I just returned from a reporting trip to Nigeria, where I was traveling around the country talking to terrorism experts, nomadic cattle herders, and government officials about how global warming affects conflict in the country. As a newswire reporter focused on the terrorist group Boko Haram, he was able to provide crucial context for my story.But Michael* also grew up a “street boy,” meaning he was able to make fast friends in the slum villages and farming communities we visited.(Ditto.) They asked to hire me out for a day for one of their cons because, they said, my white skin would bolster their credibility.“Black man believes that white man is reality,” Danjuma explains. Sheye and Danjuma say they are each worth about $60,000, in a country where more than 70 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day.Ten years ago, Sheye and Danjuma, who are both in their mid-30s, say they could make up to 2 million naira—about $12,000—per Yahoo job, but the “US are very wise” now, Sheye says.They typically only make about $200 per “client” these days, though they know other scammers who still rake in millions of naira through the email schemes.He said there was no way that his dudes would talk for less than $600. So I offered $100 for a rare glimpse at the human faces behind the syntax-challenged spam. I sat down with Sheye and Danjuma* on the back patio of a fancy duplex in an upscale neighborhood in one of the country’s main cities, and the two dished on their craft, constantly interrupting each other as they downed bottles of Nigerian Star lager and chain-smoked.
The two say they own homes worth about a quarter million dollars each.Yes, Nigerian scam artists, like the ones who send you emails purporting to be from an African prince who will pay you to help him move $3 million into your country, and all you have to do is give him your bank account number.I told Michael I wanted to interview his scammer friends. But I figured I’d be doing a public service by distracting the scammers from conning old folks for a couple hours.He put himself through college, and after working as a Nigerian soap opera actor and door-to-door men’s clothing salesman, he clawed his way into journalism.