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‘Bank robberies occur because organisations don’t update their knowledge on their employees’


Kola Olugbodi is the Managing Director, CEO of Background Check International (BCI), a private security company which deals with due diligence and risk analysis issues. In this interview with JIBRIL SADO, he speaks of the security implication of not screening employees periodically as well as his organisation’s new found relationship with the Nigeria Police. Excerpts How did BCI come to be? I was previously involved with recruitment and outsourcing and it was that business that metamorphosed into BCI. In the course of handling some jobs for some of our clients, we kept asking ourselves if some of the people we were helping the clients recruit can be vouched for beyond what their performances at the interviews indicated or what their credentials stated. Their CVs may look very attractive, but how authentic is the information in there, did they actually attend the institutions they claimed to have attended and did they genuinely obtain the qualifications they bring to us? And of course, did they have the number of years of work experience they claimed to have. These were the questions that led to the establishment of BCI, to help check first hand, from past institutions, employers and what have you, about the competence and integrity of a prospective employee. BCI was incorporated in 2004. We started off, like I said, with employment screening, but today, BCI has moved well beyond just employment screening. What we do today at the organisation is more of due diligence and risk management, of which employment background screening is just an aspect. Some other aspects of due diligence cascade down to the relationships between landlords and tenants; how much does a landlord know about his tenant, what does that tenant do for a living and how does he go and come? Property owners too, are encouraged to put due diligence in place so as to know the people who take their property on rent or come to buy it so as to reduce the risk of being involved in what you may not even know the source of. For the benefit of those who may not understand,explain what due diligence means. Due diligence has to do with you not taking people at face value, not trusting them solely based on the information they have given you. You need to go a step further to verify whatever information or document that has been given to you by that person, to know that you have not been told lies. This should be done either for employment purposes, tenancy purposes, for the purpose of business partnership. You just take the extra step to know if the individual, in spite of his claims, has had a brush with the law, defrauded anybody or any other such crime in the past. Even in marital relationships, due diligence is important. We have had cases of people who claimed to be medical doctors only for you to find out that the person is merely a laboratory technician or something else,


whereas he has cajoled his partner into falling in love with or even marrying him in the belief that he is a doctor. Then again, on the part of the defaulter it is a case of integrity and confidence. I do not believe that it is a sin to have third class or pass from the university. There are many instances of people who graduated with third class from the university and are doing much better than people who come out with first class or distinction. I have a guy who has a third class from the university and I cannot possible trade him for someone who has a first class. This is because what this guy has is more than just theory. Have you handled any case of carrying out background check for prospective partners? Yes, we have. Before now people did not take these issues seriously. And this was maybe because people did not know anywhere to go to, to verify things. But you will be very surprised at the number of such cases we have had to handle for Nigerians. It is just that people know us more for our background screening work in the corporate field. This is obviously because of our work with banks, where we advocate and help in checking on the background of customers. When you talk of checking customers’ background, do you mean every single customer, including savings account holders? Let me give you an instance. I once went to a bank to open an account and the only verification the account officer made on me was just to ask me ‘Mr. Olugbodi, I am sure you live at the address you have quoted.’ I answered yes and that was it, he noted it down that he had inspected my house and my office, and this made me laughed. And that is what happens in our banks. So, it is not about every customer, but once a customer wants to obtain a loan or is bringing in money running into several millions into the bank, on a daily basis, don’t you think you need to know more about such a customer? In this day of money laundering, most banks are facing the difficulty they face today because they were not from the outset, interested in the source of the money they bring in, they were merely interested in the money. Some of these issues wouldn’t have arisen if the banks had taken their time to know in detail the person they are giving money to, and to what use the person intended to put the money. And this is why we advocate the Know Your Customer practice. For instance, is it enough that because I gave you four million naira yesterday and you returned it today, then I should automatically trust you next time, give you N500,000,000 without asking for collateral security or carrying out fresh checks. Did you have a similar organisation doing this sort of job before you started BCI? There was nobody doing this when we started. We came it almost by default because like I said earlier, all started as a result of the fact that we kept asking questions about the potential perils of trusting the people we recruited for organisations, without any background knowledge about them. Some of the due diligence aspects we talk about are not totally new to us, as many organisations do some form of it, but the challenge for the organisations is usually that they write to former employers or schools and they don’t get reply until maybe six or eight months later. So the companies cannot be sure of what the employee is all about, and I tell you that three to six months is enough for a fraudster to wreck havoc on an organisation. But we have been able to sidetrack that because we don’t do it via correspondence. We go straight to the school and having been on it for about six years now, we have relationships with the schools and some other companies. So what we are now doing is to see how


we can all take the issue of background screening a step further. In the course of doing background check and screening, approaching organisations for information about people who once were part of such organisations, how much cooperation would you say you have received, given the fact that this is a new idea in this part of the world? Time has made things easier for us, but in the beginning it was much tougher to get the most basic information from people. A lot of companies or schools now know Background Check International and are more willing to cooperate. It may have been a culture-shock to some of the schools and organisations we had to contact, and as such they just created all sorts of excuses to ensure they didn’t help us. They now seem to understand our work and in some cases we want certain information from some schools and within hours they get it to us. Many people believe that there is no bank robbery without insider information and as part of what you do, your company screens prospective employees for banks. What role would you say a company like yours can play in helping to combat robbery attacks on banks? This falls into two categories: In due diligence, background screening is not supposed to be a once off thing. There are employees who only picked up certain bad habits after they were employed, whereas they did not have any blemish at the beginning. They learn from thieving or pilfering colleagues. A guy earns this or that amount and he drives a car that is worth five times his salary. These are some of the issues you must continuously check. So, it is all about integrity and background checking is not a witch-hunting exercise. It is just for the employer to be able to say, ‘well I really know the person working for me.’ You see, when an employee colludes with robbers to rob a bank there is usually a large amount of money he takes as his cut, which can help change that person for ever. So the challenge goes back to the employer to make sure that after every six months, background information on an employee is updated. Otherwise, six months is enough to give an employee who has recently picked up criminal habits to learn to steal tiny sums of money from numerous accounts, enough to do great damage to the organisation. Has there been a case in which as a result of your check on an employee, the organisation found out that the employee was behind a robbery or other forms of large cash theft in that organisation? It may not necessarily be about outright theft, but maybe also about plain acts of sabotage by the employee. There was a particular case of an organisation which name I will not mention, where, after we were called to run checks on employees,was discovered that a particular employee had colluded with robbers that robbed the organisation. There was another case where the employee was found to be using the company’s apparatuses to run a drug courier. And there are very many others like that, but confidentiality will not permit me to state specific instances and names. And that is how we get more clients through referrals by the companies we have worked for in the past. How helpful do you think your type of work has been to organisations? Very helpful, I must say, and there are so many cases to point to. For instance, there was the case of an organisation we helped run check on some prospective employees only to discover that one of the employees was a man who had defrauded another company in Kaduna and that the company was actually looking for him. So, when we went back to the company in Kaduna, they came back to our


office and told us that they had been looking for that man for years. In spite of the obvious benefits why do you think people don’t apply due diligence measure in their businesses? One of the major problems we have in this country is that we are sometimes too religious. We keep praying to God that such and such things would not happen. Well God may take care, but you still have to for a little further for certainty sake. Someone sends you an email and you don’t take your time to verify where it comes from, who the sender is and if the mail is comes from a genuine source before you run on to reply him. Talking about e-mails, how do you recognise a fake e-mail for instance? What features can we look out for in an email to ensure we are dealing with authentic mails and not scam mails? You must be a technical person in the IT field to be able to detect these things. There is a lot of cloning of original website and internet addresses such that unless you have the technical wherewithal to unravel the truth about them. So, for the person without such knowledge, my advice is that you should be curious, show some doubt and take time to think before acting. Another option is to get trained in the IT of internet security. Does BCI organise such training? Yes, that is part of what we do in addition to helping you trace the fraudster if you have been duped. That brings us to the issue of the workshop you organised for the police in Lagos recently. At the end of the workshop you expressed satisfaction about its success. How well do you think that the officers who took part in the workshop were part of the proceedings? We organised the workshop because we know that if any agency as it is today, needs information to combat the crimes and criminals it has to be the law enforcement agencies like the police. We found out that some of them have had or were at the time handling cyber crime cases, but since they did not have any technical knowledge of the internet and cyber crime, it was difficult for them to cope. And From the questions they were asking and the feedback we got, we believe that they are now better equipped because they were really interested in the issues that were raised at the workshop. We are willing to help in training personnel for the Nigeria Police if and when they are ready to set up a cyber crime unit or police station. So, the workshop is the beginning of what we hope to be a long and beneficial partnership between our organisation and the police. There is the argument that the police are part of the problem in many ways because as some argue, some policemen know some of the cyber criminals. The policemen are often accused of simply arresting the suspects, extorting money from them and letting them loose again to wreck more havoc. If we all keep running away from the police, the truth is that they are still the Nigerian Police. The reality is that a man who must do a job but who does not have the knowledge to deal with it would rather use force and bold face instead of owing up to the fact that he does not know what to do. From the workshop, those who participated now know what to do when you visit a cyber café in search cyber crime suspects. They now know what to press, realising that it is not about rounding-off everybody at the café; they now know what signs to look out for in order to get the information they need. Sincerely speaking, there may be some bad eggs within the police, but then there are still some good


ones in the force. Our prayer therefore, should always be to hope and pray for the best from the Nigeria Police. The example of the work the police is doing in Lagos State today has shown that with the right amount of support from the public and the state, the police can actually help us wash the name of the country of the dirt that has been thrown on its image by activities of fraudsters and other criminals. Businesses such as yours have a history of starting off as a product of some past experiences of the founder. Was BCI founded along such line? I have never really looked at the totality of the business in such terms. But now that you have said that, I think it sounds more logical to me. I started the recruitment agency purely because I wanted something to do. But out of some of the businesses I had done in the past, I had some nasty experience where it turned out that some of the people I trusted the most by taking them on face value led to the collapse of the business. So, when I was into the recruitment business, something just kept asking me if I really knew who those employees were and what if they would not do similar harm to those organisations as some of the people I trusted did to me. So, I decided to play my part in reducing the risk of similar fate befalling other business owners, and that was how I started background screening.