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EFCC raid on yahoo boys deals a big blow to hospitality industry in Imo

In an unprecedented move, men of the South-East Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), carried out a massive raid on suspected…

In an unprecedented move, men of the South-East Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), carried out a massive raid on suspected internet fraudsters (popularly called Yahoo Yahoo boys) in Owerri, the Imo State capital, arresting no fewer than 37 suspects.

The raid, which came after intelligence report revealed that the suspects were living lavish lifestyles without any known means of livelihood, were carried out in some targeted residences in Okwu Uratta, Aladinma and Egbu areas. Toronto area of Egbu is now said to be a ghost of its former self as most of the notorius guys have now taken flight, leaving a once bubbling area almost deserted.

The suspects were alleged to have specialized in defrauding unsuspecting victims, through the internet. The raid actually yielded a big catch as not only were the suspected fraudsters nabbed, the commission also had a big haul of their articles of trade. These included laptop computers, 25 five exotic cars of different brands, which include Mercede-Benz, Lexus, Toyota and expensive mobile phones.

EFCC’s  Zonal Head, Usman Imam, while justifying the action, said that that the exercise was in line with the commission’s mandate.

While decrying the high rate of cybercrime in the zone, Usman attributed it to the erosion and breakdown of country’s values.

However, the action of EFCC has not only sent shock waves down the spine of the fraudsters as many of them have gone into hiding, it has also put a strain on the hospitality industry in the state. Indeed most hit by the raid are the hotel and eatery businesses in the state, which gain more patronage from the activities of these fraudsters. Posh night clubs and hang outs in Owerri, the Imo state capital, and its environs are said to be experiencing low patronage as security agents beam their searchlights on their operations.

An operator of a popular joint along Egbu Road said that he has been witnessing low patronage since the raid on the area by EFCC operatives.

According to him, their businesses are now being monitored as the faces of security operatives are common sight in the area. Even high brow  hotels are not left out of the low times, as they also complained of low customer patronage.

A receptionist at one of the popular government-owned hotels in Owerri said that she noticed low sales since the raid. She however added the impact of the story on the raid was not much as it was not reported from Owerri.

She said, “I read the story of the raid in the newspapers. It happened in Owerri, but EFCC took the report to Abuja and I think that sort of mitigated the impact or effect of the story in the state as very few read it.”

A bartender of a club along Nekede Road, also speaking anonymously, said that the fear of raid has also extended to the university communities of Nekede and Ihiagwa areas, also known for high concentration of yahoo boys, who are mostly students.

“Since the raid, we have been experiencing low patronage. You know they are the only ones that can spend huge amount of money at a time. So they are our biggest customers. We don’t know their source of income because that is not our concern and we don’t force anybody to patronize us.”

He, however, expressed the fear that the raid may be extended to hotels, apart from residential areas. If such happens, according to him, it could make a serious impact on the hospitality industry in the state.

Police Public Relations Officer, Orlando Ikeokwu, said that he would not want to be dragged into an action taken by another agency. When asked if the police would not complement the effort of the EFCC in ridding the state of internet fraudsters, Ikeokwu said that the police have a modus operandi different from that of the anti-graft agency.

EFCC spokes person, Tony Onilade, however,  told our correspondent that the operation is a continuous one. “The operation is not one-off, but continuous. Our mode of operation is that we work purely on intelligence. After collecting such information, then we obtain a warrant to search the area and apprehend the culprits. We want members of the public to come up with information on such people so that we can work on them and act appropriately,” Orilade said.


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