PROF. ANTHONY EZE
The cybercrime case involving a 38-year-old Nigerian, Raymond Abbas, no doubt, dented the nation’s image. Police arrested Abbas, also known as Hushpuppi, and his 11 accomplices in Dubai, the United Arab Emirate, in a special operation over cyber fraud involving 1.9 million victims to the tune of 168 billion naira.
They were quickly extradited to the United States. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) had filed a case alleging that the suspects engaged in money laundering, hacking, scamming, bank fraud, identity theft and impersonation. The scam was carried out between January and September 2019.
It would be recalled that last year, FBI arrested Obinwanne Okeke, also known as Invictus Obi, for conspiracy to commit computer fraud and wire fraud. He was alleged to have received eleven million dollars under false pretence. He was about to leave the US when he was arrested.
What usually gives these people away is their greed and unusual flamboyant lifestyle which they flaunt on social media platforms. Hushpuppi, the self-acclaimed ambassador of Gucci, had over 2.4 million followers on his Instagram page. His posts were usually about his luxury bags, fleet of luxury cars, private jets, yachts, & expensive watches. He usually posed in five-star hotels for effect.
Another suspected fraudster, Ismaila Mustapha popularly called Mompha, always showed off his luxury cars, designer wears and some other expensive items on Instagram. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested him in October at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on his way to Dubai. He was accused of laundering about 14 billion naira through his bureau de change firm.
The emerging cybercrime is a present danger to the society. It has taken a frightening dimension, largely because of our warped value system, which tolerates unbridled opulence. Now, it does not matter how some people made their money. That is why there is urgent need for reevaluation of our social values.
Already, the involvement of our youths in cybercrime is giving Nigeria a bad image abroad. The situation has become so bad that a Dubai recruitment firm recently posted a job opening online for Africans but excluded Nigerians. The unfortunate action is a reflection of the growing anger against cybercrime.
Therefore, the extant cybercrime law must be amended to take care of the current realities. There are some loopholes in the Act, which must be addressed. Many lawyers and activists believe that the Act is oppressive, repressive and illegal as some of its provisions offend the rights to freedom of expression and media freedom. Under the Act, some journalists and bloggers have also been harassed and threatened by the authorities.
It is gratifying that the ECOWAS Court of Justice recently ordered the Federal Government to repeal or amend the provision of the cybercrime law that violates citizens’ rights of expression. It also ordered the government to make the law to align with its obligations under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The arrest and trial of Hushpuppi and others should remind the youths that there is no shortcut to success. The reality is that people can make fortunes through hard work. There are many Nigerian professionals who are doing positive things in different parts of the world.
Recently, a Nigerian, Mr. Ikenna Nweke, received commendations from the Japanese government for returning a lost wallet containing large sums of money and a credit card. Also, another Nigerian, Dr. Chidubem Obi, made history by becoming the first African to graduate with 5.0 Grade Point Average (GPA) from Sechenov Medical University in Russia.
Nigerians are reportedly the most educated immigrants in the United States. About 25 per cent of all black students at Harvard Business School are said to be Nigerians. We urge the youths to emulate these exemplary Nigerians.