Given the harsh economic condition coupled with the ‘get-rich-quick syndrome’ that has become more celebrated and glorified, internet scam popularly known as “Yahoo Yahoo” has become an attractive hub to many Nigerian youths, who have risen on the sophistication of technology to perpetrate heinous crimes and defraud unsuspecting victims across the globe. More often than not, the dubious act is perpetrated under different guises such as Wire wire, online dating, delusive business partnership, credit transfer, among others.
Unfortunately, the nefarious deed has become a growing phenomenon among Nigerian youths as it continues to dent the image of Nigeria abroad. In light of this, the governments via its agencies such as Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), have braced up their actions with the aim of abating this social vice and bringing the desperate youths to their knees. This is a welcome development. More than any other time in history, there is a clampdown on internet fraudsters and every given arena has become a sight for the eagle eyes. We join in the campaign against Yahoo Yahoo but raise a dissenting voice against the criminalization of the innocent youths that have become enmeshed in this crusade.
At this point, it is instructive to examine the concept of freelancing being a growing hub among many dauntless jobless Nigerians. Looking at this arena has become a child of necessity due to the fact that a number of freelancers are paid in dollars via several online media of payment such as PayPal, Payoneer, Skrill, BitCoin, among others, which are also related to some of the cash-out methods of the Yahoo Boys. In most circumstances, it is so unthankful that Nigerian SARS, EFCC, and other law enforcement agents have found it hard to separate the chaff from the wheat. With the rampant stop-and-search on the increase by the SARS officials, a number of freelancers are spontaneously criminalized once a handful of dollars are found on their mobile phones. This is highly indiscriminate, pedestrian and unprofessional.
More fundamentally, freelancing refers to the process of performing a duty or task without being affiliated to an organization or institution. It deals with the rendering of one’s skills and abilities for remuneration and monetary gains. This task is performed by an individual or group of individuals known as “freelancers.” It should be noted that a freelancer is a person who sells his/her services to employers/clients without a long-term contract. More often than not, the skills being offered under freelancing niche include but are not limited to content development, digital marketing, editing, graphic design, photoshop, among others.
With the influx of new media and the globalization of technology, there are now one thousand and one platforms where freelancers could register as a member and commence the sale of their services at the comfort of their homes. Some of the notable platforms include Fiverr, Upwork, peopleperhour.com, freelancer, mylittlejob.eu, among others. In the final analysis, these freelancers are paid in dollars which could be withdrawn via any online payment stated above. This is a legit business in all ramifications. Intellectual property is one of the most cherished values across the world. Nigerians law enforcement should not be left in the obsolete condition. Perhaps, it should be asked; is freelancing task a criminal offense?
The fact is all the more glaring that freelancers are permitted to operate within the legal framework of the sacrosanct 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, as amended. Consequently, the abuse of some of the value-loaded youths in the freelancing arena is a deliberate attempt of some bad eggs in the system. This must stop forthwith.
As a matter of fact, a stop-and-search is an anachronistic approach to tackling social vices. In developed countries like the United States of America (USA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) saddled with the responsibilities of keeping America save of internet vices often adopt intelligence gathering and approach in tracking criminals. This was aptly demonstrated in their last investigative report indicting some Nigerian internet scammers including one of the richest young Nigerian entrepreneurs, Invictus Obi Okeke. The resultant effect of this led to the arrest of some of the indicted and hardly was there a rebuttal to the salient fact raised in the earlier report. This is the way to go in the 21st century. SARS operatives should be more professional and ethical in their conduct. Nigerian youths striving to make a living with their skills deserve an enabling environment free from intimidation and oppression. It is high-time SARS and EFCC officers separated the Yahoo Yahoo boys from the freelancers.