Thief Hunting Thief in Nigeria’s anti-Internet Fraud Battle – Ibrahim Anoba

(US) government report on internet crime reveals that 61 per cent of the traced criminals resided in the United States, followed by the United Kingdom at 16 percent. Nigeria-based criminals were next at 6 per cent – (Eric Rosenberg, Hearst Newspapers, 2006)

The above comment was made about 12 years ago when the Internet fraud was just taking root in the Nigerian social milieu. Today, it is one of the country’s biggest export of bad image and ironically, a huge driver of foreign cash flow into the Nigerian economy.

While the entertainment and hospitality industries owe a great deal of their recent growth to the embarrassing surge in the Internet fraud, international outcry to stop this nefarious act originating from Nigeria is soaring. Only this time, the government is serious and comes out with brute force. The agency leading the anti-corruption war, Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC), is indiscriminately arresting young people who are living luxurious lifestyle with utmost disregard for their innocence or otherwise.

However, Internet fraud is merely the country’s primary problem. Besides, the conventional way to fight a surge, is to find the root cause, which in this is case is the Nigerian government – the very individuals leading the assault on cyber criminals.

The government is more guilty of stealing than any Internet fraudster one can ever imagine. If “Yahoo Boys” (sobriquet for internet fraudsters) should be arrested for defrauding since the beginning of the millennium, the Nigerian government should be charged for defrauding, mismanagement and misappropriation since 1960.

A fair approach will be to start by auditing the federal and state governments. Every administration since the days of military dictatorship should give account of all revenue generated and spent. Past and present public office holders should declare their assets and tax history. If the government would not do this or eventually come out unstained, then the fight against fraud must start in the state houses of assembly, office of state governors, and eventually the Presidential Villa.

There is no morality in prosecuting one thief and ignoring the other; everybody should be subjected to the same litmus test.

Fraud is theft, administrative fraud is bigger theft. If the Nigerian government is doing nothing meaningful to build good environment for job creation, security and improvement in the standard of living of its own people, then this course of battle is an absolute moral sham.

Eventually, internet fraud must be condemned and alienated, but before then, let the Nigerian government clean its own closet before finding skeletons elsewhere.


Anoba is the Executive Director, African Liberty Organization for Development