No one likes poverty. Everyone wants to live comfortably, to be able to afford the necessities in life, and to live beyond the basics. Unfortunately, the social, economic, and political trends in Nigeria have done little to make that wish a reality. Instead, the younger generation, particularly those living below the poverty line, have found themselves enduring intense hardship, institutional setbacks, and systemic blockades making poverty all but permanent. With the percentage of unemployed youth reaching an all-time high, people have taken matters into their own hands, defaulting to less than legal means as a measure for escaping poverty. And dare I say, it’s working. Leaving many perplexed, myself included. Could the solution to poverty be found in internet fraud?
Fraud is defined as “the crime of stealing or otherwise illegally obtaining money by the use of deceptive tactics.” Famed Nigerian cyber crime icon, ‘Hushpuppi’, put the depiction of the struggling internet café con-artist to shame with his lavish illegally obtained lifestyle. Nigerian youth everywhere rooted for his release from FBI capture despite evidence of his fraudulent $431 million fortune. ‘Yahoo Yahoo’ as the practice is locally known, has become a far more lucrative lifestyle, evidenced by the likes of Hushpuppi and the many like him. And while many continue to condemn the intentional use of internet services, software, and online applications to defraud and disenfranchise victims, as far as the youth is concerned, “yahoo yahoo” has become the most popular path to wealth acquisition.
“Yahoo yahoo boys”, like Mr. Hushpuppi himself, engage in identity theft, email hacking, social media scamming, and catfishing, occupying otherwise imposter accounts on various social media platforms and popular dating sites for the purposes of catching well paid prey. And business is booming. The reward is well worth the minimal risk according to many. And as the lucrative “profession” has gained popularity, it has quickly become the business move for millions of Nigerian youth, who have abandoned morality in the pursuit of monetary stability.
Nigeria’s leaders have responded to decades of corruption with cowardice, many partaking in the practice themselves. And as the world at large turns a blind eye to the billions hijacked within Nigeria’s broken borders, it’s citizens, many of whom living off of a mere dollar a day, have had little choice but to follow suit. Resulting in an acceleration in the rates of civilian corruption. In other words, the youth have decided to do as the leaders have done, leaving their purity packed speeches to fall upon deaf ears.
What does it all mean? For one, it means that internet fraud is here to stay. Survival has launched an attack on what we’ve long held as the values of our nation, dignity, perseverance, accountability, and integrity. We celebrate these fraudsters, readily flooding their social media pages with praise and pomp, bombarding their DM’s with requests for ‘urgent 2k,’ essentially, we have placed them on a pedestal. Security operatives readily accept funds from fraudsters, and if even the justice system is complicit, who can be trusted to hold the citizens accountable?
The rate at which young people have become beacons of the cyber-crime culture is alarming, and with technological advancements making operations that much more mainstream, I don’t see cyber-crime going anywhere anytime soon. Scammers will always be here. These ‘yahoo yahoo boys’ are our brothers, our sons and daughters. But can we judge them? We may abhor their choice of ‘hustle’, but given the gross economic injustices they face, we just might have to live with it, as a matter of fact, we already are.
Maybe there is no cure. If you ask me, it comes down to individual accountability and systemic equity. Ill-gotten ‘achievements’ aside, the youth still fundamentally find hard work to be the best path out of poverty. The perverted practice of scamming the innocent to evade economic oppression is a worldwide sensation, an opportunity for the chronically impoverished, but a crime, nonetheless.