By Ismaeel Uthman
REACTIONS have continued to trail the protest of some youths, believed to be suspected internet fraudsters, notoriously known as ‘Yahoo Boys’ in Osogbo, capital of the State of Osun.
The ‘Yahoo Boys’ had taken to the streets last Tuesday, May 18, 2021, to protest what they described as ‘witch-hunting’ and illegal arrest of some of them by operatives of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Operatives of the EFCC had raided Rinsayo and Halleluyah areas of Osogbo, where a former soldier, Adebisi Jamiu and 33 other suspected internet fraudsters were arrested at the wee-hours of Tuesday.
It was said that the EFCC operatives scaled the fence, burgled into the apartment of the suspects to carry out the arrest.
OSUN DEFENDER gathered that the EFCC seized vehicles and some telephone handset belonging to the ‘Yahoo Boys’.
However, other ‘Yahoo Boys’ and their supporters mobilised themselves and waylaid the EFCC operatives at LAMECO roundabout, Osogbo.
The ‘Yahoo Boys’ confronted the EFCC operatives and held them hostage in spite of the several gunshots fired to disperse the protesting youths.
The EFCC personnel were forced to release 13 vehicles out of the 20 seized from the suspects.
EFCC, in a statement posted on its Twitter handle on Wednesday confirmed the arrest of the ‘Yahoo Boys’.
The Statement reads: “Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibadan Zonal Office, in the early hours of Tuesday, May 18, 2021 arrested a former soldier, Adebisi Jamiu and 33 others for suspected internet fraud.
“The suspects were picked up in different locations in Osogbo, the Osun State capital.”
Some other suspected internet fraudsters took to the streets, set up bonfires on the road to protest the arrest of their colleagues and friends.
The protest led to gridlock on the road and paralysed commercial activities at LAMECO and Dele Yes Sir areas of the state capital.
Some of the protesting ‘Yahoo Boys’ carried placards saying: “EFCC leave us alone, go to the North. Say no to EFCC.”
Reacting to the development, ‘a legal practitioner, Mr. Johnson Amusa said: “The protest signifies one thing; that our society has totally degenerated in value.
“With what people are saying, that the EFCC came down to carry out illegal arrest. If that is true, two wrongs cannot make a right. There is no way a security operative should be prevented from carrying out the duty of investigation and arrest.
“So, for suspects to now resist arrest is unconstitutional and obnoxious. It is should not be allowed and that they even have the audacity to go into the streets to protest, it shows that our country is in total mess.
“The protest was uncalled-for. They should not have gone to the streets to protest at all, no matter what. What they should have done is to challenge the action in court or write to higher authorities and lodge complaints. Anybody that supports it is aiding and abetting crime.
“That the EFCC did not inform the Police about his operations in Osogbo is also an aberration.”
In what seems to be a contrary view, another legal practitioner, Mr. Seyi Oyagbile said: “An overview of the EFCC Act, Criminal Code of the Criminal Procedure Act and Administration of Criminal Justice Act and Laws and other show that manner in which the EFCC arrested the suspects is illegal.
“If you say somebody is a fraudster or he has defrauded someone, there should be somebody who will come out and say they defraud him. For you to just enter somebody’s house and call him a fraudster is illegal.
“If they committed the fraud, who is the complainant? So how EFCC and the Police invade peoples’ residences or stop them on the road and arrest them on the allegation of being internet fraudsters is usually illegal.
“It is possible for EFCC to go and meet someone or arrest someone for financial crime; there is no law that says they must inform the Police before they do their job.
“The internal procedure of the Police Force is that if officers of the force went to another jurisdiction, they must inform those who are in that jurisdiction.
“And Police officers may argue that same applies to EFCC officers, considering the fact that most EFCC officers are also policemen particularly those in operation. But by the virtue of the EFCC Act, internal procedure of the Police does not affect the operational procedures of the EFCC.
“As a matter of courtesy, the EFCC may tell the Police but the law does not mandate them to do it. So the argument of the Police is not valid in that regard.
“The Yahoo Boys have the right to protest if it is not violent because they violated their rights0. When there is nobody who complains that someone defrauded him and you are calling them fraudsters and disturbing them. They have the right to protest under the law.
“However, blocking the EFCC officers in order to free those who were arrested is illegal because they impede law officials from performing their duties. There are laid down procedures for addressing injustice.
“Had it been the court is working, they could sue the EFCC and claim damages but now that the court is on strike, they can write some senior officials of the court because there are some departments in the court that deal with human right.”
Speaking on the matter, a social analyst, Mr. Abiodun Akanji, attributed the controversies on the arrest of the suspect internet fraudsters to societal decadence and lack of trust and synergy between the security organizations in Nigeria.
Akanji said: “In my own view, the arrest and protest are indication that our society has degenerated beyond what we think off. Let me start from the security agency. There is distrust among them, they don’t trust each other.
“Do you want to know why the EFCC might not inform the Police about its operations? It is because the Police have been several times accused of compromise and aiding the ‘Yahoo Boys’. The EFCC believes that their operation would not be successful if it informs the Police. There is a reputational damage that the Police needs to work on.
“The EFCC also has its problem. The agency, recently, seems to be interested in extorting these guys than prosecuting them. If not that the operatives of the agency have compromised its integrity and have played into the hands of the ‘Yahoo Boys’, they could not have the audacity of confronting them.
“EFCC is gradually losing its respect because of the alleged extortion of the ‘Yahoo Boys’. The menace would have reduced drastically if the agency has been arresting and prosecuting these guys diligently.”
Speaking on the protest, Akanji said, “I was shocked when I heard that ‘Yahoo Boys’ are protesting. I could not believe until I got to LAMECO where the guys set up bonfire and gathered in their large numbers. Some of these guys were saying it loud and clear that they are internet fraudsters.
“That shows our society has lost its value. It is an indication that the future bleaks. A criminal coming out in broad daylight to protest against arrest of colleagues! I think our parents, community and religious leaders, security agencies and governments at all levels need to put on their thinking cap. There is danger ahead with what the ‘Yahoo Boys’ displayed on Tuesday.”