Continued from Sakawa; cyberfraud and occultism in Ghana- "introduction"
So Musah steals some photos of a model online and registers on a dating site as a woman and pays for the dating service with a stolen credit card. Soon, suitors start to poke and send messages to him. He pretends as a woman and talks to them. At some point he brings up a story and suddenly needs financial assistance but of course this is after the trust is built and all the long love poems (from the internet) have been sent to his victims. If Musah gets the money, fair enough, if not he needs ‘Isakawa’ (Mallam Isa’s ring).
Occultism has been with us right from the great antiquity but never in our history has youngsters taken to it than now, in Sakawa. Even now, Sakawa is synonymous with occult money rituals. People have argued how the name Sakawa came about. Some people claim it is from the Hausa language but some Hausa scholars have said that the word has no meaningful roots in the language and that it may be a Zongo jargon; however a more convincing explanation is the Mallam Isa Kawa’s story.
A Mallam (or Mullah) is a Muslim scholar who has the knowledge of harnessing the mystical powers of the Quran to heal and assist people in many ways. ‘Kawa’ in the Akan language is a ring. According to the story, a Mallam called Isa helped cybercrime perpetrators to be successful by giving them rings with magical powers. So gradually ‘Isakawa’ sounded more like Sakawa which literally means Mallam Isa’s ring. Hence, the rings together with their operations became Sakawa which is related to mostly 419 scams like dating scams, identity theft and other nefarious activities like stealing and using credit cards for online shopping, money transfers, et cetera.
When Ghana hit the international headlines as breeding grounds for perpetrators of cyber fraud, the government did not stand aside and look. The Ghana Police Service in particular took steps in curbing the menace and the CID as I understand setup an office to tackle issues of cybercrime. However, it is easy to understand the difficulties the CID face in tackling the matter. The nature and modus operandi of cybercrime is so complex and sophisticated that one may be forced to say that our police service lacks the kind of capacity needed to fight this “new” type of crime it is not used to. Nevertheless the police have the willingness and ability to handle it, only they lack capacity in terms of accoutrements and technological expertise.
What started and failed in Nigeria was imitated here in Ghana and it also suffered the same fate. In Lagos, the police raided internet cafés suspected to host 419 scammers. A lot of those suspects were arrested but lack of evidence to indict them rendered the whole exercise useless except that it created a fear and panic atmosphere for the criminals. Certainly, raiding internet cafés and arresting people without evidence is not a healthy approach to fighting cybercrime. There are even times that allegations of bribery and corruption are levied against law enforcement officers by the criminals. Allegations of policemen holding the criminals to huge ransoms have been made and once they are ransomed, it becomes a sort of partnership and occasionally a tribute is paid to those equally criminal police officers to keep them from the police radar.
Cyber fraud as I would like to limit Ghana to when it comes to cybercrime is so lucrative to the perpetrators. Some of them have said to my hearing that even if they were offered a job to earn a middle income of GH¢ 1000 per month, they would not go for it. People have abandoned their careers and education and taken to cyber fraud in order to satisfy their greedy needs.
Since internet fraud became rampant, it created a kind of milieu for the youth involved which further intensified the ‘get-rich-quick’ syndrome. Young people if not children are able to acquire properties whiles others lavish on expensive cars and live flamboyant lifestyle. This is what attracts the thousands of people who are hooked on to it and continue to in good times and in bad times.