Home News OYO101: The President And The ‘Yahoo Boys’ | Muftau Gbadegesin

OYO101: The President And The ‘Yahoo Boys’ | Muftau Gbadegesin

1028
0

It is four years since he was whisked away from his palatial 5-star hotel room like a beaten dog, never to flaunt his ill-gotten wealth and flamboyant lifestyle on social media again or con millions of people with his fad.

In his short-lived fame, this well-built and bearded guy rose to the pinnacle of the social ladder, chilling with the big boys across all walks of life. Up with the ‘odogwu’ of his land and beyond, this young man, still under 40, had a blast of a lifetime: he simply lived off on people’s sweat with mirthful abandon in Roll Royce, private jets, penthouses, and expensive designers, jewelry, and watches. He was the toast of top global brands: Gucci, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, etc.

Google search engine

Google search engine

However, in between his stratospheric rise to fame and spectacular fall as one of the world’s biggest notorious conmen lies a young man of impossible optimism and irrepressible dynamism, the Nigerian version of Frank W. Abagnale. A recommendation: grab a copy of Catch Me If You Can by Stan Redding.

Like most globally acclaimed conmen, he grew up in a humble family background with modest means in one of Africa’s bustling cities before jetting off to one of Asia’s biggest economic powerhouses, Malaysia to advance his trade. He then relocated to the desert of glitz and glamour, Dubai, where his fame grew exponentially until it abruptly collapsed like a deck of cards.

In Nigeria, he was a big internet cat, one with’steeze’ on all fronts. Followed by millions and adored by minions, this young man, Ramon Azeez, aka Hushpuppi, legendary exploits caught many unaware until an offensively aggressive operation was launched by the INTERPOL and FBI against him: Fox Hunt 2.

‘A thriving Industry?’

They are everywhere. In dreads and locks. Desperate for the soft life but clueless about the legitimate means to earn it, internet fraudsters, scammers, and criminals are not strangers to Nigeria. “As the Internet grows,” Alec Ross contends in his book, Industries of the Future, “it is expanding not simply to new users but to entirely new devices, well beyond standard computers, tablets, and smartphones.” This expansion has fueled much of the digital ecosystem with a menacing proliferation of all sorts of criminals, terrorists, and hackers, making the digital space excruciatingly difficult for innocent people to enjoy.

For a poverty-stricken country like Nigeria, the dream of a better life through legitimate means among mostly impoverished young people is considered not only impossible but equally unattainable. For most of these young chaps, the only way up is through the back door. It is this kind of mindset that keeps influencing millions of young people who take up scams and frauds as a means of livelihood.

Fundamentally, the issue lies not in the ability and propensity of young people to scam or steal innocent people’s hard-earned money through abracadabra, but rather in their deeply ingrained mindset, which must first be detoxified. And when the President said he would turn ‘yahoo boys’ into tech experts, many believed his approach might be counterproductive. “I will convert Yahoo boys and make them useful by converting their talents and intellects to produce chips for industries,” the president stated on a campaign trail in Edo in 2023. “We can defeat poverty, ignorance, and homelessness.” We possess the necessary knowledge and intelligence to achieve this. Trust me”.

‘Talents and Intellects’

Most ‘yahoo boys’ are ritualists in disguise. While some are indeed tech-savvy, most are intellectual deadheads with nothing to contribute to any nation’s social-economic development. To better understand this, it is helpful to look at the broad categorization of cybercrimes. Identity theft (hacking and phishing), scams like online auctions or business email compromises, technical products or services (like malware), attacks and extortion, and cashing out or money laundering (like credit card fraud) are all examples of fraud.

According to experts, scams like online auctions or business email compromises are among the most lucrative of all cybercrimes. In 2023 alone, more than 343 million people, including Nigerians, fell victim to various cyberattacks, according to Forbes.com. “The first cohort of Nigerian fraudsters who operated in the 1990s was largely uneducated,” Oladeinde Olawoyin, an award-winning journalist, wrote in an article, “and that group was followed by others who were frustrated by the nation’s poor economy.”.

He added that between the 1990s and now (referring to 2021), Nigeria’s economy has gone through a lot, with the nation’s statistics bureau putting the unemployment figures at 33.3% in its last report. He noted that today’s internet fraud has become a near-pandemic among Nigerian youths, with almost every skinny boy in sagging trousers sitting in an apartment and diverting huge cash into his bank accounts. But the impact goes deeper.

“Nigeria should declare a financial state of emergency on “cyber fraud, identity theft, and wire fraud” in the nation,” asserted Prof. Ndubuisi Ekekwe, Johns Hopkins University Professor of Engineering. “In the last three years, many fintech startups have failed, not because of market conditions, but because of this fraud vector.” He claimed that one of the biggest frauds in Nigeria a few months ago, which affected many startups, happened because they (fraudsters) can now set up accounts of real companies by cloning the identities of their owners, and some banks will fail to detect them. He asked whether EFCC could have a task force to catch those bad actors, as the old banking inspectorate unit used to do.

Unfortunately, the same internet that helped bring some of these cyber criminals to the limelight also assisted in their downfall. Instead of approaching internet fraudsters with a kid glove, the government must ruthlessly deal with the conditions that lure young boys into criminality with good governance.

‘Back to the President’

It is not so easy to lift ‘Yahoo boys’ from the street of a fabulous lifestyle to one of a paid job. And when you add the fact that they are criminals waiting for a free fall, it becomes especially tough. Addressing the menace of ‘yahoo boys’ without punishing the ‘Agba Yahoo’, corrupt politicians will only achieve muted results. Tackling the atrocities of internet scammers and fraudsters is a long walk, but first, the hard job of fixing a broken system must not pause. A special court to try cybercriminals will be a right step in the right direction just as international collaboration will not be a bad idea. Thankfully, the President just recently met with US Federal Bureau of Investigation Director, Christopher Wray in Abuja on how Nigeria and US can corporate and collaborate in tackling cybercrimes among others. For Nigeria, a lot is a stake as it grapples with the menace of ‘Yahoo Boys’, again, the nation cannot afford to lose this winnable battle against criminals in all forms.

OYO101 is Muftau Gbadegesin’s opinion about issues affecting the Oyo state and is published every Saturday. He can be reached via @muftaugbade on X, muftaugbadegesin@gmail.com, and 09065176850.

Previous articleBESDA AF-TEES: Oyo Gets 3.5bn Support Grants To Renovate 105 Rural Primary Schools
Next articleIbarapa APC Unfairly Treated, No Indigene In 24 Oyo Men Appointed Into Tertiary Institutions’ Governing Councils By Tinubu — Stakeholders

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here