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MY 419 STORY

Posted by By TONY UDEMBA on 2008/05/11 | Views: 838 |

MY 419 STORY


When Mr. Ishmael Lightbourne, executive director of the World Bank, ran into a traditional ruler who goes by the name ‘Mustapha,’ abroad and learnt that the latter was a ‘diplomat,’ he could have counted his luck.

•World Bank chief reveals how he was defrauded and the EFCC intervention

When Mr. Ishmael Lightbourne, executive director of the World Bank, ran into a traditional ruler who goes by the name ‘Mustapha,’ abroad and learnt that the latter was a ‘diplomat,’ he could have counted his luck.

This was even more so as the ‘diplomat’ told him he had some business connections in South Africa, Ghana and Mali and wanted a partnership to explore them.

Lightbourne, who wanted to make investment in Africa, had jumped at the offer, perhaps hoping that the friendship of a ‘diplomat’ would be worth the while. Unfortunately, he miscalculated, as ‘Mustapha’ milked him dry. Not even his training as accountant and a chartered accountant, for that matter, raised his antenna to know that he had entered into the trap of a fraudster or what is called ‘419’ in local parlance.

Before his eyes were opened to the fraudster’s game, he had lost $1.4 million.
However, luck did not desert Lightbourne totally. He shouted to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which came to his rescue. So far, the EFCC has recovered some money from the fraudster, which was given back to the World Bank chief. The anti-graft commission has also promised to recover all the money involved and return same to him.

Lightbourne spoke to Daily Sun on his experience and the EFCC intervention. He is full of praise for the anti-graft commission for its professionalism. He also sets an agenda for the Federal Government in the fight against corruption.

How and when did you get involved with ‘Mustapha,’ who eventually duped you?
A friend introduced me to Mustapha from Africa, who wanted my assistance, financial and otherwise, on a transaction he was engaged in. I met Mustapha personally, in the summer of 2002 and he represented himself as a career diplomat for Nigeria with involvement in South Africa, Ghana and Mali. He invited me to become involve in a mineral and mining venture in Ghana. I was introduced to the Chairman of the Ghana Mining Corporation, with a view to becoming involved in investments in the mining and extractive industry.

How much was involved?
Over the period of about two years, 2002 to 2004, I transferred approximately US$1.4 million to Mustapha.

How much has the EFCC recovered?
I learnt through my legal representatives in Nigeria that the EFCC has recovered approximately US$800,000 in assets from Mustapha and others of his associates. However, I have not yet received a direct confirmation from the EFCC in this respect. However, through Mr. Lamorde, who was then director for the EFCC, I received a total of US$80,000 between 2004 and 2005. I have not received anything thereafter, but I am hopeful that once the case against Mustapha is concluded, there would be the possibility of a substantial distribution in the near future.

What is your level of confidence in the EFCC, especially now that Lamorde has taken over?
To my knowledge, Mr. Lamorde's involvement in this matter commenced around December 2004, at which time he notified me that the EFCC was investigating the fraudulent activities of Mustapha and urged me to cooperate with his investigation. I provided documentary evidence of the payments made to Mustapha for investment purposes and he promised that the money would be recovered and returned. I have had communications with Mr. Lamorde several times during the past four years, in his capacity as director of the EFCC and he has always assured me that once the court case is concluded, the funds already recovered would be returned.

I accept his assurance entirely and because he is thoroughly familiar with my case and now in his capacity as acting Chairman of the EFCC, I am even more convinced that once the case is successfully completed, the funds would be returned.

What is your view about the recent Nigeria's position on Rule of law and fight against corruption?
The country of Nigeria has suffered greatly in the eyes of the international community because there is a perception that fraudulent practices are rampant, not only within the country itself, but in the aggressive and relentless practice of some of its citizens to fraudulently manipulate people from any country. This certainly is not a good reputation for a country to have and certainly, should not be the kind of reputation that the Nigerian citizens would want its beloved country to have. Accordingly, it is incumbent upon the Nigerian government to not only establish but also implement the rule of law to fight the ugly scars of corruption and to restore the good name of its country.

Based on your experiences with the "419" dupes in Nigeria, what lessons have you learnt?
I still receive many scam communications via e-mail, fax and ordinary mail. I have learnt from bitter experience and from the several documentaries that have been shown on the ‘419’ scams to stay as far away as possible from this unlawful and dangerous business.

What assurances has the EFCC given you to recover fully your money?
I have received assurances from the EFCC from time to time that it would make every effort to recover my money. The process has been long and sometimes I have felt that the goal would not be accomplished. I was particularly concerned with the fact that my repeated request of the EFCC to disclose exactly the amount of money they have recovered so far has gone unanswered. But I have not lost hope and now with Mr. Lamorde's elevation to the position of acting Chairman of the EFCC I have even greater expectation of a substantial recovery of my funds.

What is your advice to Nigerian government in her war against corruption?
The Nigerian government is the custodian or the trustee of the good name of the people and country. It, therefore, has a representative and responsibility to vigorously promote and uphold the good name of Nigeria and to implement measures to eradicate corruption for the sake of its own citizenry and to rid the rest of the world of this menacing problem.

The country should continue to fight corruption both at home and abroad and to work assiduously to build strong institutions and citizens of good character and to raise the national consciousness to fight against corruption in all forms and places. The government should establish good governance in all government institutions and to urge its citizens and private sector corporations to do the same.
It should also practise the golden rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’

What connection do you have with Global Society for Anti-corruption?
I am deeply indebted to the heroic and bold efforts of the NGO, Global Society For Anti-Corruption; its President, Frank Ezeona and others in the organization for their hard, unselfish and untiring work to rid Nigeria of corruption. I am grateful for their efforts to restore money and property to those, like myself, who have been defrauded. The government and people of Nigeria also owe the organization a debt of gratitude because of their work to rid Nigeria of corruption and establish good governance and the rule of law. Unfortunately, this organization needs more recruits and needs greater funding from the public and the government, if it is to carry on its noble mission to banish corruption and to restore stolen property to their rightful owners.

The group’s president has been particularly strong and diligent in representing me sometimes without the proper funding. He has kept me informed about every new development in the case and has given honourable and professional representation so far. For this, I am truly grateful.

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Comments (3)

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Abieyuwa(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Otasowie means evening life is better than morning life. There is an error in your “evening life is better than evening life”?

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Naija g(Houston, Minnesota, US)says...

Sokari doesn’t mean joy. Joy is Biobela. Go to the village and ask the meaning of the name.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.