The ‘Yahoo-Yahoo’ business, formally known as cyber fraud in Nigeria’s cybercrime law, is not a new phenomenon in the country.
The illicit business, mostly perpetrated by young men and sometimes women, is an offshoot of the so-called ‘419’ business of the 1980s and 1990s.
The 419 code is derived from a section of the country’s Criminal Act Section 419 (Advance Free Fraud) which frowns at obtaining money from people through pretence or impersonation, cheating, falsification, counterfeiting, forgery and fraudulent representation of facts.
Internet fraud has now been here for decades and does not seem to be declining in spite of the government’s efforts to stem the tide of the crime that has given the country a bad reputation.
On the global scale, PREMIUM TIMES reported how Obinwanne Okeke, a.k.a Invictus Obi, a trans-Atlantic cybercriminal, was jailed in the United States of America for 10 years for cyber-related crimes.
Before his arrest by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and subsequent prosecution and conviction, Mr Okeke was a rising star within the country’s private sector to the extent that he once graced the front page of the elite magazine, Forbes, as a young millionaire.
Until the bubble burst, only a few people knew Mr Obi, who had practically become a business coach to young folks, was into cyber fraud.
There are similar cases like that of Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, a.k.a Hushpuppi, and Ismail Mustapha, a.k.a Mompha, both Instagram celebrities, who are being tried in various courts for cyber fraud which has to do with business email compromise and money laundering.
How they operate
Cyber fraud, locally known as Yahoo Yahoo in Nigeria, takes various shapes and forms which have undergone evolution in recent years.
Boys involved in the illicit business have various ways of duping their victims – mostly foreigners. These range from romance scam, email phishing, business email compromise fraud, identity theft, impersonation, to generating bogus business transactions that look too good to be true and shady business deals running into millions of Naira, usually in hard currencies.
Some of the men involved in the illegal business often resort to seeking metaphysical powers from herbalists that they believe will enable them to hypnotise or control their victims for the time they are on their radar. This latter category of boys are called ‘Yahoo Plus’ boys or ‘G-boys.’
Their tools include laptops connected to the internet that runs almost on a 24-hour basis. They also have premium software exclusively for hacking purposes. Most of them live in secluded places, away from the prying eyes of the public.
When they are not at home, they use their mobile phones which are connected to mobile internet providers like Mifi to run their illicit schemes.
Resurgence of Yahoo Yahoo
For some time now, hardly does a week pass without the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) parading young men for cyber fraud or some being jailed by courts for internet fraud-related offences.
In fact, it is almost a daily occurrence to the extent that some persons no longer pay any attention to it. It is now a sub-culture, an indication that it is the new normal, despite the country’s criminal justice system being stoutly against it.
As law enforcement agencies scale up their intelligence gathering to track those involved in the crime, the criminals have also learnt to up their games to avoid being caught.
There are also allegations that some of the Yahoo boys have informants within the country’s security agencies who tip them off to escape arrest.
Even though it is one crime the government seriously frowns at and has sent many young men to prison for, after prosecution by the country’s anti-graft agencies like the EFCC and ICPC, the number of young men recruited into the illicit activities seems to be on an upward swing in the South-west region of the country.
While a part of the South-west society seems to be against what they do, there is a new generation of cheerleaders who believe Yahoo boys are not doing anything harmful. This latter category, to justify their support for cyber fraud criminals, say Nigerian politicians do worse.
Yahoo Boys in the South-west
From Akure in Ondo State to Ado Ekiti in Ekiti State; from Ibadan and Ogbomoso in Oyo State to Agbule Egba, Lekki, 1004 Estate in Lagos State to Osogbo and Ilesha in Osun State and Abeokuta, Ijebu Ode e.t.c in Ogun State, it has been the same tale: Yahoo boys in their teens and twenties are very many in the aforementioned cities, occupying the best housing estates in secluded parts of the cities.
According to findings by this newspaper, the men involved in internet fraud also drive expensive automobiles, shop in classy boutiques and date some of the prettiest ladies in the cities mentioned because they have the cash to throw around.
Tunde Ajayi, a commentator in Akure, the Ondo State capital, told PREMIUM TIMES that getting apartments in some parts of the city is now a herculean task because of the rising cost of accommodation instigated by the purchasing power of Yahoo boys.
“These boys can pay any amount to secure an apartment for themselves in highbrow areas,” he said.
As for the ubiquitous presence of ‘yahoo boys’ in the city, Mr Ajayi, who asked that his real name not be used, said that is the reigning ‘business’ in the town.
“The surprising thing is that the more security agencies are on their trail, the more their number increases. It appears it has become a subculture here, an accepted part of the society,” he told this newspaper.
According to him, the boys are often quartered in areas like Oba Ile, Idanre Road, Ijapo and Alagbaka axes of the city.
He said the boys often patronise exclusive bars in the city for fun.
”They converge on Bola Komo every night to carry Olosho,” he said. Olosho is slang for sex workers.
The story is not different in Ibadan and Ogbomoso, two of the most populous cities in Oyo State. Some of the men are now moving to Oyo town since security operatives are started beaming their searchlight on Ogbomoso and Ibadan.
In Ibadan, the boys are found in areas like Bodija, Ring Road, Ologun Eru, Akobo, Polytechnic Ibadan axis, among others.
Like in Ondo, the Yahoo boys also patronise the most expensive clubs in Ibadan.
They shop in some of the newest shopping malls in the city, often intimidating less endowed shoppers by their crass display of opulence.
Ogbomoso, arguably, parades the highest number of Yahoo boys in the entire South-west. A lot of them are undergraduates of the Ladoke Akintola University (LAUTECH).
In fact, internet scam is so rampant in the city that male undergraduates of other schools often go to meet their friends in LAUTECH to train them on how to be experts in the illicit business, an insider said.
Meanwhile, in Ekiti State, many of the Yahoo boys are domiciled in Ado Ekiti, the state capital. An observer in the city said they patronise some of the most expensive hotels in the city.
In Ogun State, Yahoo boys aggregate in Abeokuta, the state capital. Some of them are found in Ijebu Ode, Sagamu and Ago Iwoye.
In Abeokuta, they live in Obantoko, Obada and Panseke areas. They live in expensive hotels and patronise some of the best clubs in the Ogun capital.
In Osun State, Osogbo, the state capital, is their headquarters. They are said to live in areas like Dada Estate and Oke Baale.
Without a doubt, Lagos is the hub of all Yahoo activities in the country. If you are into Yahoo and have not practised the illicit scheme in Lagos, you are operating in a lower league.
Virtually every part of the city and even the suburbs have Yahoo boys. But the big players are mostly domiciled on the Island, Ajah, Ikoyi, Epe, Ikorodu, e.t.c. They are regular fun seekers in high upscale clubs in the areas.
Timeline of arrests of ‘Yahoo-Yahoo Boys’ in South-west, Kwara between January and March.
January 9: Ten persons were arrested for alleged involvement in internet-related fraud in Lagos by the Lagos zonal station of the EFCC.
The suspects are: Jonathan Daniel Adebayo, Lawal Waidi Seun, Adeosun Joseph, Taiwo Gbemileke, Oseni Omotayo, Emmanuel Fakiyesi, Rasheed Ogunlana, Oladunni Segun, Sowunmi Rotimi and Efetobore Prince Wilfred
January 20: EFCC, Ibadan Zonal Office arrested 10 suspects in Olomi area of Ibadan, Oyo State capital.
January 22: 11 suspects were arrested in Osogbo, the Osun State capital by officers from the Ibadan zonal station of the EFCC. About 12 exotic cars, including SUVs, were recovered from the suspects. Also recovered from them were mobile phones, laptop computers and other devices.
January 23: 22 suspects were arrested at various residences at Terra Annex Estate, Sangotedo in the Ajah area of Lagos.
They are Muyiwa Adetola, Adeolu Damilade, Oritsetimeyin Abel, Ademola Lekan, Abayomi Qudus, Isaac Chibueze, Ayeni Olarewaju, Aminu Kelvin, Ajama Patrick and Nesta Olotu.
Others are Odaro Edogiawere, Balogun Ayo, Mustapha Hassan, Musbaudeen Olamilekan, Adewumi Adebayo, Charles Akpene, Joshua Ugwuomore, Ayeni Isamilola, Ogundare Kayode, Kara Uzuegbu, Akindele Samuel and Oladimeji Ashiru.
January 26: Lagos zonal office of the EFCC arrested 22 suspects, while the Ibadan zonal office arrested 13 in Ibadan on the same date.
January 26 and 27: Officers from the Lagos zonal office of the EFCC arrested 17 suspects in different locations in the state. Three of the suspects are based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The Dubai- based suspects who were arrested at Victory Nest Estate, Jakande, Lekki, Lagos on January 27, 2021 are Samuel Oluwasegun Olayinka, Afeez Fajumobi and Olamide Olamilekan Olaofe.
February 4: Lagos zonal office of EFCC arrested 14 suspects at 1004 Estate, Victoria Island, Lagos State. The suspects are: Akin Abiola Daramola, Stephen Augustine Terungwa, Oluwateru Abiodun Samson, Jeffrey Imariagbe Ehis, Uwajiala Odion Henry, Solomon Abidiran Pelumi, Adebayo Oluwatobi Isaac Olamide and Odunifa Joseph Opomulero. Others are Adulkarim Samad Olalekan, Anne Davidson, Ibrahim Enakere Emmanuel, Abayomi Oluwagbenga Olowoake, Israel Jigah Sokoamtu, Oluwaseun Olajuwon Ibrahim and Isaiah Effiong.
February 9: The Ibadan zonal office of EFCC arrested 39 suspects. Ten of them were arrested at Ilesha, Osun State, while 29 others were arrested in different locations at Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State. Items recovered from them include seven cars, laptop computers, mobile phones, and several documents containing false presences. Those arrested at Ilesha are: Oyesoji Tosin, Olaniyi Emmanuel, Samson Ojo, Sodiq Sunkanmi, Kolawole Abiodun, Oluwole Gbenga, Olajuyigbe Olamide, Oyebanji Olabisi Temitope, Ayoola Oluwafemi, and Oluwatobiloba Gbadamosi.
March 8: The Ilorin Zonal Office of the EFCC arrested 37 suspects in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State. Some of the suspects are Michael Ekundayo, Victor Olujobi, Damilola Akinluyi and Attamah Hyauth, Ade Ajayi Tobi, Oyewola Adewunmi, Emmanuel Bello, Lekan Oyewole, Oso Opeyemi OMG others.
March 9: EFCC arrested 14 suspects at K1 White House, Ogombo, Ajah, Lagos. Some of the suspects are Azeez Oluwatimileyin, Stephen Abu, Gbolahan Abbas Ridwan, Oyenowo Steven and James Silas Didam.
March 12: EFCC Ibadan Zonal office arrested 57 suspects in Ilaro, Ogun State. The suspects were arrested in their hideout in Yewa Frontier Hotel & Resort, Ellysam Hotel & Suites, April Suites and IBD International Hotels, all in Ilaro. Two pump-action guns, four exotic cars, mobile phones and laptops were recovered from some of them
March 17: 18 suspects were arrested in Sagamu, Ogun State. They were apprehended at Remo Majestic Hotel. Exotic cars, phones, laptops, and internet devices were recovered.
March 29: EFCC arrested 10 suspects in Akure, Ondo State. The items recovered from the suspects include eight exotic cars, laptops computers, phones, documents and identity cards.