The route to wealth is hard work, not fraud
Following the release of most of the arrested students of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, some parents last Friday demanded an apology from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for an unlawful clampdown on their wards. Besides, they are asking for the immediate clearance of their children’s names, pictures, and biometrics from the records of the anti-graft body. The commission must take these demands seriously, especially so as not to jeopardise the future of innocent students who may have been criminalised for no just cause.
The crisis started on November 1 when some EFCC operatives invaded the OAU Students’ off-campus Hostel at Oduduwa Estate at night. Sixty nine students were apprehended and ferried to their Ibadan zonal office where they were detained. According to the commission, the students were arrested “following actionable intelligence on their suspected involvement in fraudulent Internet-related activities.” But apparently on finding nothing incriminating on many, 58 of the students were released while the agency held on to eleven. Expectedly, the mass arrest sparked an outrage, raising many disturbing questions. How can all the students residing in a large hostel be suspected fraudsters? Is there no civilised way of arresting suspects? Were the students invited and they refused to turn up before the Gestapo-like operation?
Unfortunately, it has become a standard practice for EFCC operatives to raid hotels, relaxation spots, and indeed homes in different parts of the country in hunt for cybercrime suspects where, in many cases, innocent citizens are molested and embarrassed. As it is, the anti-graft body is yet to imbibe the rigour and the wherewithal to conduct thorough investigations, prosecution, and convictions of many of the nation’s big financial criminals. The commission should be concerned about its image problem as many Nigerians lose faith in its capacity to tackle corruption among the political class.
There are no reliable statistics, but it is obvious the number of young people who are getting involved in cybercrimes in Nigeria is growing and that should worry all stakeholders. Driven by the prevailing economic hardship in the country and greed, many of our campuses have become breeding grounds for frauds, including romance scams, identity theft, credit card fraud and ‘419’ – in reference to the section of the Nigerian law that criminalises such scams. A dastardly one–killing for rituals, often called Yahoo plus–has also been introduced, with ‘academies’ where the intricate nature of this sordid ‘business’ is reportedly taught to willing students online. A study at a state-owned university in the Southwest revealed that many of the undergraduate students are exposed to various forms of cybercrime.
Last week, the EFCC met with some vice chancellors and rectors to examine how universities and polytechnics can help combat students’ involvement in cybercrime. But this is a call that should be taken seriously by all critical stakeholders in the country. We cannot build a society in which young people believe that the route to wealth is fraud, and not work.