Illicit funds help sustain Britain’s inflated property market through purchase of homes frequently left unoccupied. More than £90bn is estimated to be laundered illegally through the UK each year.I have just returned from a three-week visit to Nigeria, I do frequently, I love my country very much. This time I spent most of my time enraged by the constant parading of Nigeria’s young men with their laptops as ‘engaging in internet scams, popularly referred to in Nigeria as ‘yahoo’. I am disappointed that Nigeria’s media is not challenging this practice, of parading its citizens as guilty before being tried in a court of law; a human rights violation. But this is not my only issue this time.
‘Yahoo’ or `419’ another term for this practice based on Nigeria’s criminal code on fraud is a decades-long practice where Westerners who intend to defraud Nigeria end up being defrauded. When `419’ benefits the West, it is not called `Yahoo or 419’ it means Nigeria’s stolen money has been successfully lodged in Western banks at the expense of the development of the country. When 419 benefits the West, we don’t hear about, it is when it does not benefit them that it becomes a crime.
A key resource in Nigeria is its youth. Demonizing them nationally and globally after stealing their future through the blatant theft of the country resources by its leaders is the crime. Nigeria’s media parading its youth with computers as `evidence’ of them engaging in internet scams without due legal process is diverting attention from the country’s real issue.
Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was established in 2004 to address illicit financial flow from Nigeria to banks in Europe and North America. According to the World Bank, ‘Since independence in 1960, a country of 170 million people has been plagued with the cankerworm of corruption and ineptitude. The consequences are enormous; Life expectancy continues to nosedive, economic growth faces meltdown, and the democratic fabrics of the country pushed into a moral cesspit.’’
Blessed with wealth, Nigerians remain some of ‘’ the poorest of the poor, while ‘a few of her elites live in opulence, some of which are traceable to illicit funds. ‘There is indeed a symbiotic relationship between corruption, waste, and underdevelopment in Nigeria’ says the World Bank ‘It is estimated that no fewer than $100billion may have been looted by government officials since the oil boom era of the 1970s.’’
Holding these looters accountable and ensuring Nigeria’s stolen funds are brought back to Nigeria should keep the EFCC occupied. Illicit funds help sustain Britain’s inflated property market through the purchase of homes frequently left unoccupied. More than £90bn is estimated to be laundered illegally through the UK each year. Most of these funds are stolen from Africa, especially Nigeria. Nigerians or African leaders who steal money from Africa and send to the West are `yahoo’ boys/men or women, but stupid ones.
The existence of ‘yahoo/internet fraud’ in Nigeria is the youth expressing their frustration to a world and country that has failed them. We will not be able to address the ‘yahoo phenomenon’ unless we can credibly hold Nigeria’s leadership accountable for the ‘normalization’ of corruption. The West cannot stereotype and penalize Nigeria’s youth for `419’ because they are complicit in their housing of stolen funds from Africa. The receiver of stolen goods is a thief too.
We cannot address the `yahoo phenomenon’ until we bring all our stolen money from Western banks. Nigeria’s youth have also been the victims of fraud from Nigeria’s corrupt leadership and the international community. ‘Yahoo boys’ are not the root cause of Nigeria’s problem. The collaboration between Nigeria’s corrupt leaders who steal public funds from Nigeria, and the willingness of the west to house and/or bank stolen funds from Nigeria is the cause of Nigeria’s problems including lack of employment for Nigeria’s youth who resort to ‘yahoo’.
This is my definition of `419' or `internet scam' or `Yahoo': any Nigerian leader or Nigerians who misappropriate or has misappropriated public funds illicitly to Western banks is a ‘stupid yahoo man or woman’. Nigeria’s youth defrauding Westerners and bringing these stolen funds to Nigeria are ‘yahoo’ boys. Both are wrong, and one group is stupid.
My fellow Nigerians home and abroad, as we say, ‘shine your eyes.’ Let us fight for our country and we must start with refuting racist stereotypes. We must challenge the ease with which Western countries are branding our youth and our country.
Italians are known for culture and couture. The fact that Italians were the first known nationality to export organized crime to the United States has not subsumed their rich culture and contribution to the world. The Irish have produced many of the United States of America’s Presidents, and this is an ethnic group that had strong elements of organized crime through its migration to the United States.
According 'Paddy Whacked': At one time in America, Irish dominated organized crime’ an article published in the Blade by Mike Kelly, ‘If any nationality has been linked to organized crime in the United States over the years, it would have to be Italian-Americans, at least in popular perception.’ But he notes further that `long before there was a Mafia, another ethnic group brazenly ruled the streets of New York, Boston, Chicago, and other big American cities and that was the Irish Mob. From hellish beginnings as penniless immigrants in the mid-19th century, a parade of ruthless Irish-Americans battled their way to power and established the first crime syndicate in America, one that lasted for close to 150 years.’
Yahoo boys are not the reason for Nigeria’s global bad image, Nigeria’s corrupt leadership in collaboration with western racism is. Nigerians in Nigeria and abroad must start fighting against the racist stereotype of Africa’s largest economy: Nigeria. Nigeria is not a free for all that all and sundry can take a jab at and get away with it.