Fraud, Advance Fee Fraud and the Audacity of Yahoo Plus By Tochukwu Anaba, Esq

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The name Hushpuppy suddenly took over the media space, just as Invictus Obi did, even though some of us never knew them until their crimes were burst by international investigators, they had become celebrities and outstanding social media influencers.

I am sure that even from penitentiary, they will remain role models to many Nigerian youngsters.

Fraud and fraudulent people have always been and lived with us. Nigerian criminal Courts have always played host to alleged kingpins like the Fred Ajudua’s, Emmanuel Nwude, Ade Bendel, Ikechukwu Aniejemba, Moris Ibekwe and a long list of others.
These are men said to have acquired frightening fortune that potentially ridiculed every gospel of uprightness and forthrightness. They all wielded overwhelming influence in the Nigerian Society-from the local communities, the urban, governments, and from our Schools to the even our Churches. I may not be wrong to conclude that there is a vestige of fraud and fraudulent persons that we contend with everyday in the Nigerian Society.

Sometimes you have to contend with tales of local communities brought to prominence and families lifted from abject poverty with the proceeds of fraud.

However, we may not be right to accuse the Nigerian criminal justice system of indifference in the tackling of this menace for the obvious reason that Nigerian scam industry develops with speed and sophistication than our entire criminal justice system.

Section 419 of the Criminal Code Act which provides for obtaining goods by false pretences became grossly insufficient to deal with the evolving sophistication and menace of the crime of fraud especially when you put the punishment section into consideration. A prison term of three years as provided in the law is grossly inadequate to deter potential scam artists from the very profitable business.

The Criminal code is an adopted 1916 legislation which could not have envisaged by whatever means the sophistication of today.
We grew up to see local “Guy men”. They were really smart and abundantly bestowed with the power of conviction. They will sell vegetable oil to you and convince you that it is the substance used to wash and print currencies-MERCURY (as we used to hear then).

They will convince you to part with all you got in expectation that you will soon establish a currency minting factory in the comfort of your bedroom. By the time they are done with you, you are already seeing yourself in competition with Dangote and Otedola.

All they will obtain from you; you will submit willingly and with thanksgiving to them. It is easier to convince a prostitute and sleep with her without money than to convince a subject of fraud that he/or she is being defrauded. You become an enemy of progress to suggest that to a subject of fraud. Some of them die carrying their expectations of stupendous wealth to the grave.
Somewhere in Isiala Ngwa, a Bank Manager relocated from Owerri and became a house boy to a local Scam artist who was neither trained in financing of businesses nor does he understand the meaning of margins. Only God knows what that Bank manager was told that convinced him to empty his bank’s vault and relocate to Isiala Ngwa.

The power of conviction was/is the first attribute of scam artists and the driving lever for the business.

We knew these scam artists and we also knew when business gradually moved virtual- Yahoo or G’.

Men turned email writers convincing Oyibo to buy Oil blocks and posing as Nigeria’s Presidents and CEOs of government corporations and the Governor of Central Bank. They possessed bottomless bag of “formats” and choreographed their businesses until their “Mugu” paid.

In 2005, I visited a Mall in Lagos with over 100 desk top computers and an uncountable number of young boys like me, all “doing G’. The intriguing part of my experience in that mall is that they held a praise and worship session with a Pastor in the morning before pursuing their daily labour.

If I took my friend’s advice then, I should have been by now wealthier than Hushpuppy and Invictus Obi put together.
As the crime of fraud evolved the criminal justice system also attempted to-

Enter the Advance Fee Fraud Act which Prohibits and punishes certain offences pertaining to Advance Fee Fraud and other fraud related offences and to repeal other Acts related therewith.

Without boring us with the somewhat lengthy provisions of these laws, I observe that the similarity between what Section 419 of the Criminal Code Act and the Advance Fee Fraud Act seeks to prohibit are clearly about pretentious inducements that make one man transfer his property to another and the distinction is in respect to the punishment sections.

While Section 419 talks about 3 years imprisonment, the Advance Fee fraud provides for maximum of 20 years and minimum of 7 years imprisonment.

Within the contemplation of these laws there should be some level of pretentiously obtained ad idem (agreement) between scam artists and their hapless victims.
But now, there is Yahoo plus.

Within the past 10 years the crime of fraud has evolved tremendously as information technology evolves. Life has almost completely gone virtual, especially in Banking and trade.
Some people still believe that there is some kind of ritual that can mint money called Yahoo plus.

But from the Invictus Obi and Hushpuppy experience there is no such juju or ritual anywhere.

Men simply turned virtual armed robbers with no tact, skill or power of persuasion and conviction like in the old order. They simply hack into IT Servers of organizations to steal data.

A hacker is a person who uses computers to gain unauthorized access to data. The emphasis is on the word “unauthorized”
In any case there is no real ad idem between Parties in the so-called Yahoo plus.

What I see is a picture of a virtual robbery scene with Armed robbers and their hapless victims.

There is certainly nothing smart and intelligible about these hackers beyond their acquisition of sufficient Information Technology skills.

The most common being the Business email compromise (BEC) which involves schemes as often involving a computer hacker gaining unauthorized access to a business’ email account, blocking or redirecting communications to and/or from that email account”

These are hopeless thieves. But the most hopeless however, are those who see them as their role models and those they influence on the social media- We have seen men come and go- Fred Ajudua’s, Emmanuel Nwude, Ade Bendel, Ikechukwu Aniejemba, Moris Ibekwe etc. These men lived in no distant history.

A visit to Eze Ego’s palace in Ihiala Anambra State provides sufficient moral instruction and corroborates the Book of proverbs when it says that “the house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish” and again “tainted wealth has no lasting value, but right living can save your life”.

As we can all see, the obvious weaknesses of our criminal justice system provide no more immunity for these criminals here or anywhere else they may choose to hide as the jurisdiction for the prosecution of such crimes has broken territorial boundaries. May be it is time to have a rethink.

Tochukwu Anaba Esq. Managing Solicitor @Leftwing Solicitors

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