Diezani Alison-Madueke and ‘Yahoo Boys’

A former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, has warned that societal values have broken down to the extent that online fraudsters otherwise known as ‘Yahoo Boys’ have become role models in the country. Speaking at the event, put together by the Ijaw National Development Group, Diezani decried the situation and called for mentorship of the youths to become better persons in the society.

“The ones that have swag, the Yahoo Yahoo boys as my son would say; these, in short, are the role models they are looking at. These are the ones that reinforce negative societal norms and values. This is a travesty of an unfolding tragedy for us. Why have I spent time talking about fatherless homes and the impact it has on our children? The truth of the matter is that an irresponsible boy tends to become an irresponsible man and it is, therefore, a vicious cycle. If you plant yam, you cannot harvest plantain. The former minister attested to the fact that there are no shortcuts to progressing in life, and that only hard work could guarantee success because there are no shortcuts to success.

The former minister further observed that societal values had collapsed mainly because of weak family bonds caused by broken homes in the sense that in some instances, children raised by single parents do well in life but it should not be the norm that children should be brought up by single parents. Diezani, who is being investigated by the anti-graft body; Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged fraud running into billions of dollars, has been living in the United Kingdom for the past five years. She was in the news recently following her appointment as a Commissioner for Trade and Investment at the Commonwealth of Dominica and given a diplomatic passport, which gave her some immunity to evade prosecution.

We recall that the former acting Chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu alerted Nigerians that mothers of cyber fraudsters, popularly known as ‘Yahoo Boys’, are now organising themselves into an association. He said members of the association always justify their children’s activities with the argument that they were supporting their families in the place of irresponsible, runaway or dead fathers and that EFCC had begun to appeal to parents to join the war against cybercrime by not celebrating unexplained wealth and that beyond arrest and prosecution, the anti-graft agency would ensure the rehabilitation of ‘Yahoo Boys’ to channel their intelligence and talents into positive ventures that would benefit the nation.

“And we are also appealing to their mothers. The parents of these children, they have actually formed an association of Yahoo Yahoo Mothers’ Association. Yes; they are there as Association of Mothers of Yahoo Yahoo Boys. We are prepared and we are not shying away from arresting and arraigning them but we are thinking that we should find a way to manage them so that they can be useful citizens. These are very intelligent boys; we can use their intellect for positive purposes for this country,” Magu said.

Activities of fraudsters tend to be on the increase going by the warning given by the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, who had hinted that cybercrime and fraud would surge on account of the national lockdown imposed across the country to contain the coronavirus pandemic. According to him, intelligence obtained from the International Criminal Police Organisation headquarters in France suggests that Internet fraud and other criminal activities were expected to rise due to COVID-19. It should be appreciated that efforts are being made by the authorities to deter fraudsters. For instance, Hon. Justice Adenike Akinpelu of the Kwara State High Court sentenced four men to one-year imprisonment each for fraudulent practices and duping foreigners.

EFCC had charged them separately with cheating by impersonation and presenting themselves as women and defrauding some foreigners of various sums of money under the pretext of being in love with them. The culprits allegedly swindled a foreigner of N2.8m and another $500, which were transferred to their local bank accounts. Similarly, EFCC disclosed that more than 100 undergraduates of various tertiary institutions were in its custody over financial crimes ranging from online love scams and online marketing.

From the various narratives, what can make a difference in making ‘Yahoo Boys’ better citizens is for them to realise that what they are doing is evil and should stop. This would require the rehabilitation, mentoring, and providing gainful employment for our teeming young and able-bodied youths roaming the streets and doing nothing to earn a living. This may make the desired impact on the ‘Yahoo Boys’ rather than heeding the call of Diezani, whom they may not see as a role model that is worth admonishing them to become better persons simply because she has a case to answer. That is why the former minister’s call becomes problematic. It is a common saying that he who comes to equity must do equity. In other words, those who seek equity must do so with clean hands. Is this not a paradox?

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