Nigeria, FBI turn the heat on Yahoo yahoo scammers

Tuesday November 05 2019

A conceptual graphic of cybercrime. A joint operation between Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations has left scammers known as Yahoo yahoo fleeing to countries like Ghana in the face of arrests, convictions and asset seizures. GRAPHIC | FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP


They are constantly in gorgeous attire, expensive jewelry, exotic cars, and eccentric. Mostly youthful, they are garrulous, conceited and extravagant.

They are the Yahoo yahoo scammers of Nigeria.

"Yahoo, yahoo,'' legally known as Advanced Fee Fraud under article 419, refers to criminal use of the internet to swindle gullible persons and corporate entities.

It became prominent in the 90s when many Nigerians, mostly lawyers, took advantage of the corrupt military junta to fleece Nigerians and foreigners.

Today, ''wire wire'' is a blossoming industry which many youth see as a means to quick riches and a ticket to ostentation never mind the incessant daily crackdown on culprits by the authorities.

After decades of wishy-washy efforts to stem the vice, Nigerian authorities have been stung into action by a grand jury in the United States of America indicting 77 Nigerian fraudsters on August 23, 2019.


The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had arrested the indictees for internet scam, and amid diplomatic unease, Lagos chose to collaborate with the US investigators to bring the perpetrators to book.

The bureau released identities of those it termed "most prolific" Nigerian fraudsters after they defrauded victims of up to $10 million.

Operation Wire Wire

The Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) joint operation with the FBI codenamed "Operation Wire Wire’’ has run rings around the scammers, announcing on its twitter handle raids, arrests and convictions on a daily basis.

"The heat is on them. Most of them are relocating to neighbouring countries, including Ghana,” said Ibrahim Magu, the acting Chairman of the EFCC.

He said the operation targeted all fraudsters across Nigeria including those declared wanted in the United States.

"We are re-energizing," he said, adding that the scammers and 'Yahoo Boys' were back in action despite past raids in places like Lagos which were carried out together with FBI.

In the month to October 15, no fewer than 1,200 suspects from different states - Kano, Ogun, Lagos, Oyo, Plateau, Benue, and Imo - were arrested, including two in the US most wanted list.

On October 14, a group of 94 fraudsters was napped at Club Secret Underground; a nightclub in Osogbo, the capital of Osun State in south west Nigeria, as they celebrated a hit.

The possessions confiscated - 19 exotic cars, laptops, scores of high end mobile phones and other items of ostentation - betrayed their lifestyle.

“The wee-hour operation followed a discreet operation to ascertain the authenticity of intelligence leads," EFCC's spokesman Wilson Uwujaren said.

In earlier crackdowns, EFCC on August 31, 2019 bumped into a three bed-room flat apartment in Lagos used as a base for inducting young Nigerians into the cybercrime world.

The proprietor and some 22 students between the ages of 19 and 29 of the 'Yahoo Yahoo’ Training School were apprehended, nine laptops, mobile phones and internet modems confiscated.

President Muhammadu Buhari's Media and Publicity spokesman Garba Shehu had said days earlier that Nigeria would consider extraditing suspects wanted by America to face trial.

The government, if necessary, would request the National Assembly for the approval of new Executive Orders to seal loopholes that enable Nigerians to "embarrass and blacklist the country."

Sex trafficking

On Wednesday, twenty-four suspected members of a sex trafficking ring accused of forcing Nigerian women into prostitution in France went on trial in Lyon.

The prosecution has presented pastor Stanley Omoregie as the kingpin of a family syndicate that includes one of Europe's most wanted women, Jessica Edosomwan, who will be tried in absentia.

The prosecution says 17 alleged victims made up to $166,000 a month for the syndicate, selling sex for as little as $11 between September 2017 and January 2018.

It is active in Lyon, Nimes and Montpellier.

Last year, 15 members of a Paris-based female-led pimping ring known as the "Authentic Sisters" were sentenced to up to 11 years in prison for forcing girls into sex slavery in France.

Similar gangs have also been dismantled in Italy and Britain.

Nigerians now outnumber Chinese or Eastern European sex workers on the streets of France and some other European countries.

Most of the women come from Benin City, capital of Nigeria's southern Edo State, a human trafficking hotbed with a long history of dispatching women and men to Europe to earn money to send back home.
Ordinary Nigerians say only culture change can help the country shed its bad image abroad where its nationals have acquired notoriety for crime.

"Something should be done re-direct the energy of young Nigerians into productive ventures, It is a pity credit card fraud, wire transfer scams, advance fee fraud and marriage scams are all seen as noble," said Aliyu Sumaila, a school headmaster.

Mr Alade Jumare, a social welfare specialist, said the get-rich bug would undermine Nigeria's prosperity and global standing.

Additional reporting by AFP