The growing fraud problem in Nigeria threatens to undermine churches' growth and credibility, according to Suleiman Jakonda, executive director of rurcon, a pan-African Christian development ministry.

Jakonda says 419 scams are active inside Nigeria, not just internationally, and Christians have been both victims and accomplices. Some church leaders lend their names to schemes that defraud trusting charitable organizations.

Jakonda said the resulting publicity damages the credibility of honest religious leaders: "On one occasion, [Nigerian] officials took my Bible and searched every page to ensure that I was not involved in any criminal activity."

Christian businessman Mike Abdul, managing director of Nigeria's Lion Bank, blamed the epidemic of fraud on chronic poverty, government mismanagement, and a culture of official corruption.

"Many get into such fraudulent activities in order to survive," Abdul said. "Those that plunder Nigeria's wealth are seen as heroes and are honored by the government and the society. The churches and the government [should] embark on a crusade to rid the society of such greed."

Related Elsewhere:

The U.S. Secret Service site has an advisory on the 419 schemes. Nigeria: The 419 Coalition Website has extensive information on avoiding the scam and a list of other 419 websites.

Other stories include:

Billions lost in bank scamsThe Oakland Press (November 17, 2002)
Beware the '419' scam letter from Nigerian con artists—Michelle Singletary, Seattle Post Intelligencer (November 9, 2002)
E-mail to launder money lures manyThe Oregonian (October 28, 2002)

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