A tragedy of monumental proportion, with far-reaching domino effects, has hit us as a people. To be sure, 419, internet fraud, cyber-crime, advance free fraud, deception, scam emails, false marriage to foreigners etc. used to be isolated crimes, but it is all around us now threatening to consume our teenage and youth demographic.
Scavenging for body parts through ritual killing is not new, but for four teenagers to carry out such an act, learnt from the internet; cut a young lady’s head and began to cook it on fire in a community of humans is to take barbarism too far. Such a horror story occurred in real life, real-time in Ogun State last weekend.
In some state capitals in Nigeria, internet fraud flourishes such that those who toil in normal work are derided for not achieving. A colleague told a story of how Yahoo boys display the latest cars and live in mansions in his state capital such that when he went home recently, people were asking when he would build his own mansion. In such big towns like Benin, Asagba, Ekiti, Oshogbo besides the existing big cities of Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Enugu, Ibadan and others like them, cyber criminals live in exotic apartments where they carry out their nefarious activities.
Unfortunately, our society is only concerned about the glitz and glamour of the good life, rather than their modus operandi. For example, my niece who graduated last year at age 22 said her classmate who should be about 23 or thereabout has built a mansion for his mother in Jos while he rides a luxury car. What could he have done within one year to earn money to build a house other than crime?
Parents are complicit and guilty by association, because they take gifts from their young children without asking questions. They are indeed hypocritical. Teenagers as young as 19 use phones their parents cannot afford. Every young man and woman wants to use iPhones worth over 500 thousand naira. The girls go after this kind of boys and parents are happy when these boys take their daughters as girlfriends or want to marry them.
There is a problem with our parental functions as a people. The working tools of this group of people include 24-hour internet, software for hacking and a Mifi etc. This crime being condoned by parents has got to a disturbing level such that teenagers are now partaking in it at a bizarre level. Last weekend saw to the arrest of four teenage boys who slaughtered the girlfriend of one of them and burned her head for money ritual in Ogun State. The boys aged 17 to 19 were discovered by a community security guard who saw them burning the head of the girl. He in turn informed the police at Adatan station who swooped on the boys. Rofiat, the victim was said to be the girlfriend of Soliu, one of the arrested boys. One of the boys, Mustakeem Balogun revealed how and why they killed her: “We wanted to use just her head alone for money ritual. Soliu strangled her and told me to assist him, we cut off her head”. It was while they were burning the head of Rofiat in a pot that nemesis caught up with them.
Another case making the rounds in the social media is the arrest of three boys between the ages of 14 and 15 years who were accosted in Obanikoro in Lagos. The boys who should be under parental care, given their tender age, came all the way from Delta stat. They confessed that they came to learn how to do Yahoo-Yahoo but they are not Yahoo plus boys, signifying their depth of knowledge of the issue. The aggregate of their confession reads thus: “We have come to hustle, but not yahoo plus hustle.” They said they were pursued from where they were and their mothers and fathers who live in Delta state are aware of their stay in Lagos but had to leave their home because they were often abused and cursed.
According to those in the know, Yahoo is the normal internet scam, but Yahoo Plus involves rituals and the use of human parts for metaphysical purpose engendered by organ harvesting.
While these teenagers are emulating the old horses in the game, they are either not aware or do not care about the fate that befell those caught in the act and were either killed in parts of Asia or are now in various prisons across the world, the most recent being social media celebrities, Ramon Abbas, a.k.a. Hushpuppi, and Ismail Mustapha a.k.a. Mompha, and a promising young man, Obinwanne Okeke, otherwise known as Invictus Obi. Obi, now a convicted fraudster was once listed by Forbes magazine as one of Africa’s bright and young entrepreneurs under 30 years, but today serving a 10-year jail term in the U.S. for internet fraud that caused the loss of 11 million dollars to his victims.
However, the Nigerian Yahoo boys wouldn’t take a cue from these bad examples. They also do not care about the domino effects of their activities, part of which is the reason why hard-working innocent Nigerians doing legitimate work are treated shabbily and tarred with the same brush of the Obis and Hushpuppis of this country. An ongoing case is the issue of Nigerians working in the UAE being concerned over non-renewal of their residence or work permits, for just being Nigerians.
These are young, vibrant and brilliant Nigerian professionals doing genuine and legitimate work being refused work permits. Many are as well denied entry into other countries because of the perception that Nigerians are criminals and scammers, again because of the activities of a few bad eggs among us. Obviously, there are prejudices and negative perception about Nigerians, but this small percentage provides the catalysts for the poor treatment and negative perception of Nigerians around the world.
What should decent men and women of this country, who are in the majority anyway, do to rescue our sagging image and stop the scourge? We really need to stop glorifying material things. Prosperity is not about money alone, yet that is what our religious, political and traditional leaders emphasize and these young people are watching.
The social life of Nigerians does not help matters either. The ostentatious display of wealth on social media by celebrities and scammers are interpreted negatively by the youth in this ‘bad ‘business’ and because people do not ask questions, the vice is spreading like a wildfire. In a nutshell, our society encourages and indulges crime. The Nigerian lingos espoused by young people, such as ‘fake it till you make it’, and ‘if you do not have money, hide your face…’ are also enablers of crimes.
All regulatory authorities, especially the Nigerian Film Corporation and the security agencies, must as a matter of urgency, get involved in the production of movies to stamp out ritual killings for money as often depicted in Nollywood movies, forgetting they are not real. If not, how do the Ogun State boys who killed Rofiat know that human heads can turn into money. To think that a human being like you can turn into money, without hardwork is disturbing, but such things are displayed in Nollywood.
Imagine the Zamfara cannibal who killed, ate and sold body parts before he was arrested penultimate week, just to get rich? People’s children killed for rituals while yours are sheltered. How justifiable! Although, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has often clamped down on the Yahoo boys, compromises on the part of investigators and prosecutors, judicial recklessness, and absence of law enforcement have at best stalled proper trial of offenders leading to their imprisonment. Without sending offenders to jail to serve as deterrence to others, the Nigerian system (governments, security agencies, the judiciary and society as a whole) appear to be enabling bad behaviour and condoning crimes.
For these latest cases in Ogun, Zamfara states, and other parts of the country, let justice be done. Offenders should be sentenced to death by hanging and not life sentence which is often abused by politicians in the name of amnesty or released for political expediency (to serve as thugs during critical elections). There should also not be secret ‘wasting of their lives’ because they are criminals. That’s jungle justice, and not purposeful justice.
Effort must be made by authorities at all levels to heal our land of these evil ways of making money and to make a good example of those caught in the act through appropriate punishment as provided for by relevant laws of the land. The world is watching.
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