Before You Read:
If you’re a non-Nigerian reading this (and have never lived or spent time in the country directly), kindly understand that Nigerians are hard working people who detest crime in whatever shade it presents itself.
The activities of these internet fraudsters thus represents the exception and not the rule.
Their case is the classic summary of a few bad eggs giving the sad impression that the entire crate is spoilt.
From Benin City to Abuja; from Abuja to Lagos; from Lagos to Asaba; from Asaba to Port Harcourt; from Port Harcourt to Ibadan; from Ibadan to Ado Ekiti; from Ado Ekiti to Enugu – there exist a growing body of young men (and now, women) who are good with the laptop in a very strange, sad and fraudulent manner.
These young persons have no known source of (honest) living or income.
However, they drive luxurious cars (read: Benzes and Lexuses), live in exotic neighbourhoods and generally spend money in a manner that brings ‘shame‘ to hard working and otherwise, legal folks.
These group of young persons are growing by the day – and are known to do only one thing (responsible for their money and general flamboyant lifestyle): internet fraud – AKA Yahoo-Yahoo, 419 and of recent, Yahoo-Plus.
Today, I’ll be taking a deep and interested look at why this sort of crime persists in the country, despite the universal agreement that this act is evil and abominable.
Why This Article?
Earlier this month (August 2019 – if you happen to be reading this article in the future), Obiwanne Okeke was accused and arrested for both computer and wire fraud in the US.
Hitherto honoured by Forbes and respected all around the world as the poster boy of hard work and resilience Invitus Obi (as he was fondly called) grew up in great poverty, but with cyber fraud, was able to rise from ‘grass to grace’. His arrest understandably sparked outrage around the world and further smeared Nigeria’s image, a hue deeper.
However, the debates that his arrest has sparked, though interesting, isn’t complete and thorough.
At home and abroad, the talk remains the millions of Dollars involved and how his action will certainly cost Nigerians all over the world in rejection, suspicions and cancelled deals once the fact that one is a Nigerian citizen is made manifest.
I believe differently however. I believe that now (more than ever) is the perfect time to also raise the issue of the causes of the massive internet online fraud epidemic in the country with the view of offering solutions to these challenges in such a manner that will ultimately address the problem at its very roots.
This article is thus a fervent attempt at looking at the root cause of this malady as against focusing only on its symptoms and evil manifestations.
The 7 (Most Important) Causes Of Internet Fraud In Nigeria
I’ll discuss the seven (7) most deadly causes of internet fraud in Nigeria and for each point, posit a solution to the menace and wrap up how best I believe such a challenge can be tackled, right here in Nigeria.
If you hate online fraud and are concerned about the negative challenges it causes for all Nigerians, now is the time to follow me down the page and see how this can indeed be made history with good thinking and a simple sincerity of purpose.
1. Greed & The Love Of Consumer Goods
Greed (more than anything else on God’s holy earth) is the number one cause of internet fraud in Nigeria. It is also (almost singularly) responsible for the epidemic rate at which the scourge is spreading.
Young Nigerian males, today, are interested in buying their first car before they clock 20 and sadly, have no intention of using their (earned) money for this. They have no money, as a matter of fact – if truth is to be told.
Now, these young persons are desirous of not only buying and using any car as a means of transportation: they are interested in the premium and higher end models only: Mercedes Benz, Lexus etc.
Now, with Nigeria’s position as the official poverty capital of the world confirmed, it remain virtually impossible to either work for (or legitimately earn) the money needed to buy these premium and luxurious automobiles.
Crime (in the form of online fraud) ‘logically’ follows.
For those who are not expressly attracted to cars, the lure of a ‘good life’, largely symbolized in Nigeria by the quality of consumer goods one purchases – and uses is often lure enough: cell phones, tablets, clothes and everything else in between.
Young Nigerians, for instance (all thanks to the internet and social media), are no longer interested in using simple cell phones for their communication needs.
Sadly, with rising poverty rates and without a viable way of earning legitimate income, the youth of the country are drawn to the only way they believe can facilitate a life of their tastes the fastest: Yahoo-Yahoo.
Curbing Greed & The Taste For Consumer Goods In Young Persons
Tackling greed and the incessant taste for consumer goods by young persons in Nigeria is not an easy task.
This task is not easy because it is something that is wired, deep into the brain of the average Nigerian youth over a time period, starting right from birth.
However, the process of ‘rewiring’ the brain and ensuring that young persons in Nigeria do not grow up with an unhealthy and extremely greedy mindset will need to start from the cradle – the very roots.
Children, at the nursery, primary and secondary schools need to be taught that fulfillment comes from contribution to society and not in primitive accumulation of wealth.
Literature children of this school age should be exposed to should seek to espouse the virtues of hardwork and contentment as primary themes. Movies and other forms of entertainment should also be made to follow this pattern. This, parents should make sure of.
For adults, the disdain for ‘any sort of wealth’ followed closely by the close respect for honest work in itself will be motivation enough to tow a different path, powered by a completely different set of thought processes.
This, I understand will be hard – and will take time.
However, diligently planned and smartly executed, the results will both be glaring and long lasting.
2. Poor Parental Upbringing
The average Nigerian parent believes that the process of training a child involves providing for basic needs and the payment of school fees.
It is therefore not surprising that once one is wealthy enough to cater for the physical needs of the children he is responsible for, society generally holds that he can have as many children as he feels like (since he can ‘train’ them).
This is a completely wrong mindset and contributes today, in Nigeria, in no small measure to the menace of internet fraud.
Children are given birth to in more numbers than their parents can take care of. General neglect follows in a systematic manner (even if basic needs are being met).
Such children generally learn all it is they have to learn either from the schools or the streets in general: two very bad teachers so far as the Nigerian situation is concerned.
With this systematic parental neglect, a typical Nigerian young person imagines that online fraud is justified and in the height of such misplaced basics, one hears things such as: “our politicians are the ones that started it”; “there are no jobs” and the most recent: “we’re only bringing back what the white man took from Africa (read: Nigeria) with the intent to develop our own economy”.
Ensuring That Kids Are Brought Up Properly
Bringing kids up properly to understand the difference between crime and honest living in as clear a manner as possible isn’t impossible. As a matter of fact, it is simple and quite straightforward.
However, it takes time and dedication to be able to see any good results. However, unlike the first point, the results here are almost instant.
First, if success is to be recorded here, the number of kids an average Nigerian usually births would need to come down as a matter of urgency.
From the 4-8 range that is currently prevalent at the moment, Nigerian parents must restrict and make do with only a child or at most, 2 children, irrespective of wealth or the capacity to ‘train’ such children.
Such a reasonable number of children will ensure that the kids receive maximum attention from their parents and get the very best as far as the teaching of morals and common sense is concerned.
Second, parents must understand that the act of raising kids is not limited to paying their fees and catering for their physical needs alone.
They must understand that the reality of successfully raising kids that are well adjusted and capable of towing the honourable path involves making such kids their best friends and is not limited to tackling their financial needs alone.
With parents as the best friends of their kids, it is super easy to influence such children in a manner that is both positive and satisfying, well out of the league of what is generally obtainable today.
Third – and finally, parents must learn to have time for their children and refuse to designate only the schools and the streets to teach their children.
The concept of summer lessons (during the long vacation) and extra lessons (during the school session) should be frowned upon and discouraged as much as possible. Instead, parents should utilize such time to stay around their children and influence them positively instead of using same for the pursuit of money and frivolities, tagging the genuine demand for their time by their children ‘disturbance’ and generally, as something to be done away with (as quickly as possible).
3. Failure To Make Money Online Legally
The allure of making money online is real: no one hates the fact of waking up circa 10 AM and working only either in boxers (or bras) with no boss to answer to directly.
The attraction of this lifestyle (coupled with the time and money freedom it ensures) is truly out of this world.
Personally, this was what attracted me to consider, directly, this line of work and of earning a living.
However, not everyone is as lucky as I am to make money online in a legal manner – and keep doing so, year after year.
As a matter of fact, more than 80% of all those who attempt to make money online never in fact, make up to $100 in their entire quest and only about 8% make enough money to be able to sustain their families.
This figure, to put it quite mildly, is greatly disturbing.
It is more disturbing when it is understood that these stats are 7 years old (when things were way easier online and the internet wasn’t yet stuffed and saturated).
It saddens further to understand that it is the US in focus here: a country that has better power, internet connectivity and general quality of life when compared to Nigeria.
It would thus be safe to conclude today that only about .1% Nigerians who ever attempt to make money online succeed – beyond the $100 mark. The rest fail woefully and wonder for the rest of their lives if money can truly be made online.
Of these failure numbers, a handful are determined not to give up – in the most negative of manners. Since (they reason), they cannot make money legally online, why not try the illegal route of fraud?
This, I’m afraid, often yields a success rate that is more than the earlier (legit) .1%!
How To Make Money Online In Nigeria Legally
Making money online isn’t exactly easy. As someone who has attempted doing so and has recorded success, it is important to understand that it is (very) serious work.
To overcome this challenge, one needs to understand that making money online has pretty much the same rules as any business (offline).
One needs to study it, see if he or she is suited for a particular model, proceed to start up and give it all, expecting profits only after long months or years (depending on actual expertise and skill set).
Here, it is possible, like any other offline business model, to invest both time and money and not make anything for the first two years!
It thus matters that one chooses an online business model that excites him/her and falls within his or her range of capabilities.
However, to make things better and easier for the teeming youth who are interested in making an honest living online, such things as affiliate marketing, recognizing online scams, blogging and all things online should be included in the standard curriculum of senior secondary schools and offered as elective courses in the university, open to all students, from the first year to the final year.
While that is being set up (and even when it comes into fruition), the anti-graft agency in Nigeria, EFCC, needs to also do all in its power to enlighten the country’s youth on legal ways to make money online.
This can be achieved by hiring resource persons who are actually making money online (like me) and tasking them with the responsibility of teaching their business model(s) to willing youth who are interested in learning the basics of making money online.
This will go a long way to correcting the false mental impression that internet fraud is the only way to make money online in Nigeria at the moment, especially when the reality that the plethora of these youth are actually jobless and there are no jobs to cater for them, at least, for the moment.
Finally, other Nigerians who are already making a steady income online (like me, again 🙂 ) need to start teaching others same – if they have the love of Nigeria at heart. This can be completely free or for a small and affordable fee.
Personally, I have written 3 good books on making money online in Nigeria and they are all free. All what you need to do is sign up at the end of this article and you’ll be shown the download link 🙂
4. Peer Pressure
Peer pressure in Nigeria is real – and is one of the major reasons young persons find themselves in the mess of ‘Yahoo-Yahoo’ today.
This is especially true of students in the higher institution or of young persons growing up in urban areas. Like cultism, these two places are hubs where many vices, including the now endemic internet fraud is bred.
Here, many a young fellow finds out that he or she is the only ‘jew’ amongst his or her plethora of friends and perhaps, the only one who lacks some basics of life (due to the fact of being of poor origins).
In such instances, his or her friends are likely to coerce such a young person into this hydra headed vice and even help him or her succeed by sharing or introducing such a person to the ‘tools’ of the ‘trade’.
How To Tackle Peer Pressure In Young Nigerians
Tackling the issue of peer pressure amongst Nigerian youth is as simple as ABC: the parents or guardians of such young persons only need to make them believe in themselves enough to have the moral strength to refuse something (anything as a matter of fact), if it does not feel right.
This core responsibility of instilling self confidence and pride in children (coupled with the reality of teaching same the concept of honour) starts right at birth – from the family level and continues right through school and early adulthood.
A child, if he or she is to successfully shun peer pressure and by extension, steer clear from online fraud, must be made to be able to trust their own judgement and have the courage to follow their hearts and intuition, even if the whole world tells them they are wrong; children must be taught to be steadfast even when the whole world stands on the other side of the fence to where they currently stand or are willing to stand.
In summary, every child should be raised (both by parents and teachers alike) in the light of Abraham Lincoln’s letter to his son’s teacher.
5. Government’s Monumental Failure
“…medical facilities are poor. We operate a predatory, neo-colonial capitalist system, which is founded on fraud and exploitation, and therefore, you are bound to have corruption institutionalized…” – Falz in This is Nigeria.
This, in summary, is the reality of Nigeria, Nigerians and the manner of government in place today in Nigeria.
As a matter of fact, to go into details on the failed systems in Nigeria today will be a waste of time as even a 2 year old kid understands. Nigeria, is clearly a failed state and amongst many other (very bad things), the poverty capital of the world.
This, everyone in the whole, wide world knows!
Living in this sort of system is hell to say the very least: there is simply no guarantee of a job (even after being ‘over’ qualified), young and old alike lose their jobs daily. To make matters worse, trying to go solo by way of entrepreneurship is simply the most challenging thing a young Nigerian can attempt!
If I hadn’t known better, I wouldn’t blame these fraudsters at all – the situation in Nigeria is simply hell!
All thanks to a super corrupt government, this hell isn’t going away anytime. Instead, the system finds a way to reward the rotten, the thieves, the scammers in government and all the bad eggs that represent all that is wrong with the country!
In light of this, it is extremely difficult talking a potential scammer (or an active one at that) out of the ‘trade’ when he or she reminds you that there exist thousands of extremely corrupt politicians who are feeding fat on the system and instead of prosecution, the government rewards them with appointments and the rest of us clap – calling them all sorts of exalting titles such as Honourable.
Getting It Right By The Government
Nigeria is thoroughly rotten from inside out, from the common man on the streets right to the presidency in Abuja.
Things are actually this bad.
Getting it right appears almost impossible at the moment…however, if Nigerians are truly tired of this stinking lot and want true change, it can happen…Nigeria can be on the part of greatness again.
First, the Senate needs to be scrapped. In a country that has been adjudged the poverty headquarters of the world, Nigeria has no single business with a bicameral legislature. What we need is a unicameral system, represented by the House of Representatives only.
Now, with the HOR in place and the Senate scrapped, what Nigeria needs to do is to make politics less attractive by slashing 90% of the benefits currently accruable to these so called (dis)honourable members. With this (and the making of politics a part time venture in the country) the whole system would be sanitized…leaving only those who are interested in actual service to seek elective offices.
The ‘come and chop’ folks would simply fizzle out.
Second and importantly, ALL elective and appointive office holders in Nigeria should be barred from foreign medical treatment, in foreign hospitals. Together with their families and dependents, if they need healthcare, they should be treated in the general ward where the local farmer occupies or where the primary school teacher delivered her baby.
That is not all, ALL elective and appointive office holders should as a matter of compulsion, train their children, wards and dependents in Nigerian public schools from nursery to university.
They should also be made to use public transport (the type the average Nigerian uses daily) when they need to travel from one place to another.
Finally, generators should be BANNED in the country from the most insignificant village in the North to Aso Rock. This way, Those in power will feel the heat (literally) like the rest of those they represent and believe me, the power sector will be fixed in a week or less.
Do this (and ensure a super thorough job) and see Nigeria become a great country again in a year (or less)!
6. Light Punishment (On Conviction)
Of recent in Nigeria (especially since the Invictus Obi story broke), there has been a plethora of arrests – and convictions of Internet Fraudsters, AKA, Yahoo Boys.
However, the sentences meted out to dubious fellows are laughable at best.
For instance, only recently, Justice Binta Mohammed of an FCT High Court sentenced a convicted internet fraudster to only 1 month in prison or an option of N100,000 (about $270) fine!
Now, this fellow was convicted of a $29,000 romance scam!
Similarly, an Edo state High court siting in Benin, recently sentenced a convicted internet scam artist to only a year in prison for a crime that involved about $140,000!
Now, these ‘sentences’ are laughable, given the fact that these fellows can easily afford to pay the often insignificant fines or at worst, be out in a jiffy and continue right from where they stopped.
The Cyber Crimes Act 2015 hasn’t also helped matters: the Act prescribes punishments in the range of 3 years, generally, for internet fraud. Only when critical national infrastructure is involved does the Act get serious for once and prescribes a 15 year sentence (with death being prescribed if the act results in the death of someone).
The lukewarm position of the Act vis a vis the light punishment offenders get when they are found guilty by a competent court does nothing to discourage the menace; if anything, it emboldens the fraudsters, since they are fully aware that they can handle the worst their crime merits.
The Manner Of Punishment That Suits ‘Yahoo Boys’
This is quite simple: any country on earth desirous of getting rid of certain forms of crimes makes the penalty for that crime super stiff. Examples are corruption in China (where the death penalty holds sway) and the death penalty for peddling drugs in the Islamic country of Saudi Arabia.
Now, if Nigeria is indeed serious with internet fraud and wants to see it go, it will also be time to stop these super light punishments of 3 months or at most, 1 year.
Offenders who have been tried and found guilty should be sentenced to a minimum of 35 years (for the very minor cases) and death (for more serious cases) or at least, life imprisonment for cases that are grave and involves thousands of Dollars.
Of course, this will need an amendment of the Cyber Crimes Act, 2015. If this is done, internet fraud in Nigeria will be history in less than a month!
It is as simple and as plain as that!!
It is no longer news that Nigeria has overtaken India and now is the poverty capital of the world.
Here, of an estimated 180 million citizens, about 86.9 million persons (representing about 48.2%) live in extreme poverty!
Now, if the above does not make you pause and ponder for a while, here’s something that will most likely make you stop in your tracks: of that figure, only the folks in extreme poverty are covered; the millions that barely etch out an existence, those who cannot afford good hospitals, those who must use the rickety buses every morning (and evening) because they cannot afford any better, those who are ‘forced’ to send their children to public universities and endure the strikes that makes a 4 year course run well into 7 years etc. are not included.
If this population is factored in, then, the poverty rate in Nigeria will be close to 98% – if not more!
Things are really this bad.
For all those who are young, have aspirations and cannot see same come to fruition because of the prevailing circumstances surrounding them, it makes sense to them (at least), to ‘find something to do’, especially if they can access the internet and have computers (or can easily acquire them).
This ‘finding something to do’ is the code name for something sinister and deadly: internet fraud.
Unemployment in the country has made things worsened; the final stroke that ultimately sees to it that the camel’s back is not the same again is the reality of underemployment – a situation where one works but his ‘take home’ cannot really take him or her home.
For a chronically poor family, a child of theirs getting his or hands dirty with internet fraud is a welcome development. As a matter of fact, such a child is looked upon as the ‘saviour’ of the family – without which the family will most certainly face ‘extinction’.
Tackling Poverty Smartly
Successive governments in Nigeria have all attempted to tackle poverty in different guises. They have called it different names too – from ‘Poverty Alleviation Programme’ to ‘Poverty Eradication Programme’.
The sad thing is that, these governments have been more interested in appearing concerned than actually being concerned and bothered about the trend. That is why Nigeria (in the first place) overtook India as headquarters to the most poor citizens in the world despite India being 7 times the population of Nigeria.
First, to tackle poverty in Nigeria in a smart manner, the roads – and all infrastructure in Nigeria (including the power sector) need to be fixed. Fix these infrastructures and Nigerians would find something for themselves, on their own even without conventional job provision.
Second, Nigerians need to stop the craze for children and more children. Importantly, we all need to understand as Nigerians that out primary function on earth is not to bear children. A child or at most 2 children should be prescribed by the government and enforced.
The reason is simple: in almost all cases of extreme poverty, a family of more than 2 children is always involved.
The reason for this is not far fetched: one can easily take care of 1 child or 2 children even in the sad event of job loss or general loss of sustenance. 3 – 12 + children, woes set in and it becomes practically impossible to be ‘responsible’ again!
Finally, entrepreneurship should be taught in all schools and at all levels – from the primary stage right through to Ph.D.
The aim of this should be to re-orientate the minds of Nigerians to actively shy away from government jobs in particular and paid employment in general and instead, gravitate towards entrepreneurship and self employment.
The entrepreneurship course, when instituted, should be taught by actual businessmen and entrepreneurs and not some sadist, arm chair professors who know next to nothing, especially the practical, stormy world of business!
If these steps are religiously taken and implemented, Nigeria will get out of the current mess and hand over the title of the poverty capital of the world (to another less fortunate country) in 2 years or less.
Online fraud is bad, satanic, demonic, selfish and all shades of evil.
Like other serious vices, there is also no justification for it, no matter how authentic such a justification may look on face value.
Sadly, those who are guilty of it do not understand this and succeed in making all of us, Nigerians, pay for their stupidity (and greed) induced crimes by means of canceled deals once the Nigerian citizenship comes to the fore, discrimination at airports, denied visas etc.
These are indeed hard times and it is particularly difficult to proudly identify as a Nigerian.
However, the solutions are open and easy – if only we are all tired of the stigma and are prepared to make Nigeria work again.
This article is useless, pure vue liam if Nigeria and Nigerians do not individually and collectively reevaluate the pedestal to which money and material success is placed on in the country.
From Pentecostal churches to local village meetings, Nigerians have clearly and unequivocally maintained that the real ‘enemy’ of the people is poverty and not the greed, murder, rape, rituals and all things bad that that usually ensure quick and unexplained money.
Till we begin to ALL question sudden and unexplained wealth and even take things further by actively disdaining those to whom it is attached in both words and actions (while at the same time respecting honest labour and effort, no matter small, little or seemingly insignificant), the scourge of internet fraud, I’m afraid, will not only remain rooted in the country and the hearts of the average Nigerian youth but will also take a step further to demand a bed at dusk and at dawn, have the temerity to demand breakfast!
We were, are and will most likely remain (unless some sort of very positive move is taken) our own very worst enemies!!