After making all the millions, yahoo boys spend it on ‘wasteful’ expenditures – popping bottles, expensive cars, designer wears and on yahoo mistresses.
The general public is talking about the headline: EFCC Rounds Up 12 Suspected ‘Yahoo Boys’ At Lagos Club.
On social media especially, the conversation has drawn the interest of a population size enough to call it a national discourse. From the comments online, one can conclude that the popular opinion is that Yahoo Yahoo is a crime and perpetrators in the act should be hunted and jailed.
After the news of the EFCC raid broke out, Noble Igwe the style influencer went on to blow the cover of Internet fraudsters who use their investments in industries like entertainment, vehicle sales & Real Estate to hide their illicit dealings. He broke the code of silence and suggested new targets to the attack-ready EFCC. Noble Igwe got a lot of cheers for his fearless act and a number of critical reactions from people most of whom dubbed him a ‘snitch.’
A lot of time and energy has been given to placing Noble Igwe as either a hero or a villain but that, in my opinion, is secondary and rather too relative to exhaust precious resources on. The major problem here is Internet fraud aka yahoo, right?
From the moralist point of view, it is robbery in disguise. It is as bad as barging in on a family and forcefully taking their belongings – money, properties, delicate items like happiness and more. It is even worse when it involves blood – ritualism or suicide on the path of the ‘client’ and that would cause karma to pass it’s most dreaded judgement on the perpetrator – death, followed by eternal damnation. I hear.
Privileged Nigerians who have had the chance of spending time outside the country are critical of the act because it has damaged the reputation of the country, stained the name ‘Nigeria’ and caused them to be victimised by natives of their respective host country, because of their association with the name – Nigeria. Oh how interesting.
People like Seun Kuti who is concerned with the economics of having yahoo boys around, their issue with the whole Yahoo thing is that after making all the millions, yahoo boys spend it on ‘wasteful’ expenditures – popping bottles, expensive cars, designer wears and on yahoo mistresses. In Ye’s voice, these savers are ‘so appalled’. They must think yahoo boys are shallow minded nouveau riche individuals obsessed with frivolities.
All of these concerns have been heard and discussed but has anyone asked yahoo boys for their own side of the story? Has anyone asked why an innocent young kid would grow up to become a criminal who steals from unsuspecting victims; not caring for their mental or physical health?
Has anyone asked why anyone would love money so much that he/she would be willing to shed human blood? Has anyone asked why our youths today would rather do yahoo than trust the government to provide legal jobs?
Seun Kuti. (Bonafide Magazine)
I asked. Ayomide Tayo, the pop culture editor of PulseNG, did too, and we both concluded that survival is the idea behind Internet fraud. In his opinion, “internet fraud is a manifestation of decades of bad policies, corruption, the educational system of neglect and military dictatorship (in Nigeria).” This has left the country with about 30 million young people (figure given by Director-General, Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI), Prof Danladi Matawal in 2017), roaming the streets looking for what to survive on.
People naturally want to live good lives, but then, the definition of ‘good life’ is relative, even for Nigerian youths which includes citizens of the country aged 18–35 years. Between the ages of 18-25, a large fraction of Nigerian youths are assumed to be at different levels of financial dependence. An average 25 year old Nigerian would expect to have a stable source of income – perhaps a good paying salary job or a healthy business. An average 30 year old Nigerian, normally, would be in the phase of building a family – at least a nuclear one with a wife and kid(s).
Look around; are any of these aspirations being met? Perhaps they are. Maybe people around are actively engaged and living quality lives, the question is; at what rate? Going by the December 2017 NBS report, 67.3% of Nigerians in the age group of 15- 24 were either unemployed or underemployed and 42.5% of youths aged 25-35 shared that same employment status. Combined unemployment & underemployment rate of youth labour force was given as 52.5%, meaning 2 – 3out of every 5 Nigerian youth aged 15-35 years is operating at a level less than his/her potential.
The figures show that the number of youths seeking; greatly supersedes the volume of opportunities available. How then would the not privileged ones survive? Should they trust a Nation that produces governments who have failed to keep their promise of providing basic social amenities like uninterrupted power supply since ’99, to provide fair opportunities for them?
Should they keep their faith in President Muhammadu Buhari who doesn’t even keep faith in any of the hospitals in the country?
Nigeria of today is a jungle and in the jungle, survival is the code. No wonder there are so many yahoo youths in the country who use survival as their excuse.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki and INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu (Pulse.ng)
Read an excerpt of my conversation with a 26 year old B.Sc degree holder who is into yahoo.
Me: You are a yahoo boy right?
Him: Yes I am.
Me: Do you know it is a crime?
Of course it is. That begs the question – do the government thieves know stealing is a crime..Telling lies (to twist a legal process) is a crime too you know?
Stealing government funds is worse because it destroys more than thousands of lives. Drug dealers commit crimes that destroy more lives as a result of addiction. There’s crime everywhere, I just chose one that I can bend my conscience for.
You can’t have a good economy and have such high crime rate. I studied economics and it’s a generally accepted theory that ‘the effects of poor economy are social unrest and crimes’. Countries like Denmark and Japan have crime rates next to zero or maybe so low, because of their good economy.
It is simple… good economy, good returns. No one has the time to think of crime.
Me: So you’re saying you do it to survive?
Yes, to be comfortable and erase the thought of having a future with nothing….
When you grow up in a world where even the rich ones had gone through forms of illegality to be rich either drugs, which was common in the 80s’ and 90s’, or through embezzlement of government funds.
Look at our country, you can’t make mention of many rich ones who fraud or embezzlement isn’t attached to their names. The only difference between us is that some cleaned up their illegal funds and the politicians have risen above the law but yahoo boys are getting there too.
The system has been so corrupt and damaged from the onset that the decay is now obvious.
Me: Would you prefer to have stable income to this yahoo thing?
But of course, at times people go months and years, without making a penny and that’s what leads them to ritualism. Now imagine if the hustle was pushed towards positivity, when you know the system supports your ideas… there would surely be results.
And yes, I would prefer a job that pays me a good monthly salary with fair working condition, a job that pays me a good monthly salary with fair working condition, to yahoo. I am not a lazy youth. *laughs* I know people who has lost millions in business ventures and couldn’t rise up again. What do you expect such person to do? Remain idle? He has to look for an alternative.
A typical example is a friend who after BSc., no job. He goes for MSc. and still no job, and he is about 29 or 30 years. Education is no longer the key. Even companies requests for masters’ degree holders not more than 26 or 27 years of age. How’s that possible? If not that the system was designed to favour the rich kids who attended private universities who hardly go on strike. I gave away 2-3 years of my academic year to strike. The system is not fair, so how do I win by being fair?
Me: Do you think the ills in the Nigerian society can be corrected?
Him: Honestly, it’s harder now. Prevention is better than cure. We youths have been exposed to the life of crime and idleness. EFCC raids won’t change that believe me. Perhaps if we have better systems with fair opportunities for all, we can win back some of our prodigal youths. If we can’t achieve that at least if we can make the system fair with available opportunities, the next generation would benefit from it and the country can have a better identity then.
[The conversation above is a product fiction created to help readers understand the situation better]
The conversation supports the statement of Ayomide and my assumption – that yahoo yahoo is an offshoot of corruption, injustice and failed policies of the Nigerian government over the years. From the conversation, I drew the conclusion that the government, the society, greed and selfishness are amongst the contributing factors to the rampancy of the crime.
Dino Melaye welcomes another Super Car! (YouTube)
“They make the law, ask you to live by it but they don’t.”
To Nigeria, corruption is joined at the hip. Like many other African societies, growth and development in Nigeria has been stifled by the failures of successive governments to create an enabling environment. While some other countries would point to lack of resources, war, natural disaster as their biggest challenge, in Nigeria, corruption in government is the bane. And it trickles down from the government quarters to every area of the Nigerian society. No wonder the nation is ranked 148 out of 180 on the 2017 Transparency International list of world’s corrupt nations.
Common practices in the Nigerian government like embezzlement, looting, bribery, fraud are against the law. It is however ironic that the government which has the responsibility of making and protecting the law, is the primary violator of it. The failure of successive Nigerian governments to effectively tackle corruption has made a mess of the law and it is from this book of tricks that yahoo boys learn their trade.
The incumbent government has been vocal about their fight against corruption, but after 3 years into the anti-graft war, and failing to convict the perpetrators of the high profile corruption-in-government cases, the anti-corruption crusade of the Buhari-led government has been widely tagged a failure.
The recent move by the government, through law enforcement agents, to shift their attention from corrupt politicians to yahoo boys alludes to its failure in its initial battle against corrupt politicians. Like the move to ban codeine, by focusing on yahoo boys would only help one succeed in cutting down the offshoot of the problem, while it’s root remains in the soil, preparing to spring up in the future.
“Life isn’t always black or white. I’ll rather have my hommies pressing Macs than squeezing Macs” – Tentik_rgm
The state of the economy has a relationship with the crime rate. The warning was sounded repeatedly for years before the collapse of the Nigerian labour market, that ‘having too many unemployed youths is never a good sign for any nation.’ It is as simple as thinking ‘an idle man is the workshop of the devil.’ Like the respondent in the conversation above stated, Internet fraud is only an alternative to the unavailable legal means of earning.
Other than lack and unemployment, the Nigerian culture of making model figures out of people with suspicious wealth like Hushpuppi and Investor BJ, has created the mentality of ‘make money by any means necessary. No one cares how.’ The implication is that young Nigerians get to look up to these societal figures, and with scarce legal options, they get encouraged to pursue their dreams of becoming wealthy to the dark path of Internet fraud.
Ray Hushpuppi, photo of when he used to sleep (pose) with a million Naira in 2010, and change in 2017 (Akpraise.com)
They must think, ‘all that’s needed is a laptop or a mobile device, internet access, commitment and mother luck.’ This requires less capital than trying to set-up a commercial agricultural venture or a successful fashion line, if you ask me.
All of these societal malaises might not exactly put the ‘tools’ in the hands of the youths but they do not condemn them either, leaving a lot of youths with the option of choosing between getting rich through fraud or suffer while waiting for a government with a track record of failures to turn things around. I bet you know what choice would be popular.
In a society where fair opportunities are made available and work conditions are favourable, it is unlikely that fraud is the first option for youths. It goes without saying that more youths would be gainfully employed. And provided Internet fraud would be curbed in the country, it is important that a working alternative is made available. Failure to create such alternative exposes the society to even more dangerous offshoots of the failed system, offshoots like rampant armed robbery attacks, increased ritualism rate, killings, civil unrest and more.
“Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.”
Despite the obvious shortcomings of the Nigerian government and it being a cogent excuse, the factor of greed on the part of Internet fraud perpetrators cannot be ruled out. There’s survival and there’s greed. Survival is when a Lagos worker leaves home routinely at 4AM to meet up with an office resumption time and returns at the thick of the night.. Survival is placing ones last card on a soccer bet, hoping to get returns in folds.
Richest Yahoo boys in Nigeria (Naij.com)
But what drives a lot of yahoo boys is greed – criminal greed, and it is even worse when all the scam money goes to drinks and luxury cars. If a man steals from you and you manage to reclaim some of the stolen items, do you then give it away, throwing a party to host the thief? Make no mistake, yahoo yahoo is a crime, an International one in fact, but only a fool would put all stolen millions to waste and return to being the victim of a failed society – where it all started.
The Nigerian state is plagued with problems. Corruption in politics is one. Poor government policies is another. Likewise, ethnic and religious wars. Internet fraud is included. But if I were to choose between a looter and an Internet fraudster, to send to jail, I would pick the former first. I suggest EFCC and other law institutions should do same.
Oluwatobi Ibironke is a writer.