In Defence of Crooks

Last week, news filtered into social media networks about the arrests of some alleged “Yahoo Boys”—the Naija euphemism for a set of persons known to outsiders as internet fraudsters. I observed the hubbub and could not come to terms with a society where some citizens see Yahoo Boys as the 21st reincarnation of the English Robin Hood. Anyway, I tried to mind my business. 

Minding my business apparently failed, else, I won’t be typing this article. I met with a friend and in the course of our multivariant discussion, he asked about my view of Yahoo Boys. After I finished emptying the bile in my pissed stomach, he calmly asked, “What about politicians?” At that point, I began a passionate lecture, which I would now recount in the succeeding paragraphs.

Beginning with the question about politicians, I see no reason whatsoever why this should even be a point. Yahoo Boys are crooks. Thieving politicians are crooks. How does calling out Yahoo Boys for their crookery equate with letting thieving politicians off the hook? Anyone using this as a defence, should be equitable enough to use the same defence for the armed robbers who stormed Offa on April 5.

Another defence commonly used is that Yahoo Boys went into their criminal life because of Nigeria’s shameful unemployment rate. There could be some “truth” in this, however, what about the fraudsters who are still university students? If some would unrighteously say they found no jobs after graduation, would the student cadre say they have forecasted that they won’t have jobs after graduation, so they want to have a head start in crime? The unemployment defence even falls when one considers the lavish lives lived by many Yahoo Boys, similar to the lifestyles of several armed robbers who rob banks of millions, squander their loot in record time and return to rob another bank. Why would anyone use unemployment as a defence for these persons? If the effort they put into defrauding people were put into legitimate businesses, their bank accounts would likely be smiling.

Some would say the Yahoo Boys are “repaying the West” for centuries of slavery and exploitation. If you really want to repay America for example, you should consider robbing its federal reserve banks or putting a gun at Trump’s head and ordering him to sign over America’s $3+ trillion budget to African countries for looting by benevolent African politicians. I am sure with a gun to Trump’s head and a softly stated order, he would sign quickly. If what I’ve said sounds silly, that’s exactly how smart it is to say defrauding innocent citizens is a way of paying back the West. By the way, when these “repayments” come in, are they spent developing communities in Nigeria or buying expensive cars and emptying champagne bottles in night clubs while twerking to Olu Maintain’s “Yahoozee”?

What these Yahoo Boys apologists fail to note is the impact of fraud on the lives of everyday Nigerians. Up until now, PayPal does not allow Nigerians to receive any payments into their PayPal accounts, except they have managed to register with foreign addresses. Similarly, some foreign firms refuse to do any online business with anyone domiciled in Nigeria thanks to our besmirched reputation. Articles abound online covering the “Nigerian prince”, effectively painting Nigeria as a country of fraudsters. Whereas life is already difficult for Nigerians by virtue of being Nigerians, these Yahoo Boys (and drug pushers) have worsened life for normal Nigerians, transmitting stereotypes around criminality.

Some would say Yahoo Boys don’t kill anyone and basically “use smartness to exploit human greed”. It’s true that Yahoo Boys and the upgraded Yahoo Plus version do not use guns. However, like many armed robbers with a rap sheet of murders, many Yahoo Boys have blood on their hands. Some victims of their crookery have committed suicide, while some have been jailed or estranged from their families over the actions of these Robin Hoods some have chosen to defend. Even Chelsea Clinton’s father-in-law, Edward Mezvinsky, although a scammer in his own right, fell victim to Nigerian scammers, contributing to his jail term and estrangement from his family.

Someone may ask why I am so pissed with fraudsters that I decided to write an article. Let me give a straight answer. My dad lost his business capital to fraudsters and that loss affected my family’s finances. I cannot remember what my family went through thanks to fraudsters and then smile at anyone defending a life of criminality. Real people suffer as a result of fraud.

Let me end with a stroll down history lanes to the beginning of widespread kidnapping in the Niger Delta region. If my memory serves me right, kidnapping of “white” oil workers began as a form of protest over the region’s mismanaged oil resources. Of course, ransoms were paid and the boys learned how lucrative this line of work could be. The whites began to relocate out of the Niger Delta and Nigerian oil workers became targets. Today, in the city of Port Harcourt, literally anyone can be kidnapped with some ransom payments now in the hundred-thousand-naira range. When the first white oil worker was kidnapped, those who cheered did not realise that someday, the chicken would come to roost and they would be the ones hiding from kidnappers.

Image Credit: tabbazportal.com

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