Higher institutions, such as universities, polytechnics and colleges of education in Nigeria, are increasingly becoming breeding grounds for youths engaged in advanced fee fraud, commonly known as “Yahoo Yahoo.”
More students are now opting for a fast but dangerous way to make money in an attempt to impress and outshine their peers on campuses across the country.
Instead of focusing on learning, these students choose to deceive unsuspecting victims, using the proceeds to purchase luxury cars and socialise with attractive companions while in school.
The open display of affluence by students involved in advance-free fraud on campuses tends to attract other students who believe such a lifestyle should be emulated.
Amid the display of wealth by those involved, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has continued to raid suspected institutions and arrest students believed to be involved in such activities.
Checks by Pmnews.ng have shown that higher institutions like Kwara State University, Obafemi Awolowo University, Akwa Ibom State University, Ladoke Akintola University (LAUTECH), and Olabisi Onabanjo University have been targeted by EFCC operatives, with their students being arrested for suspected internet-related offenses.
Pmnews.ng reported in April that EFCC operatives arrested 19 students of Akwa Ibom State University in Mkpat-Enin, Akwa Ibom State, for alleged internet-related offenses.
Some of the suspects were allegedly involved in romance scams, fraudulent cryptocurrency transactions and impersonation.
Just last week, EFCC arrested about 70 students of Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Osun State, for suspected internet-related offenses.
In an effort to address this menace, some institutions, such as Ladoke Akintola University in Ogbomoso, Oyo State, have banned students from driving or bringing cars to the campus.
The institution has also prohibited tinted vehicles for both staff and students, and learner permits must be displayed on the vehicles of novice drivers.
To combat this problem, the EFCC has unveiled plans to collaborate with university management across the country. They believe that the university environment is a training ground for youths, both academically and morally.
Therefore, they aim to work together with universities to combat the infamous “Yahoo Yahoo” phenomenon.
“We want to leverage the teeming youths on the campuses of higher institutions in our sustained fight against computer-related frauds and we consider UNILAG as the starting point.
“We believe that the university environment is a training ground for youths, both academically and morally. It is, therefore, imperative that we join hands in the fight against the infamous yahoo-yahoo,” the commission said while entering an agreement with University of Lagos (UNILAG) management.
Expressing concern about the influence of internet fraudsters on other students, a lecturer at the Department of Curriculum and Teaching at UNICAL, Okey Samson, lamented that the display of affluence by these fraudsters on campuses is having a negative effect on other students, as they fail to concentrate on their education.
Speaking with newsmen, the lecturer said, “Their source of wealth makes them not take education seriously, and this influences other students who are non-suspects of other crimes, as the influence will equally extend to students of the opposite gender. They lure them into sex, drugs, and other sexual perversions. These acts will now have a negative impact on their academics because they won’t take their education seriously, as the essence of education is to make money at the end.
“And if they can make money through fraudulent means and enjoy their lives more than their lecturers, why won’t they say education is a scam?
“In UNICAL, there used to be a course known as anti-corruption, which was offered in the second year of undergraduate students. It was designed to instill in students the virtues of sincerity, truthfulness, transparency, and accountability. If the curriculum is structured to inculcate core values in students, then it will act as a great check.
“Anti-corruption should not be taught in the university but in primary school. According to the National Policy on Education, there are values outlined that the medium of instruction at all levels should adhere to, and it talked about the core value that could promote the corporate image of our country, but that’s not implemented.”
On how to tackle the problem, he said: “The first thing is to start the anti-corruption fight from the start of education; once we get there, then it’s done. The Bible is explicit when it says to train up a child in the way it should go so that he grows, he won’t depart from it. So, a child who has been into Yahoo Yahoo before entering the university, where he should build his knowledge and future, and you are now bringing a course on anti-corruption for him to choose, the child will just laugh at you.”
Speaking further, he said: “Peer influence remains the cause of this issue. Looking at Albert Bandura’s social learning theory, if I’m observing my roommate going out with cars and coming back with goodies from fast-food joints, using Apple laptops and phones, I will start asking him to give me updates. So that influence will start, and upon insistence, you start learning from the person, making it a fertile ground for such behaviour.
“I don’t think we can completely eliminate suspected advanced fee fraudsters from tertiary institutions because people learn every day, and even after repenting from such activities, some people may still join them. It may be reduced to a particular level, but I don’t think we can reach a point where there won’t be any internet fraudsters, as that would be an unrealistic assumption.”
Also, a lecturer at Federal University Oye (FUOYE), Sola Balogun, lamented that Yahoo boys are negatively affecting students on higher institution campuses.
Balogun noted that some of these students are reckless in their behaviour on campuses, to the extent of causing accidents that harm fellow students.
Speaking with newsmen, Balogun also blamed the parents of some of the students for their reckless and illegitimate actions.
He said: “Nobody knows the source of the income of these Yahoo boys; their source is not legitimate, and this is morally and socially wrong.
“Because they didn’t earn their money through honest means, they don’t know how to spend it wisely. They spend recklessly and behave immorally.
“In my campus, for example, some of them drive recklessly and cause harm to students. The majority of them lack morals because they have money; they entertain women and visit clubs.
“All of these are not examples that a good and responsible student should exhibit. They don’t reflect the qualities of students who come from good homes, and I think the problem lies with the parents.
“Some of these parents are unaware of their children’s behaviour in school, and some even condone and support their criminal activities. Thus, on campus, they are morally and socially bankrupt.”
Comrade Sunday Abah, a former lecturer with Benue State Polytechnic in Ukokolo, advocated for punitive measures as a way to curb the activities of fraudsters in tertiary institutions across the country.
Abah lamented that Yahoo boys are making it difficult for other students to focus on their studies because they prefer shortcuts to making money.
He told newsmen, “It has a lot of drastic negative effects on students, as they are introduced to Yahoo Yahoo at a young age, thinking more about making money than graduating. They have realised that after graduation, there are no jobs, so they quickly seek shortcuts to make money. Many students patronize this method because it is the quickest route to success.
“It distracts students from paying attention to their studies, and they may even drop out, whereas the primary purpose of attending school is to gain knowledge and make a living.
On the best way to tackle this menace, Abah opined that: “The best approach is to sensitise students within the school premises, informing them of the hazardous effects of Yahoo Yahoo and how it can be curtailed early in their lives.
“Through sensitisation, these students will learn how to avoid this societal ill. Having security and surveillance around the school will also help in addressing this challenge.
“The government should introduce punitive measures to address the menace, as this will go a long way in curbing it. When students know the extent of the punitive measures and their intensity, they will be deterred from engaging in such activities.”