By Josef Omorotionmwan
ADMITTEDLY, when it comes to the spoken and written word, we choose liberal donors. We therefore do not intend to be very economical with our definitions.
The yahoo-yahoo business as applied here has come to include all sneaky transactions around the cyber clime, including all aspects of money laundering; the yahoo boys around the corner, who possess the special ability to commandeer the particulars of money transferred to other people and quickly transfer such money to themselves; plus all those whose fathers have bequeathed to them, a major part of the Atlantic ocean as well as the Central Banks of most countries of the world, part of which can now be transferred to foreign fools and fellow dupes for a fee; and some of the Nigerian banks, big and small, who thrive on the operations of all the above.
Before now, beneficiaries of money transferred from abroad simply walked across to the counter of the bank directly and on presentation of identification as well as answer the secret questions, the transferred sum was paid to them. Under that atmosphere, the yahoo-yahoo business blossomed as the boys were, by their computer wizardry, sometimes able to intercept the particulars of such money transfers.
They quickly arranged pseudo identifications to suit those of the people for whom the money was originally meant and claimed the money fast. The original owners got to the bank and met nothing.
Their money had vamoosed into thin air. Some of the weaker ones at the Nigerian end simply fainted and died instantly. Some stronger ones stayed on and that was the beginning of endless police investigations and the complex maze of our criminal justice system.
At the foreign end, you can imagine the fate of a man who has been pulling endless “gburu”, sometimes working on three factory jobs, seven days a week. He doesn’t mind the roasting. After all, the end still justifies the means. So he thinks.
After 10 long years of that hard labour, the man has accumulated enough. It is now time to return home and start a fresh life with the accumulated sum. But alas, the money has gone into yahoo voice mail. Such a man may not intend to commit suicide but he may not also know when he walks into a moving train.
And so, the man dies! From a single yahoo-yahoo transaction, we now have multiple deaths and multiple families are also destabilized for the rest of their lives. What a tragedy! And only God knows, how many Nigerians have travelled that hard way.
There is now a new collection regime for such money transferred from abroad, courtesy, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s Central Bank of Nigeria.
The new regime introduces what is called Know Your Customer (KYC), which is aimed at combating money laundering. Under the new system, beneficiaries of foreign money transfer can no longer easily claim their money across the counter except through their bank accounts.
To be able to claim any money sent from abroad, you now have to have an account with the bank and from there, such money can be paid to you.
A safety valve, however, exists here. If you do not have an account in the bank and you are not in a position to open one, you can claim your money if you are properly identified by any person who has an account with the bank.
How did it all start? Hear Mr. Samuel Oni, Central Bank of Nigeria’s Director, Banking Supervision: “The CBN has observed with concern, the high incidences of abuse of foreign money transfer in Nigeria.
In order to curb the malpractice and also ensure that the proceeds of crime are not received through the banking system, it has become expedient to issue the following directive: all in-bound money transfers to Nigeria shall only be disbursed to beneficiaries through bank accounts; where the beneficiary does not have a bank account, payments shall only be made upon the provision of a satisfactory reference from a current account holder in a bank, confirming that the beneficiary is the bona fide owner of the funds. Banks are encouraged to continue to observe the Know-Your-Customer (KYC) principles….” (SUNDAY VANGUARD, September 19, 2010, p.10)
The new regime further directs that such transferred fund shall henceforth be received at the designated town, not anywhere else. Before now, it was possible to cash in Kaura Namoda, such remittances that had been sent to Nsukka, provided the facilities existed in those places. Not anymore.
This is one directive that has attempted to leave no stone unturned. Among other things, the CBN directive contains a stern warning to the effect that banks must adhere strictly to the directive, failing which, such banks would be on their own.
Where the safeguards are not strictly adhered to, the defaulting banks would first have to refund any amount paid to a wrong claimant before the application of other appropriate sanctions. We see the new measure as a bold attempt to finally put the yahoo-yahoo boys out of business.
All the same, laudable as the measure is, it still provides the wind situation: while the wind sweeps some people’s compounds clean, it deposits the debris from such compounds into the compounds of some other people. Why else would the banks show initial resistance to the measure?
Evidently, this could easily have resulted in the loss of income for some of the banks. Following our initial definition, it is clear that those money launderers who took refuge in the banks would now have to look somewhere else for safer havens and in turn, this would eat deep into the profit and loss accounts of such banks.
To them, the end justifies the means but we may also add that where the end is bad, the means should be thrown overboard. Yes, the banks make huge profits; so do armed robbers and kidnappers!