Fraternities are Viruses in Nigeria: Part 8 – The Bounty Takers

naira-c

 

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 while the founders of University Campus Grown Fraternities (UCGFs) established them, perhaps for noble intentions, they have come to 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 has their kitties. Financial bounty taking by leaders in UCGFs is strictly about misappropriating members’ money and funders’ largesse, perennially. The bounty taking activities of UCGFs did not start one day or overnight. The bounties came in phases and often took years or decades to perfect. The bounties are now known as “returns.”

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). Subscriptions were very 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 started to recruit large numbers of members. UCGFs that for years or even decades kept the numbers of members sacred say, 12, 15 or 19 at any given time started recruiting up to 100 or more members: money!
The increasing presence of rouge UCGF leaders [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. The thieving had just begun, but it was then the exception rather than the rule at first. The fact that 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 evident at the turn of the millennium. It involved the use of UCGF funds by their leaders for luxury benefits such as flying business class, residing 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 and 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 between respective UCGF chapters varied considerably. Unsurprisingly, the bigger or richer the chapters were where the profligate the leaders tended to be. The bigger surprise was that several chapter leaders demonstrated thorough if not exemplary honesty and transparency in handling the financial affairs of their watch. These fine men gave thinking members of UCGFs hope, especially when those who engaged in wanton bounty taking again got 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 very contemporary. It involves the use of vast sums of money involving 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, they are not usually successful in winning such funds. The bulk of the funds for grand projects come from very extortionate subscriptions, add-ons and innumerable financial penalties. Annual necessary individual payments to the UCGFs run as high as $700-800, yet no magazines, periodicals or other materials are available for members to use or benefit. Failure to pay subscriptions, add-ons or penalties routinely leads to expulsion/ex-communication from the UCGF. Members can only return to the organisation after paying a ‘returning fee’ of up to $300 and make agreements to pay-off the existing debt [pre-expulsion] within a specified period. Penalties have become lucrative for UCGFs whose leaders issue them with alarming and incessant ease for the most insignificant of infringements. Now there is the “too much money syndrome” rearing its head.
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. As the UCGFs’ kitty has become a multi-million dollar bounty also the tendency for gangster style rivalries between those who believe it should belong to them has increased. It is not at all surprising that the identifiable brains behind the mega-buck projects (in the third phase) 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 in the not too distant future. 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, are making their organisations increasingly necrotic, reversions from the original purposes. Who will gain from the bounty accumulation/taking? The men at the very 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, thousands of active and lapsed members as alumni. The UCGFs then decided very deliberately to have national leaders and executives to coordinate the affairs of the numerous (and growing number of) chapters and astutely registered their organisations with what is now known as the Corporate Affairs Commission making them legal corporate entities. The national or international oversight provided is strictly for bounty accumulation, expansion and punishment. National Commissions [for bounty taking and ex-communication]. Let us wait for the coming Bounty Wars of the UCGFs and see who emerges as “Lucky“.
Grimot Nane

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