This is a paper that looks into the Advance Fee Fraud Act and its enforcement in society at large. The researcher has observed that the Act itself is almost like one without the force of law in Nigeria as the vice of advance fee fraud is spreading rapidly like a virus in the system of society.
The paper briefly looks into the said Act i.e. its contents and provision, how the offence came to be in the country, the measures set in place by the government to enforce this statute, the upward trajectory of the rate of advance fee fraud in the society, the cause of this increase and how the increase has affected life and society in general.
At the end of this paper, the researcher has suggested some means by which the effectiveness of the advance fee fraud act can be revitalised.
The Advanced Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act is an act of the national assembly that has the main objective of curbing the vice of fraud in the society, but this act, one can seemingly say has been a “dormant volcano” in terms of its effectiveness in society.
Laws are made to govern, control and prescribe the conducts and behaviours of members of the society, but the Advanced Fee Fraud Act has failed abysmally in this aspect.
The Nigerian society, as of present, is overflowing with one form of fraud or scheme or another. From the “yahoo boys” in the street who are hell bent on making false wealth by engaging in various dubious means to achieve their goal, to those in several institutions and other agents, who by their acts or omissions aid these individuals in their schemes.
This social vice has eaten so far in the core of society that it is no longer an offence to the common man, rather a norm, an occupation that can be compared to a desk work in the office.
This paper looks into how the Act has failed to curb the mischief it was created to curb, the reason for same, it’s effect on the society as a whole. It also suggests some solutions to revitalise the effectiveness of the Act.
- What Is Advance Fee Fraud?
Advanced fee fraud is a crime where a person is promised a sum of money, goods to be delivered or receive a prize once certain fees, charges, taxes or levies are paid in advance. The persons who carry out this act usually target the unsuspecting, the aged, investors who already purchased underperforming securities etc.
Advance fee fraud may involve the sale of products or services, the offering of investments, lottery winnings, found money etc.
In some cases it’s a love scheme, where the offender lures the victim into the illusion that indeed there is an existing love affair between them when, in fact, there is none.
Section 1 (2) of the Advance Fee Fraud And Other Fraud Related Offences Act defined the offence as thus:
A person who by false pretence, and with the intent to defraud, induces any other person, in Nigeria or in any other country, to confer a benefit on him or on any other person by doing or permitting a thing to be done on the understanding that the benefit has been or will be paid for commits an offence under this Act.
- How Advance Fee Fraud Came To Be?
Advance fee fraud is similar to the Spanish prisoner scam that dates back to the late 18th century. In that con, businessmen were contacted by an individual allegedly trying to smuggle someone who is connected to a wealthy family out of a prison in Spain. In exchange for assistance, the scammer promised to share money with the victim in exchange for a small amount of money to bribe prison guards.
The modern day transnational scam can be traced back to Germany in 1922 and became popular during the 1980s. There are many variants of the template letter. One of these, sent via postal mail, was addressed to a woman’s husband to inquire about his health. It then asked what to do with profits from a $24.6 million investment and ended with a telephone number.
The first known documented scam letter in Nigeria was written by a P. Crentsil, who wrote to the British colony in Ghana claiming to be a professor of wonders who possessed magical powers that could, on payment of a fee, be used to the benefit of correspondent.
Advance Fee Fraud And Other Fraud Related Offences Act.
The Act was put in place by the legislature to curb the mischief of advance fee fraud that was growing wild in the nation Nigeria. In the case of Stanley Odua (alias Duru Idika) v. The Federal Republic of Nigeria, Oguntade J.C.A. opined that the offence of advance fee fraud which is widespread in the country is to be frowned upon.
The Act itself came into being in the year 2006 and was to be cited as the Advance Fee Fraud And Other Fraud Related Offences Act 2006. The Act provides for various offences which are contained from section 1 to section 10 of the Act.
Section 1 and 2 provides for individuals who carry out the offence and other related offences to the offence in question.
Section 3 provides for anyone who provides a space or premises for carring out the act.
Section 5 and 6 provides for the attempt to commit the offence.
Section 7 provides for laundering of fund obtained through unlawful activity
Section 8 provides for any form of aiding and abetting or any form of conspiracy.
Section 10 provides for offences by cooperate bodies.
A close study of the above sections, one would see that the legislators did an outstanding work on this legislation as it goes to fill almost every hole that relates to the crime, from the perpetrator, to those who aid in one form or the other either by omission or action, to those in financial institutions. One would applaud the legislators for this wonderful statute.
- Measures for Enforcing the Act.
Generally, the Nigeria Police Force is the principal agent for law enforcement and the lead security agency in Nigeria, so this gives the police offices the power to arrest, detain, and search a person or vehicle where there is reasonable grounds for suspicion.
Section 18 of the Advance fee fraud and other fraud related offences act provides thus;
“The power of arrest in respect of an offence under this Act shall be in accordance with the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act or the Criminal Procedure Code, the case may be.”
Another body responsible for the enforcement of the provisions of this act is the Economic And Financial Crime Commission. By virtue of section 6 (b) of the EFCC Act, the commission shall be responsible for the investigation of all financial crimes including the advance fee fraud…”
The Act also provide for courts that will hear and determine cases as relates to the offence. Section 14 Advance fee fraud and other fraud related offences act provides thus;
“The Federal High Court or the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory and the High Court of the State shall have jurisdiction to try offences and impose penalties under this Act.”
- The Alarming Rate of Fraud in Nigeria
It is no longer news, to the average Nigerian youth, that the fastest way to make money is via fraud, commonly known as”yahoo or pressing”. This vice has crept deep into the Nigerian society and has cause a lot of individuals to lose their bearings on morality and integrity.
This vice is a one that is prominent amongst persons between the age of 16 to 35, most especially males.
As at the year 2021, Nigeria was ranked one of the top 10 scamming countries in the world. Now this position still has not changed, because as at February 6th, 2023, Nigeria was ranked number 7 of countries with the highest number of scammers in the world.
Nigerians are becoming well known for their participation in dating and crypto fraud. They act as possible mates to individuals searching for love on the internet and also give the illusion of business persons seeking investments.
It has become so horrific that several Hollywood series have given credence to this, where they had mentioned being scammed or an attempt or the likeliness to be scammed by a Nigerian. Some of these series include; Blackish, the Umbrella Academy, the Nigerian Prince, and many more.
- Reasons for the Increasing Rate of Fraud in Nigeria
Having observed the Nigerian society with a keen a eye, with the hope of pin pointing the heart of this virus in our society, it safe for one to conclude that the following includes some of the causes of the increasing rate of advance fee fraud in the society.
1. Lack of enforcement
2. Corruption in government and in society
4. Peer pressure.
5. Family influence
1. Lack of Enforcement
This has been the root of many Nigerian problems since time immemorial. A former minister of finance in Nigeria, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala once said:
Nigeria is a country without enforcement. The challenge is not the absence of laws, but the lack of political will to enforce them.
As established earlier the agent responsible for the enforcement of laws in the Nigerian society is the Nigerian Police Force.
The Nigerian Police Force is one of the bodies tasked with the burden of ensuring that laws are upheld by the individuals in the society, rather they have turned from their duty of enforcement and are currently aiding the delinquents in their rampant spree of fraud.
They turn a blind eye to these individuals who commits these atrocities as long as their pockets are lined with enough money. This has encouraged the vice as a norm in society ‘as long as you have the money to settle the officers, you can carry on as you please.’ This is the sad reality that the country Nigeria has to live with.
2. Corruption in Government and Society
Corruption in Nigeria has become a ministry of its own with officers running this ministry. Just like lack of enforcement, corruption itself can be traced to be the root of so many problems in the country.
According to Indiatimes, corruption refers to misusing public power for personal gain. It can be done by an elected politician, civil servant, journalist, administrator of a school, or anyone in authority.
Elected leaders are supposed to represent and manifest the interests and the needs of the people, but this hasn’t been the case. These leaders once elected usually leave the citizens to rot in their suffering, as all they care about is themselves, their bank accounts and their political godfathers.
With society in shambles, persons have no choice but to fend for themselves and unfortunately some of these youths have sought the easy way out of it, they have employed the short route.
It is also worthy to note that corruption, isn’t only in the political sphere as the people themselves engage in various corrupt practices that encourage this vice.
Members of the society no longer know the bearing for an objective moral compass. Everyone wants to make it to the top, and they want it fast never minding who they are stepping on the way.
The society no longer condemn what is wrong and to celebrate what is right and fair,rather it has only come to applaud when it glitters forgetting to test authenticity. This has further made many youths to tilt their minds towards this vice.
In earlier administrations, unemployment wasn’t an issue that needed urgent addressing, but as of now, the unemployment rate in Nigeria has gone through the roof and this has adversely affected society in general.
Persons having realised that jobs aren’t forthcoming and with needs and bills pilling up, go ahead to do whatever it would take to meet their needs and satisfy their wants. Unfortunately, some of the means resorted to by these individuals include fraud because it seems to be one of the “fastest” way to make free cash.
According Trading Economics , unemployment rate in Nigeria increased to 33.30 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020 from 27.10 percent in the second quarter of 2020. As at April 2023, KPMG has stated that the Nigerian unemployment rate had increased to 37.7per cent in 2022 and will further rise to 40.6per cent, due to the continuing inflow of job seekers into the job market. With this ever increasing rate of unemployment in the country,
Young persons are more likely to further turn into the vice of advance fee fraud.
4. Peer Pressure
Peer pressure amongst these young persons is a booster for them to engage in the vice. The average 20 year old boy as at 2013 is not the same with the one of our current day and time i.e 2023. The days of hard work, content and the satisfaction of a proper education are long gone.
An article in the Sun newspaper stated that:
Yahoo boys are extravagant in spending because the money comes without sweat; they love high life and late night activities… Their proceeds are usually used to purchase saloon landed properties or cars.
The article went further to describe their luxurious life style. The average teenager, having observed this, can easily be swayed by these individuals. After all, everyone is doing it with almost no consequence attached.
5. Family Influence
The old saying states that “charity begins at home.” But that is not the current scenario in our current day Nigeria.
In the average nuclear family in Nigeria, parents are known to encourage their teens and youths to tread that path of advance fee fraud, after all their mates are doing it and getting money so what is stopping their own children.
A mother of one of these fraudsters was interviewed about how she feels knowing that her son is a scammer and this is what she had to say; “Yahoo boys are different from ritualists. My son has not killed anybody and he will never do such. This Yahoo thing, everyone does it.”
Look at the country we are in, is there money anywhere? This money is even from the Whites and not that they are 419. So, why will I beat him for collecting money from abroad. We all pretend that it is bad but we spend the money all the time. As for me, I support him”
Long gone are the days were the saying ‘be content with what you have’ had a hold on society’. The greed in our present society is like a virus as nobody is looking out for the general good of all anymore. The greed that exists among members of society has driven them to do many of unspeakable things.
People having seen the good things of life wanting a short cut, usually engage in the vice under consideration in this paper. People are more after the end than the means to that end, hence they do not care about the illegality of what they do.
- Effects of the Increasing Rate of Fraud in Nigeria
The following are the effects of fraud in our present day Nigeria.
- Increase in vices
- Hike in prices of real estate and other commodities
- Lackadaisical attitude towards Education.
- General moral decadence
- Bad international reputation.
a) Increase in vices
With the rise of advance fee fraud in the society, the young persons are more likely to carry out criminal offences knowing well that the enforcement of the law in society is nothing more like a toothless bulldog.
These deviants will be more inclined to carry out their outlawed desires, after all they consider themselves as the custodians of their own society. Offences like stealing, robbery, burglary etc would become prevalent in the society.
b) Hike in the prices of real estate and other commodities
The presence of these yahoo boys in the society has adversely influenced the prices of goods and services generally. This has also affected the cost of housing as well.
The situation as it is now is that these individuals when purchasing goods, buy these goods at inflated prices from sellers (who themselves are a problem) and same applies to other transactional services.
The providers having observed how willing these persons are to just give out cash, they keep their prices high in hopes to get a yahoo boy as a purchaser, a tenant etc.
In a Punch newspaper publication, a correspondent commented that “the situation is getting worse. Nobody wants to think about how we eat again; all they are concerned about is money. They decide to increase without thinking of the poor…”
c) Lackadaisical attitude towards education.
With the prevalence of “yahoo” in the society, young people are less inclined to further their education. They believe that the reason anyone goes to school is to secure a good job in the future that will fetch them good money.
Their rationale is now that of what use is going through school when they can take the easier way out and the end is still the same. This has made them loose interest with education and all its tentacles.
In 2016, no fewer than 1.5 million candidates sat for the 2016 UTME. Fast forward to 2023, the numbers reduced drastically. The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, has said about 947,000 candidates sat for the 2023 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME.
d) General moral decadence
Society is slowly losing its bearing on the general moral compass of things. There is an old saying “na from clap dem take dey enter dance” and it is interpreted as one enters into an activity slowly and without rush.
The acceptance of one vice may lead to the acceptance of many others. The vice of fraud in our present day society has become more of something to be proud of and not really an act that should be condemned. The deviants are being celebrated for their illegal achievements thereby encouraging them to engage more, and motivating others to involve themselves in such.
e) Bad international reputation
The involvement of Nigerians in this advance fee fraud has become so rampant that it has drawn the attention of the international community. Nigerians are being restricted from certain countries, Nigerians being portrayed as the heartless fraudsters in several productions abroad etc.
The following are the recommendations prescribed;
i. A re-evaluation of the means of enforcement in Nigeria, so as to weed out the problems and ensure a better application of the law. The agencies responsible for the enforcement should be re-evaluated.
The persons in such agencies should be looked into as to their work practice and ethics over the years, to determine whether they have really upheld the codes that govern them or if they have in any way displayed inefficiency and/or attributes not worthy of an enforcer of the law.
In the later case, the individual should be kicked off the force or at least be punished for his actions. This way, the officers would learn to be judicious about their duties.
ii. Government should put the welfare of the citizens first in their policies and ensure they come into fruition. As seen above, the lack of certain basic amenities and social opportunities have driven tye people to the arms of vices.
If such amenities and opportunities were present in society persons would be less inclined to go into crime.
iii. Members of the society should learn to curb their greed and shun or condemn these illegal acts.
People should learn to live by a certain objective moral code, they should be able to tell their left from their right, and should never blur the line between right and wrong. By doing this, they would act less based on greed but more on what is right.
iv. There should be a proper sensitization of the masses as to the Advanced Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act and its content. A proper and continuous sensitization of the masses will keep them aware of what is within the ambit of the law. Ignorance of the law is also a factor that has encouraged the said vice and the aiding of same.
The advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act 2006 is a beautifully drafted legislation, but sadly, it is like a well armoured knight without any fighting skills. The statute has already being established in Nigeria, yet its effect is not being felt, rather it is as if it has been under a cloak of invisibility that makes everyone forget it exists. This vice of advanced fee fraud needs to be checked and checked fast before it completely destroys our society from the inside out.