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The Sakawa boys of Tamale; internet fraudsters scheming and scamming their way to untold wealth and riches.


Dear reader, admit it,  you have been a recipient of those ubiquitous emails promising you eye-watering amounts of cash contingent on the provision of your bank account number which the senders claim would help them transfer of millions of dollars into your coffers.

At first glance, these emails are tempting and highly irresistible. Declining such generous offers of unearned cash takes sheer determination and many of us have at one point or the other fallen victim to these elaborate schemes. After all, who in his or her right mind would choose the alternative and walk way?

The senders of these emails are a motley crew of unemployed young men notoriously labelled the Sakawa boys. They are familiar figures in internet cafes around the major cities of Ghana, scheming, conniving and darting off emails to unsuspecting foreign residents with offers of huge financial payoffs. What began as a credit-card fraud by a few knuckleheads in the slums of Accra has morphed into something gargantuan and vastly criminal.

Sakawa has become contagion. And sadly Tamale has been mightily infected. Long regarded as a bastion of moral rectitude where honesty and truthfulness are the true measures of life, the northern region runs the risk of losing this distinction if the local Sakawa boys are not restrained.  

Since the arm of the law came down hard on them a few months ago, the Sakawa boys of Tamale have slithered back into their holes, scared of the attention and scrutiny now trained on them by law enforcement authorities. Their puerile antics—taunting rivals, flashing wads of cash and joyriding in late model luxurious cars—had spelt their doom.

They are boisterous, brazen and unfailingly arrogant; they are the urban cowboys of Tamale. Self-adulation is their way of flaunting their ill-gotten wealth. By sheer audacity and unbridled bravado they have carved a niche for themselves as abundantly evidenced by society’s indifference. They have managed over time to weave a complex web of lies and deceit which they foist on unsuspecting Westerners.

There are certain inevitabilities about the Tamale Sakawa boys; you cannot engage them in a constructive dialogue. Their very utterances drip with scorn and contempt for authorities and everyone else who would stand in their way of garnering illegal wealth. Wedded to the concept that the only to sustain themselves in the absence of legitimate employment is to fleece unsuspecting foreigners, they have become more emboldened and brazen to the point of defiance

But the pressing question on the minds of many is why would young men in the city resort to scams to fleece strangers, individuals they have never encountered? You don’t to look far to find the answer; the unemployment landscape, locally and nationally, is glutted with young men and women who face a daunting future as the national economy continues to suffer from an anemic poor performance and low investments. With such dim prospects unemployed young men are more than willing to engage in dubious schemes to sustain themselves which explains the rationale behind the activities of the Sakawa boys.

The shenanigans of the Sakawa thugs of Tamale may expose a steady erosion of society’s core values, but there is a much bigger reason for their brazen acts; easy access to internet technology. We live in a fast changing world. Tremendous strides have been made in the field of technology, especially in the sphere of internet technology and the benefits, to say the least, are incalculable. However, there is a downside to these advances.

Today, anybody with a curious mind and armed with a laptop or a smartphone can conveniently explore the vast expanses of the internet, invariably making the medium a vehicle for people with dubious intentions. The Sakawa boys of Tamale are adeptly using it to conduct illegal activities—–foisting scams on people.  

Governments are always slow to respond to threats. Official responses are usually tepid and regularly lack enough bite. The NDC government has belatedly recognized the threat that computer hackers pose and is now taking steps to contain them. Its recent announcement of a policy initiative, the National Cyber Security Policy and Strategy (NCSPS) to confront the threat that hackers pose is a bold step.

The minister for communication insisted the government would coordinate with international partners, the Ghanaian police, the organized crime office of the attorney general’s office and the financial intelligence center to fight cyber threats. Splendid. We wait to see how this cooperation turns out.

I commend the Mahama administration’s efforts to combat cyber threats. However, I am dismayed by the conspicuous lack of a plan in the policy directive to thwart the illegal activities of the Sakawa boys. An absence of punitive measures sends the wrong signals to these internet fraudsters. They are indeed rejoicing over the government’s lack of commitment to addressing this social canker. This, in essence, gives them a free rein to do as they please, that is, fleecing innocent foreigners of their hard earn income.

As the Sakawa boys continue to intimidate the wider society and troop to the bank with their ill-gotten wealth, it is absolutely important to note the inherent dangers associated with a do-nothing approach: foreign entities, especially foreign investors will place less confidence in our institutions and will least trust our judicial system to dispense justice when things go wrong.

What is more, the activities of the Sakawa boys in cities around the country are a stain on our hard earned reputation painstakingly cultivated over the years. Ghana is the poster boy for political stability and economic prosperity in Africa, but we can kiss this pristine image goodbye if government continues to treat the Sakawa malice with kids’ gloves

And this one fallout irks me endlessly. If we just stand and stare and grudgingly admire the ways of the Sakawa boys, we run the risk of being lumped together with Nigeria notorious worldwide for its 419 scams. Who wants that comparison? The Sakawa boys are not representative of Ghanaians who for most part are morally upright and indisputably honest.   Collectively, let’s defang the Sakawa boys and put them out to pasture.

Every generation leaves an indelible mark on history. And the Sakawa generation is not leaving any stone unturned in this regard. When history is written, the Sakawa generation will not be remembered for its contributions to the national development effort. It will rather be viewed with disdain and utter contempt.



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