Nigeria is a few more publicised arrests and convictions away from becoming the fraud capital of the world. Even now, financial crimes are somewhat synonymous with the country, scathing the country’s reputation in unimaginable ways.
Where did it all come from?
The Second Republic 80s signaled a dark turn in the history of the country. Corruption was becoming fashionable, although, it hadn’t been institutionalized, and was crippling the country and everything in it. At the time, the country was also in a financial crisis, so everything was basically crumbling.
Then another problem started. Letters from Nigeria started making their ways to the West, asking the recipients for financial assistance. The content of such letters were something like “I am a Nigerian Prince. I have an inheritance, but I cannot access it without your help. Be a dear and get some money across to me so I can get ahead of this thing and get what’s mine, and I will make it a rewarding investment for you.”
The letters must have been pretty convincing because these people believed these faceless strangers and did what they needed to do. Yeah, these folks started sending and losing their money, sometimes, fortune. This birthed the pop culture reference, Nigerian Prince.
It was the same trend in the 90s, except then, the Nigerian Prince format wasn’t very effective anymore. There was a switch. Now, the targets were white businessmen who were promised juicy business deals in a bid to get money out of them. And this was a hit too. By this time, there was an unofficial name for it – 419 after the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud, the charges and penalties for offenders.
In the 2000s, when the internet was becoming a thing, the fraudsters saw a bigger opportunity and started leveraging the existence of electronic mail services, which was mainly Yahoo at the time. This was more effective and productive because they could now reach millions of people. It became mainstream and got another name – Yahoo Yahoo; a homage to the service provider.
The years rolled on and business was good. It continued to evolve from one thing to another. The influx of PCs, smartphones, and the evolution of the internet contributed to this. Romance scams, identity theft, phishing, and other sorts of financial fraud are in the mainstream now; almost normalized. The targets now cut across different demography – you are good for them as long as you have money to send.
Yahoo Yahoo continues to grow, and it’s almost become a trade. Believe it or not, there are reports of Yahoo Yahoo Training Schools. More on that here.
Yahoo Yahoo has also been glorified in the Nigerian Entertainment scene on many occasions. Remember Olu Maintain’s Yahooze and Kelly Handsome’s Maga Don Pay?
Earlier this year, Nigerian Rappers, Naira Marley, Zlatan Ibile, and some of their associates were arrested by the EFCC in connection to a fraud case. Zlatan and the others were released, but Naira Marley was held and subsequently charged to court, although he is now out on bail.
In August, 2019. The FBI arrested Nigerian celebrated “self-made” entrepreneur, Invictus Obi, in connection to a massive faud case. Barely a week after, 80 people, most of whom were Nigerians were arrested in connection to what is now known as the “biggest fraud case” in the US.
What a wawu!