To think that insecurity is exclusive to the hackneyed tragedy of terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and armed robbery is to be wedged between illusion and reality, especially in this part of Africa.
Nigeria, in the league of countries, ranks in the top-tier with an ever soaring number of internet fraudsters. These are people who chiefly sit in the contours of their rooms with theirsophisticated gadgets connected to the internet, concocting narratives to swindle mostly foreigners who they fondly call clients of their money. These people swindle foreigners of money and gift cards that when converted to Nigeria Naira becomes a “big kill” for them.
These fraudsters have been researched to be mostly male youths within the ages of 17-30: some graduates, someundergraduates, some drop-outs, some secondary schoolgraduates and some even secondary school students all pandering to this means to eke out a living on the basis of no gainful employment and business opportunities in the country to make ends meet.
After getting their “big kill”, these boys swing into acquiring grandiose material possessions such as exotic cars, expensive clothes, expensive phones, lodging in five and six-star hotels living the ostentatious life with the luxury of wealth at their disposal.
The crime, however, has since seen evolutions spawning from it with one of them being the upgrade called Yahoo Plus. This evolution hinges its function on ease and swift effectiveness of dealings with clients, such that unlike others who haven’t “upgraded” to this height, the boys who have are purported to achieve bigger kills from their dealings with much ease and swiftness. However, as appealing as the difference is, it comes with a cost and that has to do with ritual killings and sacrifices. In a bid to make more money and live the luxurious life, these boys as we have seen in recent times don’t give a hoot about killing their parents, friends and even spouses as required of them by their ritual coaches. This trend has since not only added to the layer of insecurity, but increased the fear among innocent Nigerians such that no one knows who is next as their victim.
Sharply what comes to mind on the heels of this rather chaotically is the recent news of the three teenagers in Abeokuta who had to behead a young girl touted to be one of their girlfriends for money ritual all because they learnt that killing people, especially cutting off their head is bound to fetch onemoney in return.
The truth is: we are our own problem as a people. Our greed, ignorance, and most especially irresponsibility to morality keeps being the fire we stoke under our legs yet cry out for help.
Three years ago, a report was published about some Yahoo Boys who confessed that the rituals don’t fetch them money. They explained that from experience they have come to discover that all is a deceit from the merchants of these rituals.
To think that killing a fellow human being or dismembering their body parts or even using a charm on them will yield money to one is the height of ignorance I have ever come across. These merchants who vouch for its potency and instruct to carry out such sacrifice, most of the time, are poor themselves, located in a remote and impoverished location but claim to have the power to make rich. The invariable question is: if they can make rich, then why are they poor? At least to prove that what they are pitching works should be reflective in them first.
As a people, our moral stance has also gone down the drain such that we can do anything and encourage our children to do anything likewise to make money. Gone are the days when parents chastise their children for stealing what belongs to another. Today, parents even go to the wavelength of comparing their well-intentioned children to those children in the society who have bought cars for themselves and are even building houses at the age of 21,22 with the lucid trace that they steal and cheat for a living. Some parents, as a result of stark poverty, don’t see anything bad in it to the point that guilt-tripping their innocent children about their contrasting status with those other children, in a bid to make them uncomfortable that they go after these children to learn the tricks of the crime, is the new norm.
Emerging as a spillover from this is the greed the crime has fostered among youths in the country. It is commonplace to find more youths getting into the crime every day. The incredulous results of the youths who are in it and have their results flaunted ostentatiously in the society accounts for one of the major reasons we keep having swelling numbers of youths engaged in it. I know well of the whole excuse of there-is-no-job to have the youths engaged in to take care of their individual and familial bills, but the truth is, the increasing rate of youths taking into cybercrime is more of a function of the moral decadence of the society than the unavailability of jobs. The fact that the government has failed to provide adequate jobs to take care of the teeming population of youths is no worthy to excuse awaythe moral-shaming decision of opting for crime as a means of livelihood. As a matter of fact, this is not the only country in the world where we have inadequate job opportunities. Brazil is a country suffering similar fate yet they are not disreputed as having a mounting statistic of youths steeped in cybercrime. In contrast, they have a predominant number of their youths who are enterprising to get themselves engaged in productive ventures that fetch them sustainable and dignifying income. Besides, in the country, not every youth is engaged in it. Rather some youths have their hands on legal and dignifying jobs ranging from agriculture, tech, freelancing, digital skills, teaching and the likes. Though the pay might not be comparableto the “overnight millions” to be made in Yahoo, yet the contentment with what they have as much as it takes care of their varied bills matters to them more than the mortification of making millions covertly, inflicting pain on others in the process.
And to some, the stance might be that these Yahoo Boys are of no harm to the security of the society since they mostly defraud the foreigners outside the shores. The truth is as much as it is agreed that their major clients are the foreigners, the ripple effectof cheating and stealing is one that trickles down and becomes an entrenched habit such that it will get to a stage, the culpritsdon’t want to know if you are white or black, the habitual proclivity to cheat they won’t be able to control any longer; hence, pounce on you whether you are their sister or a stranger. This is already evident in the rise of digital fraud we have on social media platforms in the country. As a result of being unproductive with foreign clients, some of these boys tend tonarrow down to their local environment and create some esoteric web links and send to groups and individuals on social media, asking you to click for cash gift, grant, bursary and what have you. Some, on the other hand, clone accounts of celebrities or put up a fake account displaying opulence. In the process of engaging them, they go all out to give you fictitious reasons to trust them, as such, the moment they notice they have earned a level of your trust, they start requesting you to send them money for sympathetic reasons that will almost compel – if not successfully compel – your humanity to oblige. And for those who create snares as links, their ambition is to have you click those links to gain access to sensitive information on your phone such as your banking details, social media contacts, social media accounts and mail. When this access is theirs, your safety becomes non-negotiable.
But you shall earnestly remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day – Deuteronomy 8:18
While the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was instituted to militate against the crime and intelligently fish out these boysfor apprehension, some of its officers, unfortunately, went southwith it to the extent that it became a business space for them to swindle the swindlers themselves. The appetite to get moresurfaced eventually, propelling them to harassing, extorting and apprehending innocent citizens with legal and dignifying source of income all on the trumped-up charge of cybercrime predicated on irrational premises such as moving about with a laptop, having dreadlocks, driving an expensive car, wearing expensive clothes, using expensive phones, shopping in expensive stores and what not. This did lead to an epoch-making protest against their unprofessionalism, undergirded by the demand for a reform of the police system to see it carry out its responsibilities ethically and effectively without being a source of discomfort and pain to innocent and dutiful citizens in the country.
While the government has their part to play in that regard, not to forget how much of an importance creating more jobs and enabling a better business climate can help reduce the odds of youths taking to the crime, the thrust of the problem is in the society itself. And when it comes to society, I mean every institution that makes up the society: the family, schools, community leaders and religious institutions. We are where we are down to two reasons: One, we have failed to live up to our responsibility of standing for ethics against all odds. Two, we see what is happening yet we keep quiet because of the momentary gains. The question you can’t run away from is: of what gain will you be to posterity if you allow evil reign today thinking good will substitute it tomorrow?
These boys are not bastards, they have homes. These boys are not atheists, they go to churches and mosques. These boys don’t live in deserts, they live among us in the community. These boys are educated, they attend our schools. We were not like this as a people. We used to stand up for morals, and have it celebrated. We eulogized doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, farmers and chastised those who steal. We looked out for one another’s children, knowing that a community is responsible for the grooming of a child. But today, what we have is painfully a contrast.
Whether we accept it or not, we are bound to lose more than we can gain if we allow this cankerworm robed in opulence grow stronger wings. Technology and civilization as culprit as it is to the crime should not be treated as the bath water but rather seen as the grass upon which we join hands to safeguard our future and that of our children via standing up for what is right and noble, safe and peaceful.
Dr. Ofonime Emmanuel Bassey is a Peace and Security Expert with decades of experience in the practice and promotion of Law Enforcement, Peace and Security through the Nigeria Police and the United Nations.
He is an advocate of Peace Leadership and Child Protection.
He has served and interacted at the top level management of the Nigeria Police as well as internationally as a United Nation’s Monitor/Mentor in Kosovo, Europe.
A professor of Peace Advocacy and Conflict Resolution, Dr. O.E Bassey is a certified United Nation’s Trainer, and currently the Director of ICOF Institute of Leadership, Peace and Conflict Resolution in Africa.
With his marks well-established in Peace Leadership both in Nigeria and Africa. Currently, he is the President, NISSI Safety Management Institute: An Institute of Peace Leadership.
Presently, he is spearheading a campaign tagged “The Next Peace Leaders”, a campaign that is billed to run from 2022-2023 with a target of training 37,000 young peace leaders.
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