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Nigerian scam turns full circle

The other day a Nigerian promised me wealth beyond compare on the internet. You know that sort of thing – Ben Ahore entreating your help for transfer of money from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company etc etc. I’ve known some Nigerians, very good and very bad, so I laughed and moved on. There’s no telling what they will do, as in the story of our computer technician Simon and his compatriots, not so long ago in The Gambia.

Simon and wife Nene were made for each other. Simon, tall, charmingly polite, dreamy eyes. Nene, much younger, flashier and a rather conspicuous consumer. If Simon came across to fix your computer (which generally turned into a community effort) Nene would keep us all company with her throaty laugh. Shamefully, I must admit, I’d hide our precious Indian snacks in the larder, and serve plain lemonade.

Famous Indian hospitality? Absolute sham, if you compare it with the Nigerians!

Late one evening, leaving church and entering Fajara’s main road (so full of potholes you’d rather drive on the sanded path) Nene shrieked and Simon braked. Right in front of the car, a waiflike young woman and man and a skeletal male adult, loomed like spirits in the dusk.

Who were they? Nigerian refugees, escaping the civil war in Sierra Leone. Hungry, tired, nowhere to go.

Simon and Nene looked at each other. While driving, Simon had been dreaming of bagging a huge maintenance contract, Nene about juicy chunks of chicken Afra. Between the two of them they had a few Dalasi notes, a few coins and not even this equivalent in the bank. But Nene was carrying with her the halo of Sunday service and, deep down, there were the stirrings of her African lineage…destiny…spirits in the dark…Simon shook his head but Nene looked deeply at Simon, and anyway, it was the witching hour. Victorious, Nene transported the three destitutes home, whipped up a pot of peanut stew, and made strange beds among the computers and the peripherals.

Nene shone with a Christian light. Simon, having acquired three more assistants, walked in a mini-procession like a Nigerian chieftain. When they came to us on a service call, we were covertly hostile. And watered down the lemonade.

One week, two weeks…Simon gave his ramshackle car on hire to feed his community of five, walked to work, worried about the contract. He’d already bought mountains of equipment on borrowed money for the job! For his guests, sleeping was a little too snug among the cartons.

Three weeks. His Nigerian brethren told them that in another day or so Western Union would salvage them.

Fourth week. Sunday evening and the entire entourage was at church. The girl whispered to Nene she needed to relieve herself. As Nene sang on devoutly with the choir, Simon noticed that his two Nigerian brothers were missing. Maybe for a smoke?

They hunted for them. And then they went home.

What a home. It was clean. Not a single computer or printer or modem. The neighbors were surprised to see them back. They’d been told Simon and co were shifting house.

The hunt for the trio began. Simon and Nene borrowed some more money (Nigerians will always help Nigerians), retrieved their car, took the ferry to Bara, and crossed into Senegal at the Karang border. Eating dust and oranges, passing forests of baobabs, they rolled into Dakar. The trail went cold.

One week, two weeks, three weeks, helped by Nigerian friends and funding, they hunted in different churches for their quarry. Because most Nigerians, however scammy they are, can’t survive without a Sunday dose of gospel music. On the fourth Sunday, weary and about to quit, Simon and Nene entered a suburban church, and stopped with shock. The gang was in front of them, kneeling, their eyes down on their hymn books - clearly a trap laid by prayer!

Of course the finale couldn’t have taken place without the help of the Senegalese cops who for once dropped their French to make the arrest in English. And followed it up quickly with claims for promotions.

Strangely, the story does not end here. For another month, till the court held proceedings and the trio marked time as under trials in a Senegal jail, Nene wept, stirred, cooked and carried special Nigerian food for them.

Why? Simon just shakes his head. You have to be a Nigerian to figure it out.

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