For decades in Nigeria, internet fraud has been a convenient means to financial freedom. A fraudulent scheme that helps to sustain livelihood and give Nigerians the dream luxurious lifestyle. Nigeria is a country infamous for cyber-enabled crime. In a recent research, Nigeria tops the rank of countries with the highest case of internet fraudsters. With records of some of the most notorious cyber criminals in the world who have threatened the nation’s reputation.
The origin of internet fraud in Nigeria can be traced back to the 1970s, characterized with the sending of postal letters, faxs mails requesting for assistance in transferring money from a frozen account in Nigeria to an account overseas. In the late 1990s the sensation began to phase out postal mail fraud as cybercafes began to spring up in various metropolitan areas in Nigeria. This raised a new breed of cyber fraud criminals known as yahoo-yahoo boys who are popularly named after the online mailing service ‘yahoo mail’. The activities of this set of cyber fraudsters became popular at cybercafes, as this became centers for interacting with their potential victims. By the mid 2010s, the cybercafe centers became less active and less attractive as internet enabled computing systems began to evolve.
THE ILLICIT TRADE OF YAHOO YAHOO IN NIGERIA
The illicit trade, locally referred to as yahoo yahoo, reference to section 419 of the criminal code of Nigeria. Which has been embraced unashamedly with pride by large numbers of Nigerian youth. A subculture, an indication that it is the new normal, despite the country’s criminal justice system being stoutly against it. The common plight among Nigerians who engage in this crime is the poor economic situation of the country which begs the question, will the rate at which people commit this scandalous crime be reduced if the economy of the country was sustainable?
Ramon Abbas a well known internet fraudster in Nigeria. also referred to as Hushpuppi is the leader of one of the record breaking transnational money heists committed by a Nigerian youth. The FBI considers him as one of the world’s most high profile fraudsters, whose cyber fraud cut across a global level, a key player in a transnational cybercrime network. His groundbreaking money heists and believed to be the last was at the United Arab Emirates costing victims millions of dollars.
Interestingly, the case of a convicted internet fraudster, Hope Olusegun Aroke, a Malaysia based Nigerian undergraduate fraudster serving a 24 years jail term at the kirikiri maximum prison in Lagos was able to carry out a mega scam of over one million dollars despite being imprisoned. The EFCC found him to be the leader of an intricate web of internet fraud schemes that traverse two continents. These two different cases among other several ignominious crimes are contributing factors to the bad image the country has in the public eye.
This act by unscrupulous individuals to the creation of the internet service system defeats the purpose of the internet since the inception of the internet in Nigeria in the year 1996. The internet system has been a great blessing to Nigeria and the world at large, giving people limitless opportunities offered by interconnected and swift communication exchanges within a grid. The internet system has helped in the communication system, it has had a great impact on the various sectors of the economic and social welfare of the country, making life more accessible and information within reach. The internet through the use of internet service providers has improved the business environment with the aid of digital infrastructure, development in communication and the provision of valuable tools for information available to different classes of the Nigerian populace.The merits of the internet service system in Nigeria cannot be undermined. It is however disheartening to see that this resourceful innovation is now used to cause daily catastrophe.
One major factor to the rise in internet fraud in Nigeria, for years, is due to the fall in oil prices and increase in the rate of unemployment in the country. Which has caused increasingly great harm to the country’s economy and developing increase in the rate of Nigeria internet fraudsters. In Nigerian universities for instance, a large number of undergraduates are involved in this illicit business of internet scam. Lots of undergraduates in Nigerian universities have taken pride in this internet scam, engaging in this crime believing it to provide for their needs, something the country’s economy is too poor to provide. More students are dropping out of school with the mindset that ‘school na scam’ this is as a result of the limited opportunities available after spending years in the higher institution to acquire knowledge.
PROHIBITION OF INTERNET FRAUD IN NIGERIA
Nigeria, has been at the frontline of internet fraud and other sorts of cybercrime in the globe. The nation has been marked for its involvement in cyber enabled crimes which is majorly portrayed among the youths. Of which the prevailing attitude has posed threats to the moral, intellectual and legit financial development of the youths. As the digital world grows, so does cybercrime. Specific laws have been put in place to combat the high rate of this seemingly uncontrollable event. These laws act as a shield over cyberspace which protects and prevents the occurrence of this crime.
Internet Fraud encompasses different methodologies of fraud, facilitated by cyber criminals on the internet. It is not a distinct crime but rather it covers a range of illegal and illicit actions that are committed in cyberspace. This ranges from email spam to online scam. It includes; phishing, restricted access to private or public data, malware, ransomware, business email compromise among several others. This act induces the application of tricks and deceit.
The Cybercrime Prohibition and Prevention Act, 2015 provides an effective, unified and comprehensive legal, regulatory and institutional framework for the prohibition, prevention, detection, prosecution and punishment of cybercrimes in nigeria. The Act also ensures the protection of critical national information infrastructure, and promotes cybersecurity and the protection of computer systems and networks, electronic communications, data and computer programs, intellectual property and privacy rights.
This Act provides for the protection and punishment to the various types of internet assisted crimes such as fraudulent electronic mails, pornorgraphy, identity theft, hacking, cyber harassment, spamming, privacy, phishing etc. the term cybercrime generally covers fraudulent act committed through the aid of the internet; theft, blackmail, forgery and embezzlement.
This Act prevents the operation on cybercrimes, securing the private and public data of the masses. This Act provides for punishment for offenders of cyber fraud of which the punishment differs depending on the area of intrusion into cyberspace.
Also, the Nigerian Criminal Code in section 419 states;
“Any person who by any false pretense, and with intent to defraud, obtains from any other person anything capable of being stolen, or induces any other person to deliver to any person anything capable of being stolen, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three years”
This section of the criminal code addresses the offence of all forms of fraud and the required punishment. The phrase ‘any person who by false pretense and with intent to defraud’ touches on one of the common internet fraud schemes. The rom-com scam, where fraudsters through false pretense obtains money from persons who fall victim to their ploy. Punishment for this offence varies depending on the ferocity of the offence committed which will ascribe the penalty for the offence.
In Nigeria, there are law enforcement agencies formed with the responsibility of combating illicit financial flow and corruption in the nation. These anti-corruption agencies; The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission and Economic Financial Crime Commission were set up in 2000 and 2002 respectively to help reduce the high rate of corruption and financial crimes in Nigeria.
The independent corrupt practices and other related offenses Act, 2000 is a corporate body that seeks to prohibit and prescribe punishment for corrupt practices, it is obliged with the responsibility of investigating and prosecution of offenders. It also protects anybody who gives information to the commission in respect of an offense committed or likely to be committed by any other person. The ICPC is an agency which targets corruption in the public sector, especially bribery, abuse and misuse of office.
The Economic Financial Crime Commission, a law enforcement agency that investigates financial crimes such as advance fee fraud and money laundering. The EFCC investigates people in all sectors who appear to be living above their means, it is a body empowered to investigate and prosecute money laundering and other official financial crimes. The recent innovation of the digital application ‘EAGLE EYE’ is one of the services implemented by the agency to curb the increment of all fraudulent activities in the nation.
In a recent partnership campaign with the Uk government and Nigeria, to help reduce the rise in illicit financial flow in the country, the torchlight group stated “Nigeria is losing an estimated $18billion annually to illicit finance like bribery, internet fraud and non-payment of taxes”. According to this torchlight group, these outflows have a significant impact on the country’s economic stability and every Nigerian loses the equivalent of N35,000 annually.
The uniqueness and innovation of the cybercrimes demands enhancement of the existing cyber laws in Nigeria. The scheme of this fraud is always organized, occurring frequently, hence the need for enhancement enforcement of the laws and proper placement to cybersecurity should be in place to enable citizens to freely use the cyber space without fear of being defrauded.
Countries like the United States, China and Russia are well known for their efficient cybersecurity measures in place. A 2021 report by the international institute for strategic studies placed the United States as the world foremost cyber superpower, taking into account its cyber offence, defense and intelligence capabilities. The law enforcement agencies make it an obligation to strengthen and enhance national cyber defenses. This helps to reduce the rate of cybercrime, making it possible to detect any form of fraudulent activity. It would be great improvement if the law enforcement agencies can glean from these policies to decrease the rate of fraudulent crimes committed through the internet space and secure stronger cybersecurity policies.
Aside from ensuring proper protection of the data security of the people, proper attention ought to be given to the youths who are the major pioneers of internet scam. Sensitization of youth is a necessity, in order to curb the rate of internet crime in Nigeria which needs to be done by everyone, including the government included. By ensuring young adults are aware of the consequences of engaging in this crime and how much detriment it will bring upon their future.
Emphasis on civic education should be made, ensuring that they are aware these incidents have threatened the reputation of being Nigerian to the international market.
Furthermore, enhancing the laws that prohibits internet fraud will help to curb this menace of cybercrime. The illegal use has instigated fear and insecurity to the use of the internet. A cue to the emerging menace of internet fraud lies in enacted policy and orders that guides the use of the internet and protection of users information.
Thorough rehabilitation needs to be done, and simultaneously more job opportunities should be provided. Investing in building businesses thereby providing more employment opportunities for people will greatly reduce the amount of Nigerians involved in internet fraud.
Cybercrime in Nigeria has evolved over the years, causing an increasing rate of internet fraudsters in every corner of the state. Both by the old and young who keep clamouring about the bad economy and the need for a change in the poor job opportunities as an excuse to defrauding citizens and exporting their illicit trade to the international market.
However, a bad economy is not an excuse to engage in defrauding people. The intellect and skills used to commit these frauds can be used smartly and be of good use in a legal and appropriate form, for innovative creations that will be more advantageous to society.
Importantly, it is paramount that attention is given to the low employment rate in the country. More business and jobs should be created which will give citizens no excuse to engage in all sorts of internet enabled fraud.
Countering cybercrime can save lives, grow prosperity and build peace. By strengthening law enforcement capacities and partnering with businesses so they can be part of the solution, can go a long way in ensuring that the internet can be a force for good.
Internet abuse amongst youth in the country – AllAfrica
Akinwolu Emmanuel – young, qualifying and barely scraping by.
Cybercrimes in Nigeria – Analysis , detection and prevention, FUOYE journal of engineering and technology.
The adoption of advanced cyber laws as an effort to curb internet fraud in Nigeria – Godfrey Okoye University
Analysis: despite government clampdown, yahoo-yahoo’ thrives in nigeria -premium Times Nigeria.
Chasing the Nigerian dream: the proliferation of cyber fraud among Nigerian youths and its effect on Nigeria’s global image – Lawanson Joseph and Afolabi, Muiwa.
United Nations – Taking action where we can stop cybercrime by Yury Fedotor
Wikipedia – Cyber warfare in the United States
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Oyelakin Oluwatomisin is a law student at Lagos state university. She is an active student that yearns for knowledge and growth. She is an advocate for change and loves to contribute positively to the development in her society. She has a space on Youtube where she shares useful information to students and also on her experience as a law student in Nigeria. She leads an initiative called BLOOMING GIRLS that centers on empowering young girls to live up to their full potentials by equipping them with the seeds they need to bloom. She aspires to become a renowned legal practitioner using her platforms for good.