Last week, Invictus Obi, a suspected Nigerian billionaire fraudster, dominated the airwaves due to his arrest by the FBI for conspiracy to commit computer and wire fraud. From the pristine 13-month FBI investigation that caught him, to Obi’s many champagney videos, content upon content fuelled the trend.
Accusations and counter-accusations flew around, with Forbes almost about to release a statement titled, “Am I A Yahoo Boy?”
Some Nigerians took the opportunity to remind themselves that, “our time dae come.” Others took to the likes of Pete Edochie to drop idioms, “not all that glitters is gold.”
However, there is, even more, to learn concerning this scandal’s possible negative effects on Nigerian freelancers.
Possible Delisting of Nigeria As A Payment Destination
Going by the double-figure unemployment crisis rocking the country, young Nigerians have resorted to acquiring globally marketable digital skills which they sell on crowdsourcing platforms like Freelancer, Fiverr, Upwork etc.
Following various cases of fraud from Nigeria, some of these platforms are possibly taking security measures by delisting Nigeria as a payment destination. Recently, Freelancer.com removed Nigeria from countries it supports wire transfer to. A number of Nigerian freelancers work there, and they have been likely left stranded by this move.
This freelancer is not the only victim of Invictus here.
Possible Loss of Clients From Negative Profiling
Another issue possibly arising from this case, is profiling of Nigerian freelancers as ‘fraudulent’. John, a freelance Nigerian writer, recalls, “on several occasions, when clients learn that I am Nigerian, they stop talking to me.”
This may have taken root from cases like Obi’s. Issues like these are too pervasive to be swept under the carpet. Nigerian freelancers resultantly lose a lot of money this way, because they have to beat down their rates to cover up for the deficit in goodwill.
Some Payment Platforms Do Not Process Funds to Nigeria
A giant payment platform like Paypal is yet to support payments to Nigeria. While there is no strong indication that cases like Obi’s caused this, such cases may make it difficult for favourable considerations to be given to the issue.
Various freelance websites support Paypal as a withdrawal method, including said freelancer.com, which has possibly added another ‘security’ measure by delisting Nigeria from its wire withdrawal destination.
Loosing Out on the Niceties of Remote Work
The Nigerian programmer community is among the fastest-growing in the world, according to Github’s CEO, Natt Friedmann. With an increasing level of distrust across the world, Nigerians may not fully benefit from the worlds biggest techonomic bounty, “remote work.”
Imagine living in Nigeria and receiving San Francisco-level salary. Now imagine not getting that opportunity because you are a victim of Invictus?
A number of Nigerian developers engaged in remote work have raised issues of colleagues making “Nigerian Prince” jokes in Slack groups. If left unaddressed, issues like this can affect such developer in future decisions in the company.
“Any job you’re giving that lad from Nigeria, make sure it does not relate to our money.”
What About SARS?
Nigerian freelancers and digital nomads struggle to clear their names in the international marketplaces for issues they know nothing about, and that is not all. They also struggle to clear their names before Nigeria’s Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS).
“Where do you work?” “Why are you using iPhone?” “Why is your hair that way?” And many more, are questions Nigerian freelancers have developed templates for answers, because they likely meet these questions every other day.
Contrary to opinions from a Nigerian musician Naira Marley, Fraud does not enrich the country. Instead, it enriches a few who send the money back through consumption of imported products (Benz and Champagne), at the detriment of everyday Nigerian freelancers who cater to families and help grow the economy.
Invictus Obi is a metaphor for all fraudulent activity that tarnish the country’s good image which is by the way, non-existent.