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African historian honoured at UFS Library book launch
2016-08-23

Description: Library book launch Tags: Library book launch

The UFS Library, in collaboration with the Department of Political Studies and Governance, launched This Present Darkness, a book by the late Stephen Ellis on 23 August 2016 at the Sasol Library on the Bloemfontein Campus.

Stephen Ellis was a Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences at Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, and a senior researcher at the African Studies Centre, Leiden. He wrote ground-breaking books on the ANC, the Liberian Civil War, religion and politics in Africa, and the history of Madagascar.  He died in 2015.

The book explores how Nigerian criminal syndicates acquired a reputation for involvement in drug-trafficking, fraud, cyber-crime, and other types of criminal activity. Successful Nigerian criminal networks have a global reach, interacting with their Italian, Latin American, and Russian counterparts. Yet in 1944, a British colonial official wrote that “the number of persistent and professional criminals is not great in Nigeria” and that “crime as a career has so far made little appeal to the young Nigerian.”

Ellis, a celebrated Africanist, traces the origins of Nigerian organised crime to the last years of colonial rule, when nationalist politicians acquired power at regional level. In need of funds for campaigning, they offered government contracts to foreign businesses in return for kickbacks, a pattern that recurs to this day. Political corruption encouraged a wider disrespect for the law that spread throughout Nigerian society. When the country’s oil boom came to an end in the early 1980s, young Nigerian college graduates headed abroad, eager to make money by any means. Nigerian crime went global, and new criminal markets are emerging all over the world at present.

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