Book Review – This Present Darkness

This Present Darkness: A History Of Nigerian Organised Crime by Stephen Ellis (Jacana) ISBN 9781849046305

419 is the Nigerian criminal code which was first documented in a letter written in 1920. By 1980 this international fraud activity is known as a 419 crime.

Nigeria started as a British protectorate in 1914 and was amalgamated as a country under indirect rule, which meant each region had its own leaders under colonial guidance. Wealth and prosperity was initially maintained through social networks and providing gifts which generated indebtedness. Corruption began with the various governors in their regions. It eventually escalated to the people and their secret clubs and societies.

In 1956, oil was discovered in the Niger Delta and was soon to become the major source of wealth. Universities were built and many people acquired a tertiary education. Sadly, there were not enough jobs and people began to move abroad where they devised scams and schemes to generate an income. Amsterdam seemed to be one of their favourite centres for fraud, and then Madrid became a victim to a huge Spanish
lottery scam. Drugs, fraud, cybercrime, smuggling, human trafficking and prostitution spread to other counties.

The author has managed through extensive research to unravel a fascinating, complex and complicated account of this country, comprised of 36 states. It certainly gives an insight into Nigerian politics, spiritual influences and history.

Stephen Ellis was a professor of social sciences at VU University of Amsterdam. Sadly this was his last book as he died just before its completion. However his wife, Gerrie Terhaar and fellow professors helped to complete the work and get it published.

Dawn Blankfield

Posted on: 4th July 2016