It was bizarre when news broke about Nigerians and what they did in the United States. It is the unsavoury list of alleged internet fraud enablers which the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI arrested in the US. FBI said that about 77 Nigerians are involved in cybercrimes involving tens of millions of dollars. These Nigerians were alleged to be conniving with others to dupe unsuspecting victims. Some of the victims include elderly people. Others are romance mails that had Nigerians pose as what they are not. Yet another type deals with Business Email Compromise which they employed to defraud a couple of companies.
These 77 are also claimed to be part of a criminal ring that participate in massive conspiracy to steal millions of dollars using a Los Angeles California-based money laundering network. According to reports, 14 suspects have already been arrested across the United States while a manhunt is on for the arrest of those believed to be at large.
Good that the Nigerian government has pledged full cooperation with its US counterpart in the effort to get to the bottom of this crime to ensure that those involved are effectively brought to justice. To demonstrate this resolve, all financial transactions by those so far indicted for cybercrimes in the FBI list are to be reversed by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is reported to have arrested 31of those mentioned in the FBI list for internet fraud and has also recovered $314,000 and above N373 million. The government thinks that these internet frauds and such crimes could be linked to the funding of the crises in parts of the country.
Nigerians are expectedly embarrassed, maybe not particularly shocked because we see the rise of internet fraud everyday. The practitioners live among the people. They are well integrated within the society. But considering the international perception of Nigerians as not just corrupt but are given to criminal tendencies, makes the indictment by FBI more problematic. In the world of today perception is everything. The disturbing aspect of the whole saga is that it required the intervention of a foreign security agency to rouse their Nigerian counterparts from self-induced slumber. Many are beginning to see it as yet another proof of the lapses in the nation’s security apparatus.
Suddenly Nigerians who are bright spots across the world have become objects of mockery. For every list of 77, there are 7777 other Nigerians doing great thing. However, we must deal with this other little group that keeps putting reputation in jeopardy. We should not beat about the bush in dealing with this cankerworm in our society. It debases everything we stand for. And to be truthful, here at home there tens if not hundreds of thousands of internet fraudsters all across the country. therefore, the FBI list should only nudge us back to life to face the challenges squarely, beyond just arrests.
We therefore support every effort to make the suspects account for their deeds and pay for their sins. We also believe that this will serve as a wake up call on the part of the Nigerian security agencies towards reinvigorating the drive to rid the nation of cybercrime in all its manifestations. To be fair to EFCC, they have stepped up activities against cyber crime in the last several months. But a lot more needs to be done.
Hopefully, this realization of the problem we face will equally assist everyone to be careful with whom they associate with. The news and pictures that made the rounds last week of some of these guys being in chummy relationships with some politically exposed persons show that we cannot pretend not to be close to these people. They are everywhere and can compromise anyone. However we must equally be guided to avoid emotional outbursts that compromise the fight against yahoo boys.
We are appealing to the security agencies to keep their eyes on the ball and refuse to be distracted by the antics of political scavengers and their cohorts in the media. The attention must remain on the situation at hand, doing the needful to rid the country of criminals whose activities have continued to denigrate the image of the country and her citizens. That must be the focus. Politics and politicians have no role to play in this matter except to the extent that the government applies its political will to get things done speedily.
Efforts must also be made to sustainably project the good of Nigeria. Like we have pointed out, there are many Nigerians doing great work both at home and abroad. We cannot therefore be defined by the examples set by just 77 people.