Fraternities are Viruses in Nigeria 8 – Bailiffs
Fraternities in Nigeria are now specialists in accumulating “financial bounties” with their leaders appropriating them; it is tantamount to corporate malfeasance. It may be unfortunate if not tragic that the founders of University Campus Grown Fraternities (UCGFs) established them them noble intentions. Alas, the rouges within the UCGFs embody the very antics of “corporate malfeasance”.
Operating just below the radar or not facing criminal prosecution is not evidence of clean hands. UCGFs depend mainly on the money members contribute and as their sizes have increased, so have their kitties. Financial bounty taking by leaders in UCGFs is strictly about misappropriating members’ money and funders’ largesse, perennially. Needless to say, the bounty taking activities of UCGFs did not start one day or overnight. Bounties came in phases and often took years or decades to perfect. Such bounties are now known as “returns” or “goodwill.”
The first phase of financial bounty taking for the leaders began at undergraduate level on university campuses, mostly around the 1980s; some old members bear witness to its occurrences in the 1960s. These bounties had to trickle in from relatively small numbers of student and staff members (between 12 and 20).
Meanwhile, subscriptions were most affordable, and so were recruitment/joining fees; it was the discipline, conviction, honour, and commitment that mattered above all. As shake-down artists increased in the ranks of UCGFs, they recruited large numbers of members. UCGFs that for years or even decades kept the numbers of members sacred say, 12, 15 or 19. Afterwards, they started recruiting up to 100 or more members: money!
Notwithstanding, there was the ever-increasing presences of rouge UCGF leaders. Members who never believed in the tenets of the brotherhood and thought they were joining the Corleone Family. On campuses it was the ravenous thirst for the financial bounty from the contributions of their peers for their benefit that mattered most to them. It was the exception rather than the rule when the thieving began. In fact, those who appropriated the bounties to themselves got away with it unquestioned, encouraged the proliferation of copycat incidents of bounty looting. The rot had just begun.
The second phase of financial bounty taking became most clear at the turn of the millennium. It involved the use of UCGF funds by their leaders for luxury benefits. Treats such as flying business class, living at 4-5 star hotels, luxury car hire and other expense claims. Receipt inflation was a common practice in this phase [still is].
The bounties now mainly came from members that had graduated from university or other tertiary institutions. Neverteless, UCGFs had then got into the fashion of declaring that they no longer operated on university campuses. For those working or unemployed, the subscriptions were affordable but getting pricey. Depending on the size of the chapter and generosity of its members, the size of bounties for respective UCGF chapters varied considerably.
Unsurprisingly, the bigger or richer the chapters were where the more profligate the leaders were. The bigger surprise was that several chapter leaders demonstrated thorough, if not exemplary, honesty and transparency in handling the financial affairs of their watch. But these fine men gave thinking members of UCGFs hope. Especially when those who engage in wanton bounty taking again get away with it unquestioned. The rot had set in and was increasing unabated, and only the upright leaders stood in the way of the rogue members.
The third phase of financial bounty taking is contemporary. It involves the use of vast sums of money. Anything from several tens of thousands of dollars to a few million dollars to execute “grand projects”. Even though UCGFs are artful at applying for charitable and civil society grants. Nevertheless, they are not usually successful in winning such funds. The bulk of the funds for grand projects come from extortionate subscriptions, add-ons and innumerable financial penalties.
Annual necessary individual payments to the UCGFs run as high as $700-800. Yet no print magazines, periodicals or other materials are available for members to use or benefit. Failure to pay subscriptions, add-ons or penalties ends in expulsion/ex-communication from the UCGF. Members can only return to the organisation after paying a ‘returning fee’ of up to $300. And makes an agreement to pay-off the existing debt [pre-expulsion] within a specified period. Penalties have become lucrative for UCGFs. Consequently, their leaders issued them with alarming and incessant ease for the most insignificant of infringements. Now there is the “too much money syndrome” rearing its head.
Moreover, the significant danger of the third phase of financial bounty accumulation/taking is clear and present. UCGFs attract psychopaths irresistibly, and they are over-represented within their ranks. We are talking of men who have no qualms doing anything for money or power, even killing others. The UCGFs’ kitty has become a multi-million dollar bounty. Likewise, the tendency for gangster style rivalries between those who believe it should belong to them in on the increase.
Hence, it is not at all surprising that the identifiable brains behind the mega-buck projects (in the third phase). They are the very architects of previous extortion rackets within the UCGFs that turned them into potential cash-cows. Patient vultures! One does not have to be Nostradamus to foresee the bloodbaths that mega-bounty taking will unleash in clear view soon. Money!
The financial bounty taking in phases one and two were the workings of individual rogues acting with impunity. Still, the third phase is systematic, undertaken with the full might of the corporate constitution of the UCGF behind it; the money flows singularly to the man at the top. Just as viruses infect and disease their hosts till its dies, the rogues that run the UCGFs with a combination of tacit support and learned helplessness of members thrive. By making their organisations increasingly necrotic, reversions from the original purposes. Who will gain from the bounty accumulation/taking? The men at the top.
It is noteworthy that since the 1980s when the first phase of financial bounty taking began. Leading UCGFs had chapters in most major tertiary institutions in Nigeria. In addition, they had thousands of active and lapsed members as alumni. Besides, the UCGFs then decided deliberately to have national leaders and executives to coordinate the affairs of the many (and growing number of) chapters. And it was astute of them to register their organisations with the national authorities.
The national or international oversight provided is strictly for bounty accumulation, expansion and punishment. National Commissions [for bounty taking and ex-communication]. Let us await the coming Bounty Wars of the UCGFs and see who emerges as Lucky.