Newspaper Change of Names

Should the CBN simply allow these guys to be ‘validly’ maintaining accounts in different names? Should there not be a review of all the change of name galore in all our newspapers in the last three or four months? Should we not scrutinise the reasons for these change of names, because some could even be terrorism, 419, drugs or armed robbery related? We hear that some unscrupulous bankers are now making it possible for people to have multiple BVNs. Is that possible and how do those ones get detected? Should ‘all accounts remain ‘valid’ or should the new names now be the operative name for all those accounts? Should large sums coming in a ‘former name’ not be logged into a ‘suspicious activity’ report?

Thank God for BVN (Bank Verification Number), the banks will tell you there are millions of us carrying different valid ID cards… in different uncorrelated names. This is the reason why the National ID Card project is shambolic, why INEC records are rubbish and cannot be relied upon or synced by other agencies (again thank God for Biometric Verification), why population and other indices are easy to inflate, and why we are forced to do ‘biometrics’ in more than 20 government agencies and telecoms companies in Nigeria.

Many Nigerians represent two, three or more entries on any register. To them it’s no big deal. And this is one of the fundamentals quirks troubling this country.

The average Nigeria now sees nothing wrong with falsifying his age, names, exam results, certificates, addresses; anything to take advantage of the system and get a leg-up over the rest of society. Our sense of right and wrong is finally, irredeemably warped. Religion then becomes a charade in trying to launder these consciences. There is little hope that a fundamental change will come because the cancer is far metastasised.

These things start small. While we were growing up, it was big deal for someone to falsify his age. Why would you do that? I personally looked upon anyone who did that with mortal trepidation and suspicion. How can you hope to be younger – or older – than you really are, when the clock is ticking on all of us anyway? Who are you deceiving but yourself? But in time, that became no big deal. People simply reinvented themselves to get whatever they want. People manufactured new identities at the drop of a hat. A huge percentage of today’s adult population walk around with fake ages, and everything else follows. Fake age leads to fake educational qualifications, fake affidavits lead to fake bills of lading, invoices, receipts, fake goods, fake medicines, fake laws, fake lawmakers, fake leaders.

I hear the newspapers are making a kill on this change of name thing these days. No questions asked. Affidavit is N1,000 (plus tips) at the nearest high court. Newspaper ‘change of name’ is N4,500 only, and bammm!

Now people can take over the names and assets of dead people. People create international passports in fake names and travel round the world (that Davido case comes to mind; how did they obtain American passport for that baby?). People open accounts in these fictitious names and make those accounts available to any corrupt government official to launder money through – for a fee. They also make these accounts available for drug dealers and whoever else. Big politicians and public administrators run 10 accounts with 10 different names. Who cares? Shebi na make the money commot make we spend? Our people say whether one’s own money or other people’s money, God should ensure we are in constant supply. Right?

So with the recent BVN thing, people are rushing forward to claim their accounts. Many registered their BVN in one bank but forgot that their names are different in the other bank. Their ages, addresses and other details too. So the bank sends them to go bring affidavits from the courts, showing that they bear all those funny names. Not a big deal. They get the affidavits and also accompany it with a name change publication in the newspapers.

I hear the newspapers are making a kill on this change of name thing these days. No questions asked. Affidavit is N1,000 (plus tips) at the nearest high court. Newspaper ‘change of name’ is N4,500 only, and bammm!

“I formerly known as Okokon Etim, am also known as Basiru Kenkelewu… all former documents remain ‘falid’, or ‘valued’… worefa! Zenith Bank please take note”.

That one is for the Guardian newspaper. Then you hop over to Tribune, and pay another N4,500.

“I Basiru Kenkelewu, am also the one called Chukwudim Onyegbuleonyeagbataobia. All former documents (including balances in all my accounts) remain valued, sorry fallid, sorry valid. Please note; next year I may become Alechenu Okaleya. And all documents must still remain valid. Tenkiu”.

I am not kidding. A review of the name change section of the Tribune of December 17, 2015 reveals the following interesting name ‘changes’, which are not really name changes but successful attempts to continue bearing two names and running accounts in different names. Nigerians! Here goes:

1. I, Ismaila Hamzat, am the same person bearing Ola Muhammed. Henceforth, I want to be known as Ola Muhammed. Zenith Bank Plc and general public, take note.” So we took note.

2. I, formerly known as Johnson Samuel Oluwagbemiga, now Francis Abem Ewhenji. All former documents remain valid. This one is truly ‘born again’… into a different tribe and country perhaps.

3. I, formerly Akinbami, Gabriel Mayokun, now Ogunmade, Monday Ezekiel. All former documents remain valid. General Public take note. Ok, we hear. Thank you for the information.

4. I, formerly Benjamin Simon, now Mr Afolayan Emmanuel.

5. I, formerly Oniovosa Festus, now Smith Amanah Jim.

6. I, formerly Suraju, Ojebiyi, Tunde, now Babatunde Rotimi Rasaki. Fair enough, there is Tunde in one and Babatunde in the other, but do people change muslim names midstream?

7. I, formerly Stanley Indoro, now Ayangor Goodluck.

8. I formerly Kana Damou, now Elaye Kalu.

All former documents, especially Nairas kept in accounts in all the former and new names, of course remain valid. Even more valid are new monies that will be flowing through those accounts because our people are not yet ready to repent.

So when next you see those change of name you usually overlook, look closer. There’s magic happening in Nigeria.

Some Nigerians are like those Nazi Generals who changed their faces and identities after WW2 and started living entirely new lives. You just can’t catch these ones.

What should be done about these?

Should the CBN simply allow these guys to be ‘validly’ maintaining accounts in different names? Should there not be a review of all the change of name galore in all our newspapers in the last three or four months? Should we not scrutinise the reasons for these change of names, because some could even be terrorism, 419, drugs or armed robbery related? We hear that some unscrupulous bankers are now making it possible for people to have multiple BVNs. Is that possible and how do those ones get detected? Should ‘all accounts remain ‘valid’ or should the new names now be the operative name for all those accounts? Should large sums coming in a ‘former name’ not be logged into a ‘suspicious activity’ report?

Meanwhile, next time you’re reading a newspaper, you may just get a good laugh from reading through the ‘change of name’ section which had hitherto been reserved for women getting married. Who knows which of your big men – and women – friends’ names you may find in there; switching back and forth between identities.

Many more questions in fact. I believe we should cause a review of this issue.

So when you see the average Nigerian ‘big man’ building mansions everywhere and buying up buildings abroad in cash; when you see him buying up champagne worth a million naira in a single night at the club, don’t feel like you’re not a genius. You never know how many identities he is profiting from.

We hope this situation is looked into as part of the ongoing fight against corruption, money-laundering and other high crimes.

Meanwhile, next time you’re reading a newspaper, you may just get a good laugh from reading through the ‘change of name’ section which had hitherto been reserved for women getting married. Who knows which of your big men – and women – friends’ names you may find in there; switching back and forth between identities.

Because this is Nigeria!

‘Tope Fasua, an economist and consultant, is CEO of Global Analytics Consulting.