Are 60% of Lagos youth cultists or tech bros?

Dennis Da-ala Mirilla

At an event organised by the Rotary Club of Agege to mark the Peace and Conflict Resolution and Prevention month, the Police Public Relations Officer, Lagos Command, CSP Adekunle Frederick Ajisebutu said: “As a privileged Operation Officer for an anti-cultism unit for Lagos State Police Command at a time, I discovered that about 60 per cent of youths in Lagos were in different cults.”

The backlash was swift. For many, it seemed like a continuation of the agenda that the APC-led government have presented, captured in a statement by the president that Nigerian youths only want to eat out of the national cake without working for it.

Others saw it as justification of years of profiling of young men as yahoo boys that many have endured in the hands of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the police force. A huge swathe of these profiling incidents has happened to tech bros, who work in less formal organisations.

There is a lifestyle that many tech bros have adopted, largely due to the convenience that their work provides. They have more flexible hours as a result of working from home. They have lesser or no dress code restrictions and are paid in many cases better than their peers working in more traditional 9 – 5 companies.

According to Glassdoor, the average Nigerian tech support personnel is paid ₦110,000 per month. The minimum wage in Nigeria is ₦30,000. 27.4 million Nigerians earn below ₦100,000 per annum.

This is also the look that internet fraud (yahoo boys) have adopted, largely because they are rich young Nigerians with flexible working hours.

For this look, SARS have harassed and attacked them, subjecting many to sometimes belittling questions as they go about their day; at best, wasting their time and at worse being violently assaulted.

But Ajisebutu’s sentiments of a rise of Lagos youths being in cults to the tune of 60 per cent, rings true in many communities across the country; either upscale or the hinterland.

The rise of cybercrime in the country especially as we entered into this new decade has reached a new high. The headline of an article published in the Vanguard in 2021 captures it perfectly: “FILTHY RICHES: The audacity of ‘Yahoo Boys.’”

But yet, there is hardly any family that hasn’t been stained by the disease of Yahoo Yahoo boys.

There have been cases of them beating up uber drivers, harassing the staff of popular fast-food chains, hacking into bank accounts of hard-working Nigerians, spiking, raping and beating vulnerable women, more recently kidnapping members of working Nigerian families, forcing some to sell properties to pay the ransoms. and intimidating the general public.

Regardless of the clarity of these gross abysmal and near bestial patterns, making us unsafe in our homes, they have endured a weird celebrity status on the internet and in real life.

Yahoo boys live in groups, and have created decentralised systems to steal and perpetuate all kinds of heinous crimes. This makes it near impossible to be a one-man show, making it so that to be a yahoo boy is to be in a cult of yahoo boys.

Many times, when we talk about cultism, our minds flicker to the initiations in the dead of night that Nollywood has portrayed. But there is some cultism that is not that overt, that have been presented to members as a form of brotherhood, that is in bed with “bro culture.” This brand of cultism has proliferated among yahoo boys. This cultism has become too close for comfort. Plus in recent times, teenagers as young as 15 have been recruited with the promise of riches. But these are things you probably know already, regardless of where you live.

For the Nigerians who have suffered, who have observed and have seen a new boldness from these criminals, Ajisebutu could not have put it well.

They have infiltrated the crypto space, demanding that they are bonafide crypto bros. But they are not. Crypto bros are people who worked hard to make a living for themselves in the crypto space through sheer grit and high powered intuition, birthed from a steady observation of the rise and fall of cryptocurrency. They are the ones that stayed up all night watching market trends, and when NFT became the hit thing, worked hard to take root in the space, in a country that desperately doesn’t want them to.

What this underscores is a government that hasn’t adopted common-sense strategies that work to break the backbone of these criminals. Rather, they have pursued a one-size-fits-all strategy to the problem resulting in the profiling of young Nigerian men.

It’s not all young Nigerians with the millions of pay for an iPhone 13 and a Mac Book pro that have gotten the money through illegal means.

That SARS has focused on the material things, rather than evidence of the crime committed, has led to the rise of the profiling of many Nigerian youths, especially tech bros. This failure of the government to rein in on the yahoo boys have directly led to the rise of young Nigerians being profiled and harassed.

All yahoo boys are criminals, and all yahoo boys are responsible for this profiling.

There are problems with the Nigerian police system. These problems have been, long before yahoo boys existed. For starters; the lack of infrastructure amongst public security personnel, the lack of modern technology in their arsenal, the lack of modern intelligence gathering mechanisms, the fact that our institutions don’t work. The list is endless.

Recognising the rise of cultists in the country, the problems that they have caused, denouncing them in all forms and demanding better, is what we should be doing. Cultism has risen and continues to rise in the country, and yahoo boys are to be blamed.

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