BY ZAYD IBN ISAH
The ancient town of Ugheli in Delta State was in the news for the wrong reason as suspected yahoo boys staged a protest against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for allegedly arresting some of their members. The protest which dragged on for hours turned violent as they clashed with security operatives, leading to loss of lives and destruction of properties.
The aggrieved yahoo boys were not alone. They were in company of their girlfriends with placards in their hands. Some of the various placards reads: “#EndEfcc, “We are tired of Indiscriminate arrest”, “Our leaders are the true scammers”, etc.
There is another video clip making the rounds on social media of some of the yahoo boys girlfriends in their early twenties shouting, “Make una leave our boyfriends for us o, make una leave our boyfriends for us, na the yahoo we dey take the chop”. I watched the video on my friend’s Whatsapp status with a heavy heart. I can only imagine how their parents would feel, seeing children they toiled to give birth to, identifying with fraudsters in broad daylight. Some of the parents may feel indifferent to the shameless display of these young girls, after all, we now have Association of Mothers of Yahoo boys. The Yahoo Mothers’ Association was formed like every other pressure group to defend the interest of their children who put food on their table from the proceeds of internet frauds.
When the former EFCC Chairman, AIG Ibrahim Magu [Rtd} raised the alarm that Mothers of Yahoo Boys are now forming Association, many people could not believe their ears. Some shouted “lori Iro”, that the moral decadence in our society has not reached such debilitating height. Magu was proved right when some women suspected to be mothers of yahoo boys protested the incessant arrest and detention of their children by EFCC.
Away from Yahoo Boys Mothers’ Association to the protest in Ughelli, there was similar protest in Ibadan by some youths suspected to be yahoo boys against EFCC. Their message was the same with that of their counterparts in Delta State. They want Federal Government to end EFCC like they ended SARs. Nigerian youths are like Oliver Twist, they always ask for more. But, it remains to be seen whether President Muhammadu Buhari will listen to their loud cry of arrests and detention by EFCC and scrap the anti-graft agency so that they can have a field day.
The protest in Delta State by Yahoo Boys was history repeating itself. In February last year, suspected yahoo boys in large numbers protested incessant arrest by law enforcement agents at Oke Omiru, towards the Osogbo-ilesa expressway.
The rising spate of protests by Yahoo Boys in this country calls for sober reflection. Yahoo boys are now fighting back, and all hands must be on deck to be able to fight them to a standstill. We need to save the water now that it is ankle-deep. If not, we may wake up one day to see kidnappers, terrorists, armed robbers, rapists and even corrupt politicians on the streets with placards in their hands, demanding that they should be left alone to carry out their nefarious activities without fear of being arrested or killed. We should not foreclose the possibility of this happening because ours is a land of possibilities.
The yahoo boys have balls. Because It takes guts for criminals to come out openly and register their grievances against security agencies, when they should be running away from the long arm of the law.
The dirty business of fraud dates back to the 80s and 90s. What started as 419 (a section in the Nigerian criminal code), metamorphosed to an extent and gained traction into the internet which is known as yahoo.
The name yahoo boys came from the yahoo messenger in those days as it was the highest and only means of communication. The early yahoo boys were into lottery, love scams and bank works. But, a lot have changed over the years. Yahoo Yahoo has become rampant that most young Nigerians now sees it as the easiest way to escape the vice-grip of poverty. These young and desperate Nigerians engage in all sort of diabolical activities to hypnotise their unsuspecting victims into parting with their hard-earned money. There was a time in this country that eating of fresh human feces and stealing of women pants and brasiers were so rampant amongst yahoo boys that women were afraid of spreading their pants and braisers outside for fear of being stolen for money rituals, likewise going into the bush to defecate.
Just when we thought we were done with yahoo yahoo came “Yahoo Plus”. Just as the name implies, it’s an upgrade of yahoo yahoo. It takes another level of guts to indulge in yahoo plus as it involves rituals and the use of human parts for metaphysical purposes, as engendered by the harvesting of human organs. The yahoo plus guys have their ‘’Babalawos”, whom they take the body parts of their victims to for money rituals. Scavenging for body parts through ritual killing is not alien to us, but it was common amongst adults those days. That young men and women now indulge in it shows how low we have fallen in moral ladder.
Recently, in Ogun State, three teenagers were arrested by the Ogun State Police Command in connection with the killing of a certain girl, identified as Rofiat for money ritual. One of them is said to be her boyfriend. There are other victims like Rofiat who have fallen victims of ritual killings by young boys who are believed to be leaders of tomorrow.
Internet fraud in our contemporary society is much worse than we think. The fraudsters come with the guise of helping their victims only to strip them of everything. Some victims have committed suicide after losing their lives savings to fraudsters. You can continue to blame successive governments’ inability to provide employment opportunities for the teeming masses, but nothing will change if we don’t tackle the real enemy, which is greed. How do you explain the mad craving of a 15-year-old boy to own a Lexus 350 without a sustainable means of income? What about civil servants that are still using internet fraud as side hustle? Will you still blame government for its inability to provide employment opportunities? Aside blaming governments’ inability to provide employment opportunities, yahoo boys see themselves as avengers. They believed that our colonial masters had brutally enslaved their forefathers, and they are paying them back in their own coins.
The younger generation need orientation and re-orientation. They should be taught that it is not okay to live above your means and to take what does not belong to you. Furthermore, they should be taught that there can still make it legitimately. And that there is dignity in labor.
The society has a prominent role to play in molding the younger generation also. Lawrence Kohlberg was an American psychologist best known for his theory of stages of moral development. He claimed that our development of moral reasoning occur in six stages. The first stage is Obedience and Punishment. At this stage, children obey the rules taught and believe what society says is right. Avoiding punishment is a leading factor in their desire to obey authority.
The wheel of the administration of criminal justice system should grind faster against criminals to serve as deterrence to others. And it is important to remind the protesting yahoo boys and their hirelings that the right to peaceful assembly as enshrined in chapter four of the 1999 constitution is not for criminals. It is for law-abiding citizens and not those who feed-off people’s hard-earned money.
Law enforcement agents should not relent in their efforts to rid the country of fraudsters. Those calling on EFCC to leave yahoo boys alone and go after corrupt politicians instead, don’t know the extent of damage they have done to our reputation abroad. These boys have created a single story of fraud for Nigerians. A friend of mine who is a fraud analyst lost a remote job in Germany with a mouth-watering monthly salary of over three million recently because of his nationality. He has never in his life engage in internet fraud nor does he fratanise with yahoo boys, yet he lost the job because he comes from Nigeria. Our very existence as Nigerians is a crime, no, thanks to activities of fraudulent few like Hushouppi, Invictus Obi and others.
Zayd Ibn Isah writes from Abuja. He can be reached via email@example.com.