Nigeria Detains 127 Internet Fraud Suspects in Night Clubs; Guests Say it was Brutal

Published: 12 June 2024

Nigeria ArrestInternet fraud suspects detained during night club raids. (Photo: EFCC/X, License)

By Nneoma Omeje

Guests of two nightclubs claim Nigerian authorities randomly rounded up anyone they found inside on Saturday, accused them of internet fraud, seized their phones, and beat and humiliated them.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) stated that its operatives had detained 127 internet fraud suspects in the two clubs but asserted that nobody was hurt during the raid and nothing was damaged.

However, as guests shared their experiences online, hundreds of young people took to the streets of Akure on Monday, protesting the brutality of the EFCC operatives against innocent club guests.

Signatures Elixir, one of the two clubs, issued a statement on Tuesday saying that about 40 officers arrived at the club around 1:30 am on Saturday, beat up the security guards at the gate, and after entering the club, terrorized the guests and took away the CCTV system.

“After gaining access to our premises, they rounded everybody up and instructed them to lie down on the floor, using snooker sticks to beat people to comply. Both male and female customers were dealt with mercilessly,” the statement said, adding that the officers used tear gas in the process.

“We were lucky to have adequate first aid materials on the premises, which were used by our staff to rescue some of the customers who had various forms of medical emergencies,” the club added.

The EFCC claimed it had received a tip that the so-called “Yahoo Boys,” a local expression for internet fraudsters, were having a party at those clubs. However, Signatures Elixir denied this claim, stating that nobody had reserved the premises that night.

Even an international soccer player nicknamed “Tiger” ended up briefly detained despite offering video evidence of his identity, the club said. The man’s car was seized and is still with the police.

A 25-year-old woman who identified herself only by her first name, Chioma, told OCCRP on Thursday that the officers poured ice water on her, stripped her of her clothes, and took her wig and money. She said they made her write a statement but threatened that if she did not write what they dictated, she would never see her phone again.

Chioma was not detained, but after the raid, she returned to her hotel room and could not sleep all night because she was traumatized.

“Having a traffic accident would have been better than that experience,” she said.

Responding to the protest on Monday, the Ondo State Police Public Relations Officer, Funmilayo Odunlami-Omisanya, called for peace to allow relevant authorities to look into the matter and address the complaints and concerns of aggrieved residents.

“The State Government and the Inspector-General of Police have been informed and are taking steps to ensure that all concerns are addressed without prejudice,” the statement said.

Nigeria ranks 5th on Oxford University’s World Cybercrime Index, behind Russia, Ukraine, China, and the United States, but tops the list in online scams.

President Bola Tinubu has urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in January to intensify its fight against cybercrime, which has become an embarrassment for the nation.

“Our country is not a nation of fraudsters, and the pejorative reference to internet crimes as the ‘Nigerian scam’ across the world is unfair, untenable, and unacceptable. Cybercrimes are a global phenomenon,” he said, according to the daily newspaper Punch.