419: A Nigerian Scam
A creative non-fiction tribute to its victims
The hot sun was burning everything that it could set its hands on and this included Nkiru Nnanni. Nkiru couldn’t breathe. The hot, humid air was doing nothing but burning and suffocating her lungs. Holding a luggage filled with all her personal belongings, she couldn’t decide what to do next. There was no way she could face her family now. She was a pure disgrace. She had been waiting in front of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport for almost twenty-four hours. The last time they had talked was the day she transferred the money into his account. He told her the date of the flight departure and instructed her to wait in front of Door E, where he would meet her so they could fly to Morocco together. She had already tried calling him several times but his phone was switched off. Later on, she would learn that he was no longer residing in the hotel. It took her a while to realise that it was a scam. He gave her hope and made her dream and then he took it all away.
She used to be a waiter in a four-star hotel in Lagos but everything changed since the Arabian man promised her a better life in Obodo Ibo. She met him while serving at the hotel’s bar and recognised him as a white man, as most Nigerians do. It doesn’t matter if a person is Indian, European, Arabian, or Latin American; Nigerians classify most people with pale skin as white because they cannot tell the difference. These white people are also seen as wealthy expatriates and tourists who lavish their money on the most ridiculous things. She became nervous and agitated because she was assigned to serve his food. She walked to his table, trying so hard to look composed as she balanced the tray of his stewed snails, pepper soup, and bottle of Eva non-alcoholic red wine on her fidgety, sweaty, right palm.
“Here is your food, Sir,” she announced in a very tiny, mouse-like voice. She couldn’t muster the courage to look into his eyes. If she did, he would captivate her, and the true feelings inside her will be revealed.
“Thank you, my darling,” he replied. His voice sounded like feathers floating in air during the Harmattan season. It travelled its way softly to her ears and neck and massaged its way down her spine.
She finally looked up to see his face properly. He was a young man, probably about thirty years old with shoulder-length brown hair and eyes that seemed to glimmer in the light. It struck her at once that he looked like the picture of Jesus that hung on her mother’s wall with the inscription, “Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have mercy on Us.”
She caught herself smiling at him and decided to lay his plates on the table swiftly, wearing an exaggerated frown so he couldn’t perceive how unprofessional she really was. Then he grabbed her hand in a very seductive manner and placed N5,000 in it. “This is to say thank you,” he smiled. “I need you to clear my plates so I can talk to you.”
Even though it was against the hotel policy to accept money from clients, Nkiru collected the money from him and hid it in her bra when she was out of sight. She saw him smiling at her as she approached his table to clear his plates so she decided to sway her hips from side to side in a more pronounced fashion.
“You’re very beautiful, you know that?” He flirted. The line was superficial but coming from him, she appreciated his compliment and felt her head get warmer with an increased blood flow. “I’d like to know you better. I see a promising future ahead of you.”
* * *
“I don’t have that kind of money.” She confessed, feeling a little bit embarrassed.
“Look, woman, it’s just 200,000 naira and that goes to your passport and Moroccan visa. I’m going to be paying your tuition, rent, food and shelter when we get to Morocco. This is the least you can provide to let me know that you take this seriously. You told me you wanted to be a lawyer and I’m willing to help you.”
“I do take this seriously. In fact, this is the best thing, I mean, you are the best thing that has ever happened to me,” she replied ecstatically. “I would have the money by next week.”
They had been dating for only a week and everything escalated so quickly. They were on a brief boat ride called “lust” and now he was promising to make her realise her dreams. This was her future and it seemed very bright, and she would make it happen by borrowing some money from her parents.
“Mama, Papa, my hotel is transferring me to a new hotel in Morocco. They will pay me twenty times more of my current salary but they won’t cover the cost of my passport and visa so I need to borrow some money.”
Why did she have to lie? She refused to accept that she lied because she thought she was in love, although she knew deep down that he wasn’t worth trusting. How would she narrate her story to her parents? She was going to tell them the truth this time, even though she risked losing their love. Losing the money wasn’t the worst part of the situation. It was the fact that her parents will never see her in the same light again.