, has done a body of scholarship on African cultural values. He listed the following African cultural values: sense of community life; sense of good human relations; sense of sacredness of life; sense of hospitality; sense of the sacred and religion.

From the above, it is unambiguous to assert that the cause of the degeneration that we see happening within the family system in Nigeria, has to do with what Anthropologists identified as social change theory. When the media of mass communication including the social are now dominating their platforms with contents that are poorly produced with the central them of justifying the pursuit of money by all means as the contemporary culture universally.

We will look at a publication of the journal of anthropology that was done in 2012 to understand in broader perspective why couples are increasingly committing crimes which are antithetical to the respected African tradional and cultural values of a sense of respect for honesty and the good name of the family units.

The Anthropologists stated as follows: “Odetola [6] see “social change as primary change in social relation.” Succinctly put, social change means change in social structure, within the framework of such structural changes, in social institutions.”

“Basic institutions perform function for the society, thus these basic institutions are dynamic and adaptive to changes. It should be noted that the environment of social structure requires certain amount of persistence in some of their features in order to perform that expected function. But observations portray that society and indeed components of social structure change continuously though often imperceptibly. Social change could either bring about progress for the members of a society or visit them with retrogression. As human beings collectively adapt themselves to their environment, they bring about changes to their ways of life.”

“But for the purpose of the status quo, we are concerned about the changes that transform the fabric of our culture occasion our forgotten values day in day out. The applicability of this theory is that it has strongly affected the ways of doing things in all societies. The urbanization and industrialization have altered the totality of our social institutions, not living the political and economic systems unaffected. The Nuclearization of the family has also negatively touched the socialization and internalization processes.”

“In a nutshell, the factors responsible for social change have brought about major changes in the traditional-to-modern society. Since change is inevitable, cultural dynamics of any society cannot be foreclosed be it in form of cultural accumulation, that is, addition of new traits to the already existing ones or cultural reduction, or cultural diffusion which is infusion of new cultural traits. All this can still be in a way checkmated,” (www.hindawi.com).

The lesson is that families in Nigeria should and must return back to the days of yore and embrace a revisiting of the renowned African cultural value systems especially as it relates to the family, hardwork, and the sense of honesty.

I remember vividly that my late father Mazi Osonduagwuike Okorieocha Onwubiko once asked me, as a 14 year old Senior Secondary school student, how I got the resources to buy a brand new set of shoes which at that time wasn’t even more than N10,000 but was actually the reigning fashion of that epoch.

But as far as my father was concerned, accountability and transparency were his hallmarks and he made it mandatory that his children will never be permitted to bring in materials or items of suspicious sources or origin.

Recently too, a story in the media was about a mother in Delta State who turned down an offer of a brand new Mercedes benz automobile bought by her undergraduate son in his late tens. The mother refused to accept the car gift because the son is just a student and has no validly traceable source of incomes.

It turned out that the boy was into ‘yahooyahoo’ or advanced fees fraud.

The contemporary society as it were, has their work cut out and it is imperative that we once more accept and embrace those authentic African cultural values that promote honesty, hard work, and the sense of the sacred and religion.

If this done, couples wouldn’t want to stain their reputation by going into crime because as the popular saying in Africa says that “good name is better than dirty money” and this should be our national mantra rather than the current madness about chasing money and making money by all means.

Emmanuel Onwubiko is the head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) And was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER OF THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.

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