Seun and Abidemi Olaogun are brothers who were convicted on May 14 to serve four months in prison each for Internet fraud alongside their friend, Ojor Alex.
Their conviction followed their arrest and prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for possessing several fake documents, two laptops and three iPhones.
The convicts were said to have committed cheating by impersonation; an offence contrary to sections 95 and 321 of the Penal Code, punishable under Section 324 of the same law.
Many people have, therefore, expressed concern at the rate of the youth involvement in Internet fraud, otherwise referred to as “Yahoo business’’, among the youth.
The concerned citizens recall that it is shocking to read a report indicating that the court has convicted no fewer than 10 Internet fraudsters, mainly youths, between April and June in Ilorin, Kwara State, alone while others are still in EFCC custody, awaiting arraignment.
The term “yahoo’’ was localised in Nigeria to refer to Internet fraud that comes in several forms, including romance, identity theft, hacking, lottery and money laundering, among others.
Specifically, findings indicate that many young Nigerian boys are involved in love scam in which they usually obtain pictures of white men to create fake accounts on social media sites.
With such accounts, they woo unsuspecting white women who have cash to spend in search of love and many of the women have fallen victim of these scammers.
Most of the “yahoo boys’’ are young men — undergraduates — who have bright future but decide to go in to Internet fraud with erroneous belief of getting rich quickly.
Observers note that the activities of “yahoo boys’’ have continued to be a challenge to Nigerians and security operatives.
Mr Nnaemeka Omewa, a legal practitioner, warns that the punishment for Internet fraud is a year and half in prison, with an option of fine or both prison term and fine penalty.
“If a young man of 23 years old was convicted and spends roughly one year in prison, even if it is few months, he has already become an ex-convict.
“Where will such a boy start from after being released from prison, because the stigma is already there.
“He would have been expelled from school, even family and friends will see him as an irresponsible person,’’ Omewa explains.
He, nonetheless, notes that the law enforcement agencies are working hard to curb the Internet fraud menace by preventing the youth from destroying their future through their involvement.
Temidayo Ayodele, a crime analyst, observes that discourse on cyber-fraud has been prominent on media stations recently.
“A certain musician, Azeez Fashola, popularly known as Naira Marley, led the charge as the face and voice for Internet fraud and fraudsters, declaring yahoo business not a crime via his song.
“I consider it a clear testament of how much the rot has eaten so deep into our society and certain persons have come to accept it as part of life,’’ he observes.
But an online analyst, Mr Daniel Onyemaechi, observes that one of the reasons for the spread of Internet fraud is unemployment.
“Another reason why “yahoo business’’ is common in Nigeria is because the society celebrates fraudsters.
“For government to solve the problem, it has to get the youths involved in gainful employment and entrepreneurship.
“In addition, the society needs to speak up against the crime; people should not engage in passive accomplice or passive complicity in law, meaning that one witnesses a crime or knows that a crime will happen but he refuses to report to law enforcement agents.
“Also, the government needs to create an enabling environment that engages the potential of the youth, boosting their creativity to create enduring wealth for their families and the communities they live in,’’ he advised.
Irrespective of this, Hajiya Maimunat Shehu, Leader of Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria in Kwara, insists that the youth ought to be serious in both Western and Islamic education to become good citizens.
She, therefore, calls on parents to encourage their children, especially youths, to participate actively in Godly religious activities to rid the society of illicit acts among them.
“We need to come out and educate our children on the good and acceptable things in the society, so that they will live a responsible life.
“Parents should encourage and support their children with money, time and effort to become more successful in life.
“Parents should also have time to advise their children, follow up on the children’s daily affairs and also get closer to them and relate with them,’’ she noted.
Sharing Shehu’s opinion, Alhaja Nike Lambe, General Market Women Leader in Kwara State, similarly called on parents, especially mothers, to take care of their children and be mindful of their whereabouts at all times.
“Parents should take care of their children and warn them to desist from associating with bad friends because any parent who refuses to train the child will end up regretting in future,’’ she warns.
Lambe, therefore, calls on the youth to live a good and responsible life as leaders and parents for the future of the country.
Oyewole writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.