They date the most beautiful, educated and sophisticated girls of your dreams even when they represent the opposite of what the girl really wants; that’s the power of money. Also, they roughly wear the most expensive jewelries, shoes, clothes, throw the biggest parties, lodge endlessly in fancy hotels and paint the town red in the best cars.
They are the internet fraudsters popularly known as G-Boys or Yahoo Boys. These sets of people cause massive damage both home and abroad in a slow manner which could be likened to the effect of drug abuse on human beings.
Back home, the losses are immeasurable. Nigeria records about N127 billion loss annually to cyber-crime. Nigeria has been ranked third in global internet crimes, coming after United States of America and United Kingdom respectively. In 2014 alone, the anti-graft agency – Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC reported that customers in Nigeria lost about N6 billion to cyber criminals. Banks in Nigeria have lost approximately N159 billion to electronic frauds and cyber-crimes between 2000 and 2013.
I’m sure the Global North countries that are the prime victims can’t fully count their losses even if they want to. According to a report by Ultrascan AGI, a subsidiary of Ultrascan Research Services – an international research organization, a whopping sum of $12.7 billion was lost to Nigerian scams (focusing on Advance Fee Fraud statistics) in 2013. In 2012, losses totaled $10.9 billion from $9.6 billion in 2011. Another report says that $50 million is lost annually to romance scams which our brothers participate actively in.
In the U.S, romance scams account for the highest financial losses of all internet-facilitated crimes according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI. Reported losses in 2016 exceeded $230 million according to a conservative report as only 15% of the crimes are being reported.
Earlier this year, an 82-year-old grandmother in the U.S, Marjorie Earl Jones who lost all of her money to a con artist, was so devastated by the scam that she committed suicide.
Similarly, a lonely bachelor in the United Kingdom- Ian Doney, 51, sent thousands of pounds and paid for flights after believing he had met one girlfriend online and she was travelling to the UK. He also committed suicide on the 30th of August, 2016 after being scammed.
After he spent all day waiting fruitlessly at the airport, he went on to give more money for medical bills because he was told her visit had been prevented by an accident.
“He had not had a relationship with anybody. He just wanted a family.”
“He was borrowing money to send over there. He wasn’t eating properly and he was starving himself. Anything he could sell, he sold it.” his sister, Gillian Doney revealed. These are just a few examples of the catastrophic effects of internet fraud on individual lives.
The Yahoo Boys have presented Nigerians are predators in the international community who are considered too radioactive to have to have a dealing with.
Remember the ne’er-do-wells you mocked during your first degree days. I mean the Indian Hemp smokers and drunks who failed to pass the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB examination, they are now the kings of the streets with the cash to throw around just like El Chapo and Pablo Escobar. Some of them like the popular de facto Gucci ambassador, Hushpuppi now command elephantine followership on social media through which they now mentor people. They regularly do giveaways to build their presence online and compete with the regular celebrities.
The economic downturn in Nigeria has made even the most principled vulnerable to them. Religious and societal values have also been abandoned for a mesh of porridge provided by these people who ruin lives through the keyboard. Even though, many believe internet fraud is a manifestation of age-long political corruption and economic hardship in Nigeria, there is no justification for living off the sweats of others like parasites in the ecosystem.
12 suspected internet fraudsters were apprehended by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) Lagos Zonal Office in collaboration with the Nigeria Police on Friday arrested in an Ikoyi Club in Lagos State with ostentatious properties seized from them as investigation continues.
This action has sparked ripples across the country with majority of Nigerian youths remaining divided concerning the bust. The usual flimsy excuses of the Yahoo Boys are that the government made them monsters and the politicians who are their role models are constantly stealing in million folds in the comfort of their offices with law enforcement agents and flawed institutions of state protecting them.
Unemployment and underemployment have been majorly blamed for the surging spate of cyber-crimes in Nigeria. Most Nigerians feel comfortable about internet fraud as far as they are not the victims.
Part of the praise-singers of the fraudsters are Nigerian musicians prominently 9ice, Reminisce, Olamide, Small Doctor, Olu Maintain, Kelly Hansome, Tupengo and others taking such actions to either show gratitude for previous financial assistance or probably curry favour from them. This is dangerous to the young minds because music is powerful; it could penetrate and control human minds in the fastest way possible.
The social media slay queens who hide under the guise of acting, make-up artistry, event management, fashion blogging, modeling and other flexible jobs to sell their bodies have also gone into overdrive over the attack on Yahoo Boys. These guys are one of their biggest customers keeping them in business and sponsoring their upscale lifestyles.
This journalist took his time to read hundreds of social media comments for and against internet scam and the survey has yielded appalling and shameful results. In saner climes, this topic doesn’t warrant any debate but an outright condemnation of the act.
Nigerians benefiting from internet scam have flagrantly defended the internet fraudsters publicly without shame. If these people have their way, internet fraud would be enshrined in the Nigerian constitution as it supposedly generates ‘foreign exchange’ for the local economy in contrast to unscrupulous politicians who take money out of the already fragile economy to stash in foreign banks or buy vast properties outside the country.
A section of social media commenters even believe the Yahoo Boys who have fully delved into rituals to jinx their victims into making huge payments for phantom deals are avenging the crimes of the whites against the blacks for the 400 years of slavery. In the crime world, most criminals have a way of seeking justification for their crimes to subdue their conscience so that they could sleep well at night. Even the dreaded terrorist group, Boko Haram has a fine narrative to suit its quest for blood and destruction. But, in the real sense, there is no justification for being an outlaw.
Social media influencer and Lagos socialite, Noble Igwe has been criticized vehemently on social media platforms for exposing the business fronts through which these scam artists launder their dirty money in Lagos. He drew attention to real estate and property businesses, record label ownership (which singer Dbanj also confirmed some months back) car shops as well as other outlets in the privileged Island area of Lagos State. His tweets have been regarded as ‘snitching’ which is a popular black American cliché for condoning crime.
Those opposing him are not even faceless people, they are prominent figures in the entertainment circle using their large following and verified accounts to hit the fashionista in a brazen way as it fraud is a legalized part of the Nigerian economy. This is not the Nigerian dream and one wonders how we got here. Dating a ‘god fearing’ and loving internet fraudster has become the dream of most girls in Lagos. Following some wealth-flaunting celebrities on Instagram has spurred them to lust after ostentatious products like iPhones, iPads, designer shoes, clothes, Exotic meals, wines, cars, top class hotels, vacation in some tourist centres across the world especially Dubai and engage in all sorts ephemeral of activities that could be used to intimidate their pairs.
Yahoo Boys who can be safely called armed robbers whose guns are laptops and operation area is the internet have become fixers celebrated by some parents as long as they are generous with their loot. This red-carpet treatment given to them is setting a bad precedent that would mortgage societal balance as well as the development of Nigerian youths.
Majority of people don’t care about hard work anymore. Academics are being mocked for finishing school in flying colours and working for peanuts while the uneducated fraudsters who wasted the sunny days of their lives at beer parlours, engaging in drug abuse and chilling at dark corners with prostitutes, ride the best of cars and even open businesses that could employ the educated.
This acceptance of fraud as a way of life which has almost formed a foundation of Lagos State – commercial capital of Nigeria where workers painstakingly earn an average of N100,000 per month is happening in the face of a #NotTooYoungToRun campaign aimed at ensuring young people take up public positions in Nigeria. There is this general belief that Nigeria would be better off if the apparent system of ‘Gerontocracy’ is abolished and the youths with fresh ideas assume power.
With the calibre of youths seen supporting fraud, I think the present formidable team of political jobbers is set to change to more energetic, hungrier, tactical and, brilliant ones. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. The agitations for direct political participation by pseudo intellectuals and half-baked political analysts on Twitter are mostly being made by youths who are indirectly bitter about being shut out of the heist being committed at the corridors of power daily.
The same Nigerians who complain about the weakness of the Nigerian international passport are the ones stealing with strong political will, operating as rug rags on the internet giving the country a bad reputation in the developed world. Nigerians are like desperados outside the country; they could even betray their mothers just to make their lives worthwhile.
This has had a malignant effect on foreign investments in Nigeria as businesses to a large extent have to do with trust. What we see here are long term growth and development prospects being sacrificed for the short term benefits of a greedy few.
Nigerians abroad are being treated with disdain and disrepute simply because of the sins of a faceless few swallowing the lifetime savings of responsible people overnight only to satisfy youthful exuberance with the stolen funds.
There have been cases of victims becoming drug addicts, alcoholics, getting heart attacks, committing suicide and parting with their beautiful families after losing huge savings to Yahoo Boys who ignorantly attribute their successes to ‘God’. There is danger as the new crop of Nigerian youths doesn’t want to work, they just want to get rich and scam is the way.
Most families, friends and acquaintances don’t care about the source of the money, they just want to celebrate the spender and enjoy their share. The Yahoo Boys are their heroes and messiahs.
Permit me to end my piece with the wise words of the creative director and lead producer at Soundcity TV, Olamide Adedeji about the Yahoo Boys saga as seen on Twitter:
“Yahoo boys are armed robbers. Armed with computers harming people and corporations. So please, file them next to Drug dealers, thieves, money launderers etc”
“They don’t deserve to be glorified, praised or emulated. We need this reality check”.
Osayimwen Osahon George is a journalist and doctoral student of the University of Ibadan. He writes from Lagos State.