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Opinions Wed, 30 May 2018

In search of a paying ‘Mugu’

Ashia is three hours into his time at an Internet Cafe, south of Accra. It is 11:58 pm – in time for Curtis, the attendant, to change shift.

Ashia dozes off his remaining energy; the snooze doesn’t produce enough reprieve but he attempts to stay balanced, hoping the sleep would clear from his rather tired eyes.

There is grace in the way he perseveres to stay sane but his efforts at maintaining immovability are anything but significant. Soon, he would make himself a bed on the hard surface composed of two of the twelve chairs meant for customers of the 24-hour facility.

He goes off completely, snoring his pitiful self into the first few hours of a chilly Saturday morning.

It is business as usual for the 22 year-old Ashia, who has been frequenting the facility, two miles from where he lives in a community – compact and busy – in pursuit of an advanced-fee fraud venture.

While he catnaps, there is continued heavy, web-surfing activity inspired by the loud blurting of ‘Freedom’ by Ghanaian musician Shatta Wale, which is kept on repeat as though no other song mattered. Many here are in search of their cyber liberties, too.

The happenings make up for the eeriness of a night haunted by the humping noises of a nearby tree. A young man checks Instagram updates of Accra’s ‘big boys and girls’ to crowd-source his self esteem while another gobbles down his trepidation over a frozen Google Translator webpage, with a pack of spiced noodles that seesaw their way through his wide and ready mouth. Two seats north, a dreadlocked, pant-sagging participant is frustrated and red-eyed, constantly thumping his feet. A seat away, another negotiates a sneeze that proves hard to crack until an unprovoked Hausa counterblast of mutum banza cues in, inches from his left. He’s all good now.

Altogether, the scenes make for a mini festival of young minds holding on to dreams that wilt on and off their keyboard solaces. United by one resolve, all that matters to them is to make mince meat of paying culprits, mugus (West African slang for victims of internet scams) as they are code-named.

The occupants of the café are bonded by a common deed, one that they are not ashamed of. All of them are committed to their absolute code: they are entitled to whatever funds they are trying to get from their victims and would-be victims. It is a stance that is jealously guarded and inspired by schools of thought nursed and made up in many communities here in the national capital, Accra.

Ashia would finally come off his ‘bed’ at around 1am. He exits the cafe briefly to wash his face and rinse his mouth with a litre of bottled water. While the rinsing goes on, a second-hand Hyundai Accent shows up with enough loud music to drown a wayside preacher’s call for ultimate salvation and loving one’s neighbour as ‘thy self’. Kumi, Ashia’s friend of few months, owns the Accent; he got it after successfully making away with a decent sum from a victim. The money has also financed his rent and takes care of his high-flying lifestyle that knows little rest, and speaks many languages including chasing patriotic and benevolent butts in skimpy skirts.

Like most advance-fee fraud operators, Kumi likes his foolishness and courtesies where he can feel them both. At this very moment, he has chosen the former, and opens the front door of the car to increase the sound of the continuously screaming music. As he climbs up to join Ashia, his two other guests in the car – females with hour glass figures and extra minutes – step out to stretch their limbs, which have been cramped, a result of trekking heavily all night across the national capital, Accra. They return to the car, passing out in minutes on the reclined seats, leaving Kumi and Ashia to take care of the remainder of the early morning’s business.

The advance-fee fraud scene in Accra is bristling, operated by multifarious actors who stay relevant and irrelevant at many times. Ashia is currently aiming for another break, after splurging his virgin scam involving a US-based ‘lover’.

The tease. For eight months, Ashia sold himself as a Ghanaian ‘female’ beauty in search of love. Over many schemes, he weaved his way using various aliases – fake images, voices, and videos – to land what eventually became a good rip-off. Marcus, his victim, still believes he is loved and adored even after being sold lies in exchange for a romance that dies when a webpage is shut from the dark, empty internet underworld in Accra.

Ashia says the advance-fee fraud venture is a patient game, only pursued and sustained by persons who are willing to go the extra mile in search of their breakthroughs. Patience, he adds, is a talent that must be exercised if one is to make any headway.
Columnist: kasapafmonline.com