Babajide Martins was a self made man. His grass to grace story was one he guarded jealously, he would neither have his name printed, nor his wealth reviewed. Yet, easily, he would make the forbes list if he decided to make his wealth public. He thanked God daily for inept reportage in the country. One of the reasons he stayed on in Nigeria, all members of his family had been shipped abroad at his behest. Still, he refused to join them, live the good life… or so they thought.
Wealth had happened on him when he least expected it. He grew up in the Mafoluku area of Oshodi wishing he was as rich as the people tagged 419ers, their houses and cars wowed him. Jide dreamt daily of living the good life. Then luck smiled on him, and his life changed. In his second year at the University, he stumbled on an email that was open in the cafe where he went to browse. He read the mail out of curiosity and found that he was looking a two hundred thousand dollar transaction. He checked the cafe and found that no one was paying any undue attention to him.
He readjusted himself, minimised the window, and started thinking of ways to divert the funds, or to at least get a cut of the money. He did a quick calculation, two hundred thousand dollars at eighty Naira per dollar equalled sixteen million Naira. He readjusted his shirt collar, looked around again before focusing on the computer screen. A sweat ran down his forehead and he flicked it off. Then he devised how to get the money.
Internet scam was not a novelty to him, and he did not think he would be part of it, but the fool who obviously owned the mail probably thought that his mailbox would automatically close once he closed the browser. It didn’t, and Jide sat there, staring at the mail, sweating. Then slowly, he began typing as he responded to the sender’s request on funds transfer details. After sending the mail, he forwarded the email to himself then deleted the original copy, along with the mails sent. That was when he logged out the previous user and logged into his account.
The days that followed were a blur as he became jumpy and anxious. He did not tell anyone about what he had done, he only visited the cafe once a day to check his mail and see if truly, the overseas person would wire the money. On the fourth day, he got his confirmation email. The money had been wired and it was double what he anticipated.
He almost fainted in the cafe, but managed to get home on steady feet. Then he went to sleep. And he slept, for two more days, he was sleeping. He did not want to believe that he had just hijacked a scam and apportioned the money to himself. Out of curiosity, he went to the bank to make the withdrawal. After filling all the forms and returning them to the cashier, he was asked to wait. That was the longest ten minutes of his life. But it was worth it. Jide left the bank a millionaire.
A financial accounting student at the time, with vast technological savvy, Jide understood he had to play with the money to earn more money. That was what he did, invested, worked hard and watched as that principal grew exponentially. Talk about a lucky break. All that though, happened a decade earlier. Now, Jide had retired, just a year under thirty and decided to pursue other passions. That was when Segun’s call came through.
At first, he had thought to dismiss the dude, an acquaintance from a past life, but as Segun explained the dire situation to him, he got interested and decided to see if it might challenge him a little. He stood up from the chair on his porch and stared at the fading sun. Life, he mused, full of intricate examples and warnings. If only people weren’t so blinded and heeded it’s warning.
He left the porch, walked back in and started his computer. From what he had gleaned, he could well get started before they arrived. He had been working for almost two hours when incessant car honking disrupted his thoughts. He got up peered out the window and found that it was Segun and his colleagues. Time to really start the show, he thought, then he admitted them into his home.
Segun did the introductions. ‘Jide, these are my colleagues; Justin and Ugochi, guys, this is the guy I know, his name’s Jide. He’s a financial guru, not to talk of his expertise with the computer.’ Segun managed a smile.
Jide smiled as he shook both Justin and Ugochi’s hands. Then he turned to Justin and addressed him: ‘so, I’m told you’ve put yourself in a bit of a quandary?’
Justin threw up his hands. ‘I’m in a desperate situation. I’d appreciate anything you can do to help…’
‘Ah, ahead of you, come take a look see.’ Jide cut him short and led the trio to his laptop computer.
They were all stunned.
‘That’s our company’s log on software and page. And you have administrative rights!’ Segun marvelled.
‘Yup. Since we’re doing a financial trail, I thought it best to start at the originating point. Then I followed the money into three separate accounts. That’s where the fun begins. The funds from the accounts disappeared over a month ago and the trail gets cold.’ Jide was talking and displaying bank statements at the same time.
Justin croaked, then asked, ‘a month ago?’
‘Yup. A full month. Whoever gave you the info today knew what they were doing. The account was bloated to look as though the money was there when in actuality, it had been stolen. The bank statement since then was a mirage…’
‘How do we get it back.’ Ugochi had a resolute look.
Jide smiled. Turned his head and observed Segun, then he held justin’s gaze. He was about opening his mouth when he realised what terrible host he’d been by not offering them seats. ‘Please sit down people, I’m sorry, I’m a terrible…’
‘Please.’ Ugochi’s eyes glistened.
Jide paused for a few seconds, studied Ugochi’s face then turned to Segun. ‘You do realise I cannot be complicit in this matter. I’m retired.’
Segun nodded. ‘I do. All I’m asking is that you point us in the right direction. Show us who did this.’
Jide nodded. Then he turned to Ugochi. ‘You truly love this guy enough to end your life with his?’
‘Okay then, he clapped his hands and turned to face the computer, then he realised they were still standing. He turned round and addressed them again ‘I have to insist, y’all should please sit. This might take a while.’
They sat, and Jide smiled, ‘thanks.’ Then he went back to punching the keypad and speaking at the same time. ‘I thought you might be more interested in where the money’s hidden, and how to transfer it back. Who did it, well, I ain’t no Sherlock people.’ He unplugged the power source of the laptop and handed it over to Justin. ‘There, take a peek at your money.’
Justin, Ugochi and Segun peered at the computer screen, studying the bank statement, then Ugochi raised her head and asked. ‘I don’t understand, why is the balance in dollars?’
Jide shrugged. ‘Would you steal all that money and leave it in a Nigerian bank?’
Segun spoke next. ‘Where’s it, and how do we get the money back?’
‘My dear friend, I can help with the where question, the how? Well you guys will have to figure that out yourselves.’
‘Where’s it?’ Justin asked, subdued.
‘In the cayman Islands. It’s become the proverbial corn in the bottle. You can view it, but no. There’s nothing you can do about the money.’
‘How about pointing me to the person who owns the account?’ Justin seethed as he handed the laptop to Segun and rose to face Jide.
Jide smiled nervously. His tech savvy and financial genius had opened a raw wound. He empathised with the trio and wondered what he could do to help.
Segun handed the laptop back to Jide and asked. ‘Any way you can help us prove his innocence? We could use a copy of that statement.’
Jide shook his head. ‘You want a printed copy for what? Fanning yourselves? It’s inadmissible evidence, we need to get him irrevocable evidence. Here’s a thought, why don’t you two leave Justin and I, go back to your lives, live as if nothing happened and forget about him…, for a while.’
‘How can you ask that?’ Ugochi’s anger brewed as she also rose to her feet.
‘I’m not asking. You and Segun are not concerned with this. I know you think yourselves to be a team, but believe me, this is a solo run. Team work will ruin everything. So please, hug, kiss, promise undying love, but at the end of five minutes, I want only Justin standing here with the two of you gone. Otherwise, all three of you may leave.’ He set the laptop on his desk and left the room.
‘Time to go.’ Ugochi turned in the opposite direction and made to leave. She turned when she felt both men she had come with were standing still. ‘You can’t seriously be considering his offer now, can you?’
In response to her question, Segun hugged Justin. ‘Let me know if you need any help. I’ll keep an eye on things for you at the firm. Stay strong, you’re going to expose the frauds.’ He patted Justin’s back then stalked out of the room.
Ugochi had tears in her eyes. ‘So you’ll leave me? For a guy you don’t even know?’
Justin shrugged. ‘Segun knows him, and he’s shown he can be an asset to us. I just need to explore his option, get to the root of this as quickly as possible. Remember, we left Tarkwa bay dejected, now, we’re a bit encouraged. Perhaps there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t think he’s is a fraud. Please understand.’
She hugged him, then kissed him. ‘Call me when you have news, and when you don’t…, call me. Stay in touch.’ She kissed him again. Tears had started rolling down her cheeks.
His eyes misted. As he reluctantly let her go. ‘This would be over before it’s started. We’ll go back to the beach and have our wonderful getaway.’ He promised.
She left, following in Segun’s wake. Justin checked his wristwatch then prepared himself. He had a stoic look when Jide walked back into the room.
‘I see we’ve shed the weight,’ Jide commented. ‘Now how to deal with you…’
‘Please, just show me, what I need to do.’
‘Simple,’ Jide said approaching his laptop. He unlocked it and punched some keys and brought up a photograph of a strange man. ‘Find that man wherever he is on earth, before the police or EFCC catches you, and you have a prayer.’
Justin peer hard at the photograph, ‘who’s he? I don’t think I know him…’
‘You’d be shocked who you know and don’t know. Now be a stud, locate that guy and we have eighty per cent of our problems solved.