Ahmad Adedimeji Amobi: Tackling the Normalisation of “Yahoo Yahoo”
The discourse on the internet recently is on tech and ‘Yahoo Yahoo’, a Nigerian lingo meaning internet fraud. While there are different shades of opinions to the discourse, including rehabilitating teenage ‘Yahoo boys’ into tech, which also attracted different opinions, there is a significant part of the discourse that requires highlighting: a certain set of people now perceive ‘Yahoo Yahoo’ or fraud, to call it what it is exactly, as an excusable offence, considering the circumstances that led the perpetrators to it.
How did we get here? When did fraudulence become so normal that we start being empathetic to the perpetrators? In every society, fraudulence is a criminal act that attracts grievous punishments. But from the arguments on social media, a certain set of people started giving excuses on behalf of Yahoo boys, that it was societal circumstances that led them to it. Again, how did we get here? When does a crime become an action of pity? While, of course, empathy for those facing difficult circumstances is important, it should not be used as an excuse to condone criminal activities.
Naming: The Source of the Problem
The first source of the problem with the normalisation of Yahoo Yahoo is the acceptance of the tag, Yahoo Yahoo. Since the remodification of the name from being a crime, it gave perpetrators something to hide under. Nobody will accept being called a thief, which is actually what Yahoo Yahoo is about, but since the title has been changed, that distanced the crime from them. There are a lot of things that can be wrong with a society but when it starts to normalise fraud, it becomes a deep matter of concern.
Economic Blame: Another Source of the Problem
A couple of times people mention that a Yahoo boy could be intelligent, but the economic or systemic situation of the country does not allow them to achieve their potential. When we start to say things like this, we should understand that any form of crime can therefore be excused. For instance, armed robbers could argue that they are being pushed to extort other people’s hard-earned money by the economic hardships of the country. We forget, most times, that we are all humans with choices. Anyone who results in any criminal acts for survival does not consider the act to be criminal, and that’s a problem.
The majority of us grew up in communities where parents actually advise their children to embrace Yahoo Yahoo. It goes as far as parents buying the needed gadgets to engage in fraud. Like every other societal issue, the prevention of further dispensation of Yahoo Yahoo in the country begins with the parents. As we advance in the use of technology, parents should instil values, ethics, and responsible technology use in their children. They should educate them about the legal consequences of engaging in fraud and how it is not only illegal but also harmful to individuals and society as a whole. Also, they should identify their talents and interests and guide them toward educational and career paths that align with their passions.
On a larger scale, society should desist from moralising fraud as it tends to glamorise criminal activities. Instead, it’s important to maintain a clear stance against fraud and other illegal behaviours to deter people from engaging in them. We should also avoid empathising with or finding excusable reasons for perpetrators of fraud, as this can send the wrong message that criminal actions are somehow justifiable under certain circumstances. Fraud is fraud and it is illegal and it is punishable. Simple.
The Way Forward
Meanwhile, the Nigerian government also has a huge role to play in this. First, it should focus on enacting and enforcing cybersecurity legislation and instituting laws and regulations that explicitly address online fraud, identity theft, and cybercrimes while strengthening penalties for offenders. Second, the government should prioritise digital literacy programs aimed at educating citizens, particularly the youth, about responsible and ethical internet use.
More so, we can’t talk about solutions without mentioning the absolute cause of the problems: the economy. A working economy will create legitimate job opportunities and alleviate poverty, providing people with the means to earn a decent income through lawful means. Combined with effective government policies and law enforcement measures, an improved economic landscape can contribute to the prevention of crime in society.
So, while empathy for those facing difficult circumstances is important, it should not be misused as an excuse to condone criminal activities. The normalisation of fraud, partly driven by the acceptance of the term “Yahoo Yahoo” and economic hardships, is a very disturbing concern. We should not forget that everybody makes their choice. They should be accountable for them.