Youth Unemployment, Cybercrime Proliferation and Other Related Matters: The Expressway to Doom?

by Tope Shola Akinyetun


According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics 2020, Nigeria is a country with a youth bulge where 19.44% of the total population belongs to the youth labour force and is between 15 and 34 years. Meanwhile, 34.93% of this active force is unemployed and this trend has been on the increase in the past years – growing from 8,036,000 in 2015-Q4 to 21,765,000 in 2020-Q2. The report further shows that unemployment in Nigeria presently stands at 11.7% which when compared to other African countries like Uganda (1.8%), Kenya (4.9%), Liberia (2%) and Ghana (6.8%), shows an abysmally high figure that portends great danger.

Unemployment in Nigeria is a serious challenge that reveals the ironic nature of the Nigerian economy where the size of the economy and the abundance of human and natural resources has not translated to economic development. In other words, the rate of unemployment in Nigeria grows as does the economy. Unemployment, no doubt, is linked to the prevalence of crime; the increase in crime rate is a function of the exponential growth in the unemployment rate. Due to unemployment, youths become vulnerable to crime and become ambassadors of societal malaises such as militancy, insurgency, terrorism, armed robbery, prostitution, kidnapping, ritual killings, hooliganism and vandalism. To be very sure, the nexus between unemployment and social vices such as cultism, assassination, youth restiveness, ethnoreligious conflicts and looting has been established in the literature.

However, of particular importance here is the growing trend in cybercrime among Nigerian youths. Cybercrime has recently become a glorified crime that only a few members of society frown at. This essay argues that the susceptibility of Nigerian youths to cybercrime is directly linked to the high rate of unemployment that drives offenders to seek alternative means of survival in a harsh economy characterized by poverty and exclusion. Meanwhile, the increase in access to technology and digital tools; particularly among youths, also enhances their vulnerability to cybercrime by enhancing their ability to master the skills required and popularize the menace among themselves.

The effect of cybercrime proliferation among youths is extensive. It limits the chances of youths in expanding their network beyond the shores of Nigeria; limits their ability to secure or participate in legitimate business opportunities; launders the image of the country; leads to loss of income and revenue; and further encourages the rise in other forms of crime. Based on this premise, this essay posits that the twin-reinforcing-menace of unemployment and cybercrime requires urgent attention from all concerned stakeholders before it plunges the country into an abyss of underdevelopment and shattered hopes.


Youth unemployment

Youth in the Nigerian context is a person between 18 and 35 years while unemployment refers to the state of being economically active and capable of work, but without a job. Therefore youth unemployment in this essay is used to describe the condition whereby the economically active youth labour force between 18 and 35 years are jobless.


Cybercrime refers to criminal behaviour committed with the aid of a computer or electronic devices connected to the internet. It is generally used to describe any form of conventional crime linked to the computer such as hacking, business email compromise, identity theft, spamming, misinformation, romance scam, malware, phishing, fraud, phreaking, forgery, cyberterrorism, child pornography, trade secret and cyberstalking. The most common form of cybercrime in Nigeria are business email compromise, romance scams and identity theft which are often loosely referred to as ‘Yahoo-Yahoo’.

Matters Arising

Nigeria, the seventh most populous country in the world with 206 million people projected to increase to 379.25 million in 2047, presently ranks 158 out of 188 countries on the 2019 Human Development Index (HDI) ranking with a development index of 0.532. The poor development index indicates that Nigeria is bedevilled with low life expectancy, poor per capita income, limited access to education, poverty and widespread unemployment. In other words, Nigeria places little emphasis on improving its economic units; humans, with the requisite training, education, skills and employment opportunities required to improve functionality and capability. Thus, the gross neglect of human capital has reduced its developmental ability thus leaving the people to adjust to the situation however possible. Put differently, the lack of investment in human capital and the increase in the unemployment rate have also increased the incidence of crime in Nigeria; including cybercrime.

Several factors are responsible for the rise in youth unemployment in Nigeria including the burgeoning youth size, poor government policy, widespread poverty, lack of human capital development, the bad orientation of the youths and poorly implemented social welfare programmes. Other factors that have given rise to the menace of unemployment are lack of access to quality education, erratic power supply, lack of entrepreneurial skills, unconducive business environment, lack of access to loan facilities, get rich quick mentality, weak cybersecurity, traditional media and the popularization of the internet and social media platforms. Indeed, the media plays a major role in the proliferation of cybercrime and its propagation among youths.

The Role of the Media

The number of internet users in Nigeria has increased exponentially in the last decade while social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram have become the most used digital tools. It is not uncommon for youths to use these platforms to share pictures and videos of the proceeds of their criminal activities which gives the impression that cybercrime pays. As a result, many other unemployed or underemployed youths also join in the trend. Related to this is the role of the traditional media in spreading songs and home dramas that glorify criminality. A lot of Nigerian artists whose rise to fame is a motivation for other youths often use their lyrics to promote cybercrime. The following are a few examples:

9ice – Living things

In this song, the artiste places undue emphasis on having money, regardless of the means. The lyrics say:

Ki n sa ti lowo – I should just have money
Wire wire – Wire transfer

Ki n sa ti lowo – I should just have money
Money order –
Ki n sa ti lowo –
I should just have money
Ole je come and marry – Even if it means romance scam
Ki n sa ti lowo – I should just have money

Bella Shmurda, Zlatan & Lincoln – Cash App 

Sho ni CC – Do you have a credit card?
Load am cash app –
load the cash app
O ni maga bill am –
If you have a victim, defraud him/her
Small money ball out – With little money, live large
Usain bolt run am – Run like Usain bolt
You get sure client lock am – If you have a verified victim, adopt fetish means against him/her
If you no get money leave am – If your victim is poor, leave him/her
EFCC n bo japa – If EFCC approaches, take to your heels

Naira Marley – Am I a Yahoo boy?

Oya Yahoo Yahoo Yahoo – Cybercrime
K’oloun ma je ka damu damu –
May God not let us suffer
Maga to sanwo mi se –
My victim that pays me
Karin wa ko ma daru ibile –
May we not have a falling out
Yahoo Yahoo Yahoo –
K’oloun ma je ka damu damu –
May God not let us suffer
Maga to fun mi lowo steady se –
The victim that pays me steadily
Karin wa ko ma daru –
May we not have a falling out

The above-selected lyrics are examples of the songs in circulation by some Nigerian artists for youths’ consumption. These uncensored lyrical contents and the movies that portray cybercrime as the way to live larger than life, coupled with the level of unemployment among youths are the perfect recipes for cybercrime proliferation in Nigeria.

The Role of Covid19

The incidence of Covid19 further increased the chances of youth unemployment and cybercrime. Due to the pandemic and its attendant lockdown and restricted movement, many companies closed down while the activities of the informal sector became limited. However, given that majority of these companies and the informal sector thrive on the active labour force; youths, their shutdown led to the unemployment of many Nigerian youths who were forced to stay at home and spend more time on the internet. Yet, these youths could not afford to undergo training or skills development during the period due to the lack of funds and scarce resources occasioned by the lockdown while the government failed to positively engage the youths during this period. Hence, they turned to the internet for more information and networking due to the social distance rule enforced. As a result of this systemic unemployment and increased internet access, many youths became vulnerable to engaging in cybercrime activities.

This view finds a kindred spirit in Deloitte Nigeria that the Covid19 pandemic increased economic hardship in Nigeria and led to an increase in cybercrime activities. There was an increase in phishing attacks and malware during this period as criminals impersonated various brands pretending to offer financial and other forms of aid to mitigate the effect of the pandemic. Victims were made to click on website links where their details were required for the relief funds to be paid into. Unknowing to the victims, their phones and computers were infected with malware or accounts hacked, while in some cases the victim’s identity was stolen to commit a crime or defraud friends and relatives. In yet another development, criminals also launched cyberattacks against companies, government agencies and bank customers who through fraudulent covid19-related schemes.

Way forward

Arising from the discussion above, it is recommended that the government must pay dire attention to job creation. Social welfare schemes that target unemployed youths and give them access to job opportunities must be created. This should be done alongside improving human capital development through skills and training that enhance youths’ efficiency. In addition, strict anti-cybercrime laws must be implemented to discourage youth from engaging in cybercrime while capital punishment should also be enforced to serve as deterrence to others. More so, the government, through its media-related agencies, should regulate the activities of celebrities who promote criminality with their various works of art.

Furthermore, proper orientation must be given to youths on the negative effect of cybercrime (and other related crimes) on the Nigerian economy and image. Also, Civil Society Organizations, particularly religious leaders, parents and community leaders should frown at cybercrime and dissuade from praising youths who live above their means. Finally, the government should be sincere in alleviating poverty and improving the entrepreneurial capability of youths.

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