On Thursday 30th May, after several weeks in the EFCC custody and making an appearance in court twice, Nigerian music act, Azeez Fashola also known as Naira Marley was granted bail by the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos.
Naira Marley had been in the anti-graft agency’s custody since May 10 when he was arrested and shortly arraigned on an 11 count charge bordering on false pretense.
Some of the counts in the charge sheet filed against Naira Marley includes, “That you, Azeez Adeshina Fashola, aka Naira Marley, and Raze (still at large), on or about the 11th day of December 2018, within the jurisdiction of this honorable court, conspired amongst yourselves to use Access card 42658840359191132 issued to persons other than you in a bid to obtain gain and you thereby committed an offense contrary to Section 27(1)(b) of the Cyber Crimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act 2015 and punishable under Section 33(2) of the Same Act.
“That you, Azeez Adeshina Fashola, aka Naira Marley, and Raze (still at large), on or about the 10th day of May 2019, within the jurisdiction of this honorable court, with intent to defraud possessed, counterfeit card 4921819410257431 issued to Timea Fedorne Tatar and you thereby committed an offense contrary to and punishable under Section 33(9) of Cyber Crimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act 2015.”
Nigeria has been known to be notorious for its email scammers—popularly known as “Yahoo boys”—and it’s a reputation the government is eager to shed. Last December, the country’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) announced a crackdown specifically on young men suspected of internet fraud. “We have declared a total war on Yahoo boys, who have done nothing but give Nigeria a bad name at home and abroad,” So far, “Operation Cyber Storm” has reportedly led to more than 150 arrests.
The uproar on Yahoo boys and the morality of their trade collided with the Nigerian music world in early April when another popular act, Simi shared with her instagram followers that internet fraud was wrong and that Yahoo boys shouldn’t listen to her songs or watch her videos. Not long after, Afrobeats star Naira Marley offered a different take. On April 19, the UK-based, Nigerian-born singer/rapper wrote in an Instagram post, “If u know about slavery u go know say yahoo no b crime [sic].” Facing backlash, Marley elaborated in an Instagram live session several days later. He urged Nigerians to “pray for internet fraudsters” rather than condemn them, and argued that Yahoo boys pump money into the economy: “Where the fuck do you think it’s coming from? You think it’s coming from the government?” This prompted some Nigerian social media users to call for an EFCC investigation into Marley’s ties to Yahoo boys.
Subsequently, on May 9, Marley capitalized on the controversy by releasing “Am I a Yahoo Boy,” featuring the massive Nigerian rapper Zlatan. The colloboration it would seem was the motivating move the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) needed to make its move upon him and thereafter arresting both him, Zlatan and three others.
The upbeat song and its accompanying video playfully respond to Simi, at one point outright stating that Marley is not a Yahoo boy but he does have a Yahoo email address (which is how the scammers got their name in the first place). Marley even says, in Yoruba, “They want to treat me like they treated Fela.” It’s a heavy but still timely comparison. Fela Kuti, Nigeria’s most famous musician and an outspoken government critic, was jailed in the ’80s for 18 months—on what Amnesty International called sham currency smuggling charges—by the same military leader who today is Nigeria’s elected president.
On May 16, the EFCC revealed its charges against Marley. According to a Lagos Federal High Court complaint provided to Pitchfork, Marley twice “conspired” to use others’ credit card numbers, had at least three credit cards that weren’t his own, and possessed five allegedly counterfeit cards “with the intent to defraud.” The 11 counts carry a potential sentence of seven years in jail if Marley is found guilty. He appeared in court on Monday, May 20, pleading not guilty. He released a new song, called simply “Why” and accompanied by an image of him in handcuffs, on May 30. Later that day, he was granted bail, and the trial was set to begin on October 22.
Reaction From Naira Marley’s Management
“Naira Marley does not practice fraud, neither does he facilitate it,” reads a statement attributed to Marley’s management. “He’s being used as the poster boy for fraud… Naira did not publicly [defend] those who commit fraud, he expressed his view on the situation, which was simply his opinion.” According to the statement, Nigeria’s government was trying to prosecute Marley “based on a cheeky song” and on unspecified “items” found on a laptop that Marley, a UK resident since the age of 11, had borrowed so he could record and upload music and videos while visiting his native Nigeria.
How true is this statement by the act’s management. Can we truly hold this as true or is the management simply trying to find a way to exonerate the young act. Recall that further revelation revealed that the same Naira Marley is said to have committed some crimes back in the UK for which he has been declared wanted for which he probably ran back to Nigeria for in order to avoid prosecution.
The Naira Marley story really is an indictment on us all as Nigerians, it is well known that the country has been give that criminal tag and it is virtually sticking and interestingly we are doing nothing to debunk or even disapprove this rather it appears it really is showing who we really are as a nation.
A nation that celebrates thieves and hail those who flaunt wealth without a verifiable source of income or income that is commensurate with their profession. We just ride along since we also might even do more if we also had the opportunity
Nigerian’s Reactions On His Release
The massive crowd that greeted him upon his exit from the court room on Monday when he was granted bail definitely goes a long way to show how we perceive criminal act or cyber crime. The question this throws up is in two fold, what does this show about Nigerians and the issue of cyber crime and also what is the government’s contribution to this growing trend has been.
It appears also that a major bulk of this blame goes back to the door steps of our politicians. Men and women whom the spoils of office has indeed spoilt. Men who go into office not for the common good but just to enrich themselves not caring a hoot about the the common good which in turn impacts on the quality of life of the citizenry.
Another indictment on our nation’s politicians of today is the number of corrupt cases presently being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Men who have stolen the nation’s wealth blind and who are able to use loopholes in the nation’s law to initiate a plea bargain, give away a portion of this stolen wealth and walk away with a bigger portion still.
Our politicians need to create the enabling environment for the young generation to thrive. It is un-doubtful that if an enabling environment is created, the desire to go into cyber crimes will be drastically reduced plus and our presumed celebration of this ill will be reduced to the meeting.
Share your thoughts on this article below.