Nigeria scams North Korea. Or vice versa.



Professor Haggard is a serious political scientist, so it was with mild astonishment that he passed along a KCNA piece which implied that there were at least five Nigerian organizations--The Nigerian Group for the Study of Kimjongilism, National Committee for the Study of the Juche Idea, Group for the Study of the Songun Politics, Group for the Study of the Juche Philosophy and Group for Self-Reliance Studies--dedicated to the study of juche thought. Having lived in West Africa, I just burst out laughing: “Poor North Koreans,” I thought, “easy marks.”

Nigeria is an incredibly corrupt country.  If scamming were an Olympic event, the Nigerians would sweep gold, silver, and bronze—and then persuade Jacques Rogge to swap the gold medals intended for women’s gymnastics for a trove of medals, reputedly from the 1912 games, recovered from the trunk of a dead foreigner who had been living in Jos.

But then again, according to Transparency International, North Korea is the world’s most corrupt country.  Its embassies and state organizations have been used in all sorts of scams, and Haggard and I estimated that at one time illicit revenues may have accounted for as much as 60 percent of export receipts. So when Nigeria meets North Korea, hold tight to your wallet!

So why might there be five juche- thought societies in Nigeria?

Hypothesis 1:  Nigerians like juche-thought! Hey, these are the folks that invented ju-ju and feel sorry for the rest of the world since they don’t know how to dance the highlife, so why not? And why five? It’s the African “Big Man” syndrome.  After the first juche-thought society was too small for the egos involved and abetted by tribalism, sectarian infighting has led to a multiplicity of juche-thought societies. Hmm. Maybe.

Hypothesis 2:  I do not come to you by chance.  As I observed in an earlier post on an odd unionist conclave in Jo’burg, while not as deep-pocketed as the Taiwanese, the North Koreans similarly seem to be willing to pay for acknowledgment and recognition.  The 419 scammers are expert on preying on this kind of neediness, and if the North Koreans are willing to cut the checks, the Nigerians are more than willing to supply the juche-thought societies.  Just introduce your uncle as the General Secretary of the Nigerian Group for the Study of Kimjongilism, Kaduna Branch, and your cousin as the Kano Branch’s Treasurer, and make sure the check clears before the North Koreans leave town. Why five?  That’s what the market will bear. Now we may be on to something.

Hypothesis 3: Scamsters of the World Unite! The North Koreans use their diplomatic privileges to import luxury autos duty free, then donate them to the Nigerian Group for the Study of Kimjongilism, which re-sells them, splitting the proceeds with the embassy tricksters, who kick back to Pyongyang a portion of the proceeds. You don’t think so?  Think again. Why five?  There are at least five organizations within the embassy in Abuja running these scams.

Hypothesis 4: Sadly one of the few things North Korea can successfully export is missiles, and there have been repeated instances of North Korea and Nigeria linked in the missile trade, with the most recent reports dating from 2004.  So the five juche-societies could be fronts for illicit transactions. But the failure of North Korea’s rocket launch earlier this year reminds us that North Korea technology has not always been the most reliable, and I cannot believe that it is pure happenstance that the most recent Nigeria-DPRK missile story coincided with the emergence of the classic “Nigerian astronaut wants to come home” scam letter. Poor guy he’s stuck in outer space! That damned North Korean technology. Send money! Bring Air Force Major Abacha Tunde home!

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