Nigeria takes action against the Yahoo-Yahoo boys

26 February, 2013

This is AS IT IS, from VOA Learning English. Hello, I’m Christopher Cruise.

Today on the program, Jeri Watson takes us to Nigeria, where the government is taking action against some of its young citizens who are stealing money from people through the internet, and hurting the country’s reputation in the process...

Police in Nigeria have begun arresting people who are using the Internet to take millions of dollars every month from foreign victims. Earlier this month, police detained 20 people in the southern city of Benin.

Some people in Benin are angry about the arrests. They say the Yahoo-Yahoo boys, as they are called, should not go to jail while corrupt politicians go unpunished.

Jerilyn Watson reports...

It is a Saturday night at an upper class lounge in Benin City. Young men drink champagne and bottles of scotch. This drinking establishment is said to be a popular stop for the Yahoo-Yahoo boys. The name comes from their use of the Yahoo! email service. Yahoo! was the first program used for the illegal scams when the Internet became available in Nigeria in the early 2000s.

We are traveling with a young man named David as he drives his car slowly on one of the bad roads in Benin City. He says some young people turn to Internet scams as a way to escape poverty.

“Everyone knows that it’s wrong, but the truth is that there’s nothing to do. It’s, like, the only, it’s the only way out.”

Another man in the car says he once was a Yahoo-Yahoo boy, but he now operates a legal business. Still, he defends some Internet scams, like the one where you get an e-mail, saying you won a large prize and you need to send some money to collect your winnings. He says only greedy people will send the money.

He says if corrupt politicians stopped robbing the public, there would be a growing economy and jobs. People would be able to work at legal jobs, he says, instead of finding ways to steal money over the Internet.

Sunny Duke Okosun is a local broadcaster. He says joblessness is the reason the scam artists do what they do.

“There is really no interesting statistics to say how much job is being created to checkmate the unemployment problem. So you find that most youths that get involved in internet scam is also a function of this.” 

But other Nigerians say ending the Internet scam would harm the local economy and increase crime. Greg Eromomene is an events manager in Benin City. He says the city is much safer now than it was before so many people became involved with Internet fraud.

“Those guys they are like rich people. They cannot easily go break into shops and do those kind of things, because that has provided them with a kind of livelihood, a means of living, you understand? So, petty thieves have been reduced, you understand.”

I’m Jeri Watson.

And that’s today’s edition of “!s It Is,” our new daily show in VOA Special English.

Next time on “As it Is,” we’ll hear about the impact on the South African economy of the theft of electrical, telecommunications and transport cables. We’ll take you to Uganda, where hundreds of engineering students are helping the country launch its first probe into space. And we go to Sierra Leone to learn about efforts to keep children from being forced to become soldiers.

You can tell us what you want to hear on our new show. We want to report on the issues and ideas that matter to you in your world, !s It Is you want it to be.