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03.10.2004 Crime & Punishment

Nima Becomes Home to Internet Fraud

By Public Agenda
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Nima is often described as Accra's biggest slum, a community with the largest concentration of Accra's poor, and largely illiterate. It is perhaps the last place one would associate with high-tech fraud, yet it has been cited in a recent BBC report as one of the most flourishing locations of internet fraud in the world.

Following the lead provided by the report, the Weekend Agenda has established that, it is indeed common to see youths of the suburb selling laptops of varying brands, car tyres and an assortment of other items, mostly obtained through the use of "stolen" credit card numbers to order these items into the country. The practice, the paper discovered, has been dubbed "sakaawa" which in Hausa means, insertion.

The crooks input figures into the net and extract goods from a foreign country, mostly the United States of America. Word goes round when one of them succeeds in "importing" some goods through this fraudulent means and this is described as "hitting."

Last year one of the youth succeeded in ordering a consignment of T-shirts, which flooded the market. The T-shirt was also dubbed "sakaawan".

The boys collude with unscrupulous staff of some hotels to obtain the valuable credit numbers of visiting foreigners into the country. The procedure is such a complex exercise that one wonders how, these boys, most of whom, are virtually unlettered are able to find their way, into the winding world of the internet.

It is now a full-time vocation for several of these youth, some of who have bought cars and put up buildings from it. The success of the seniors in the business encourages others to follow suit. The multiplier effect of the practice is the proliferation of internet cafes throughout the length and breadth of Nima.

Sometimes arguments, which develop into fisticuffs breakout when the internet crooks cannot agree on the sharing of the booties, or on a formula for sharing out the credit card numbers. Like drug dealers, they operate in groups sharing ideas and new methods of stealing their way into the accounts of people living thousands of kilometers away from Nima.

It is feared that, this new wave of high-tech fraud, if not nibbed in time would shatter government's efforts at making Ghana a tourist destination of choice. The Chief Director of the Ministry of Tourism and Modernisation of the Capital City, Bridget Katsriku told the Weekend Agenda in a telephone interview, that, her Ministry was yet to receive information about the activities of these unscrupulous youth. She disclosed however, that plans are advanced to introduce new security measures, in collaboration with the Hoteliers Association and the banks, to protect tourists who visit the country, from such fraudulent acts.

The Police have also denied knowledge of the said fraudulent activities.

Superintendent Salimi of the Police CID said in an interview with the paper, that, the reason the Police may not be aware, is that, the victims of the fraud are mostly outside the country. He gave the assurance, however that the Police is alert, and would be monitoring the situation, to ensure that nothing was done by any group of people, to compromise the good name and image of Ghana.

Nima is one of the most deprived parts of Accra, where the population can only be rivaled by Ashaiman near Tema. Some have described it as the largest Zongo community in the country.

It is home to thousands of descendants of migrants from all parts of West Africa, most of whom have no access to education and vital social amenities.

The area abounds in what they describe as "bases" with various names like Canada Base and Gorillas, where the youth converge to discuss issues like how to migrate abroad, and how to make the best fortunes from the internet cafes.

Nima like other underprivileged areas provides a ready source of social miscreants like land-guards, and thugs for unscrupulous landowners and politicians respectively.

There are now hundreds of mini-motor bikes in this suburb with which some of the riders use in snatching mobile phones from unsuspecting motorists who listen to calls as they drive. Many cases of fatal accidents involving some of these youths have been reported. Recently a duo crashed into a stationary articulator truck. Some of these bikes are not registered and it becomes almost impossible to trace them in case of accidents.

The social anomalies in this suburb have prompted opinion leaders and Islamic scholars to embark on a campaign of social education of the residents with a view to stemming the social anomalies in this predominantly Islamic settlement.

Sermons at mosques in areas even outside Nima have at times centred on discipline, which, the imams note, is an important hallmark of Islam. They note also that politicians who use such deprived areas as quarries for thugs are doing a great disservice to the country.

According to them if there is no demand for their services, these youth would find more useful things to do than sit and wait to be hired to go and beat up opponents of politicians. They also add that using fraudulent means to obtain something which does not belong to one is stealing, which is an anathema to the Islamic religion.

Nima was founded in about 1938, by a certain Malam Amadu Futa, who acquired the place from the Odoi Kwaos, an indigenous Ga family from Osu.

Malam Amadu who acquired the place to settle the high influx of foreigners into the country, had the area named after himself for a while until the name Nima came up.