Speckled with marks of internet fraud: Nigeria’s image must be saved!

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Internet Fraud.

Internet fraud has discoloured Nigeria’s status with ugly appearances. The deformities may not be detached from Nigerians who form the nation. While not all citizens can be tagged dubious to this delinquency, the pronounced profile of the delinquency among many Nigerians, particularly the young population, have brought a negative attachment to Nigerian citizens in the international frontiers.

It is evident that the phenomenon has grown to become an illegitimate venture extending with wide acceptance as a career path many young people are embracing. Despite the efforts of antigraft agencies and related security units to clampdown on the perpetrators, the network of the crime keep gaining widening stretch among Nigerians beyond domestic  coverage to international outreach.

Two Nigerian young men residing in the United States were sentenced to prison for defrauding Americans of over $2 million via an internet romance scam, reports on Tuesday, 13 September, 2022 had revealed.  Both convicts bagged a combined 17 years and six months jail term. The development came barely 72 hours after the US declared wanted a 29-year-old Nigerian, Chidozie Collins Obasi for defrauding the New York State of $30 million over the COVID-19 ventilators scam.

According to a press release by the US Department of Justice, the two Nigerians Olumide Obidare and Stephen Oseghale defrauded their victims by using fake names and stolen identities to engage in Business Email Compromise (BEC). They are both 29-year-old who duped their victims through BEC fraud schemes to pursue fraudulent romantic relationships online. It was learnt that this case was hinged on the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

A US District Court Judge, Nancy E. Brasel, on Monday, 12th September, 2023, sentenced Obidare to 132 months (11 years) in prison coupled with three years of regulated release. The court also ordered him to pay $1,955,507.53 in restitution having pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft on March 14, 2022, as announced by the US.

The statement partly read: “According to court documents, beginning in 2016 through May 2021, Olumide Obidare, 29, and Stephen Oseghale, 29, conspired with each other to use fictitious and stolen identities to engage in Business Email Compromise (BEC) fraud schemes and pursue fraudulent romantic relationships online. As part of the scheme, the defendants obtained false identification documents, including passports and driver’s licenses, and used them to open bank accounts at various banks throughout the United States. The defendants transferred the proceeds of their online romance fraud scams and BEC schemes to bank accounts under their control. In total, the defendants defrauded victims of approximately $2,114,893.91. On March 14, 2022, Obidare pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Earlier today, U.S. District Court by Judge Nancy E. Brasel sentenced Obidare to 132 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $1,955,507.53 in restitution.”

For  Oseghale’s conviction, he was  sentenced a month earlier on 16th August to 6 years and six months jail term. “Oseghale, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, was sentenced on August 16, 2022, to 80 months in prison followed by three years on supervised release and ordered to pay $453,889.27 in restitution,” the statement added.

The records of cyber crime among young Nigerians have become so pronounced that its global stretch has placed costly specks on the country’s image. Such is detrimental to her perception in the international space. The negative impacts for genuine and ingenious Nigerians within the global community are no way desirable. It is such that directly and indirectly create bottlenecks for brilliant minds whose ingenious capacities have global outreach. Many innocents Nigerians are no doubt at the risk of suffering deprivation of certain benefits from the stereotype that the odious acts is imposing on the country.

International studies have continued to place Nigeria as one of the most corrupt in the world. Internet fraud has not spared the country from such worsening records. It is time the government must ramp up deliberate course by developing responsive architecture to clampdown on the misadventure. The use of kinetic and non-kinetic measures must be well coordinated within a working system to fight the phenomenon headlong.

It is high time the fight incorporate the firm force of psychological parameters as soft appeals to the campaign against the phenomenon. Such is essential for a paradigm shift to change the close resort of youths to the illegitimate practice as an enticing venture. This measure as a demarketing instrument to make the phenomenon unappealing among the teeming young Nigerian population must be widely and collectively pushed by gatekeeping institutions of the Nigerian society, including the media, civil society organisations, religious institutions, socio-cultural organisations, among other interest groups. It is important for private organisations/bodies, as part of  their Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) to support such campaigns, as they also, directly and indirectly, are sufferers of the negative impacts of the misadventure.  The government, more importantly, must create a working framework to drive the patterns of the move for an overarching clamdown. This is important to salvage Nigeria’s image.