During the past week, in the midst of the election frenzy, Nigerians had their ears filled with a sad story—a newly hired nanny had abducted the little kids she was supposed to take care of. A similar incident had occurred about four months ago. It’s a sad reminder of a generation where trust appears to command very little value.
Mr and Mrs Orekoya wanted a nanny to help watch over their kids. Their plight could be easily understood, as thousands of families in Nigeria face it—two working class parents working hard to earn a living in a not-too-friendly economic setting. They have to leave early, being Lagos residents, in order to avoid Lagos’ famous traffic congestions. After work, they would likely return home late, tired from the day’s activities. They needed someone to help relieve their workload. Having the kids in safe hands would take a huge responsibility off their shoulders. In their search for a solution, they turned to OLX.
OLX, already operational in several countries is one of the new internet firms in Nigeria, pushing the frontiers of the internet sector in the country. OLX’s website and app offer a platform for buyers to meet sellers. A seller posts available goods or services, and awaits contact by a prospective buyer. In a country where identities are not easily confirmed, OLX ensures it cannot be held liable for any fraudulent act by placing the onus of verification on the two parties. For the exchange of goods, it even advises both parties to meet in public places, all to mitigate some inherent risks.
The nanny-seeking couple saw the profile of Ms Mary Akinloye on OLX. They made contact and agreed to recruit her as their nanny. Real background checks were waived. The nanny provided the phone numbers of some “relatives” who when called, confirmed that they knew her. A meeting was to be arranged with the “relatives” later that week, but in their eagerness, the innocuous couple asked the nanny to resume duties immediately. That’s how Ms Akinloye joined their household.
This couple had no inkling about who their “nanny” really was, nor her real intention. On the second day of her contract, the couple must have left for work very happy that their problems had been solved. However, they returned to meet the shock of their lives. Their precious kids had disappeared. After days of torment, and posts in some newspapers and online media, seeking for any information about their kids’ whereabouts, the nanny finally made contact. The nanny cum kidnapper requested for fifteen million naira in exchange for the kids. Compare that with Nigeria’s minimum wage of eighteen thousand naira.
How did this couple get played by a kidnapper? Why did they allow common sense to be trampled under dirty feet? The answer is the same reason why many Nigerians get defrauded by “419” goons, yahoo boys with various alluring schemes. It’s plainly illogical trust, or should I say, foolishness. If a global contest for foolishness were to be held, quite a considerable number of Nigerians would tip the scales. Our penchant for blind trust has made us so gullible.
I’m not against OLX’s business, but I believe that OLX is not the best platform to seek for a nanny (as usual, I may be wrong). That position is a very sensitive one. You don’t entrust your children into the hands of a complete stranger who you can barely track. Well-known persons have been known to harm kids, talk less of complete strangers. You can use OLX for trading in tangible goods, but until OLX becomes a recruitment agency that carries out background checks, don’t dare use it to recruit a nanny, gatekeeper, or anyone else. Alternatively, ensure full background checks.
The traditional medium in Nigeria for recruiting nannies is through family members and friends. In this way, someone close knows where a nanny lives, which community the nanny belongs to, which relatives to contact in time of trouble. This medium has not completely eliminated abductions by nannies, but in the absence of verified recruitment agencies, it is a lot better than recruiting someone out of the blues.
The Oyekoyas are surely in a quagmire. They would have to raise the requested ransom, or haggle to bring down the requested sum, or hope that the police can find the kidnapper and her cohorts. Whatever happens, their lives would be scarred by this incident. We cannot rewind time to undo this incident, but we can learn from their misfortune, and ensure that the sanctity of trust is not eroded. Trust must remain expensive.
PS: After writing this article, news reports suggest that the kidnapped children are now back in safe hands.