The scourge of cybercrime continues to take its toll on Nigeria’s economy with billions of naira being lost to nefarious activities over the Internet, yet, there seems to be no clear direction on the implementation of the law purposely enacted to nip the crime in the bud. However, beyond the implementation of the law, stakeholders are calling for a national consciousness of cyber security. SAMSON AKINTARO reports

 

 

The passage of Nigeria’s cybercrime bill into law in 2015 brought a ray of light into the dark and seemingly helpless situation that Nigeria has found herself over the years with the problem of cybercrimes. While it is a global challenge to which every jurisdiction is finding applicable solution, it was hoped that the enactment of a law to fight the menace was the right antidote Nigeria needed. The Cyber crime Act 2015 is meant to provide an effective and unified legal, regulatory and institutional framework for the prohibition, prevention, detection, and prosecution of cyber crimes in the country. Unfortunately, three years after the law came into force, there has been zero enforcement, thus cybercrimes continue to blossom in the country.

 

Counting the losses

Several reports have confirmed a preponderance of cybercrimes against businesses and the government establishments in the country, resulting into losses in billions of naira every year. Indeed, a most recent report by Demadiur Systems, a technology servicing company and Serianu Limited indicated that businesses in Nigeria lost not less than N234 billion to Cybercrime activities in 2017 alone. That figure was believed to represent a fraction of the total losses as most attacks were said not to have been officially reported. Emphasising the prevalence of the crime in Nigeria, the report, which also focused on Africa showed that Nigeria recorded the largest loss in the continent.

Also, not long ago, the National Security Adviser Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd), disclosed that Nigeria lost N127 billion to cybercrimes through software piracy, intellectual property theft and malware attacks between 2013 and 2014.

 

According to the NSA, experts have shown that the cost of cybercrime to the nation is quite significant.

 

He added that the 2014 annual report of the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation, NDIC, showed that between 2013 and 2014, fraud on e-payment platform of Nigeria’s banking sector increased by 183 per cent.

 

Also, a report published in 2014 by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, United Kingdom, estimated the annual cost of cybercrime to Nigeria at about 0.08 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), representing about N127 billion.

 

Monguno said: “Global tracking of cyber-attacks indicate that Nigeria is among countries with high cases of software piracy, intellectual property theft and malware attacks. This situation is a serious challenge to our resolve to take advantage of the enormous opportunities that the Internet brings, while balancing and managing its associated risks” he said.

 

The image problem

 

Aside the yearly financial losses, Nigeria continues to incur, she has over the years been stereotyped as a cybercrime nation based on the increasing activities of the so called ‘Yahoo boys’ who are scamming unsuspecting foreigners online. While the country’s anti-graft agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has maintained an onslaught against the criminals, it has not deterred many others from going into the crime.

 

According to the Chief Executive Officer of Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria, (IXPN) Mr Rudman Mohammed, the cybercrime law is an opportunity for the country to redeem her perceived image as haven of cyber criminals. He however, regretted that the law has not been implemented three years after. “Nigeria has an image that might not necessarily be true. We all know that the population of Nigeria is huge, so if a small percentage of the population are doing bad things, we shouldn’t see it as if the whole of the country is doing it. But because Nigeria as a country has not done anything about it, the issue is being amplified on the Internet” he said

 

Mohammed added that if the cybercrime Act is being implemented as it should, the world would see it and would go a long way in changing the wrong perception many have of the country about cybercrimes.

 

Stakeholders fret

 

From the ONSA’s statements, there is no doubt that the government is also aware of the threats being posed by cyber criminals to the nation’s economy. This, however, is bothering the stakeholders the more that with such knowledge, the government has been lax in implementing the cybercrime Act. Telecom operators and cyber security experts believe that effective cybercrime law is necessary with the advent of the Internet of things (IOT) where key industries are bringing more operations online, which increase the potential scale and impact of cyber threats.

 

President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr Olusola Teniola, said that non-implementation of the Cybercrime Act, which also ensures protection of telecoms infrastructure, has led to the incessant attacks on communications facilities in recent times. Teniola expressed worry that out of 56 provisions of the Act, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has just decided to implement only one, which has to do with the creation of National Cyber Security Fund.

 

 

Increased access, increased risks

 

According to the Chief executive Officer of Demadiur System, Mr Ikechukwu Nnamani, lack of implementation of the Cybercrime Act has left Nigeria and Nigerians vulnerable to cyber attacks on all fronts. Nnamani warned that with the ongoing efforts to deepen mobile money in the country, Nigerians would be more vulnerable as the cyber criminals would take advantage of poor cyber security in the country to defraud many people through the mobile platforms.

 

“By the time mobile money takes off fully in the country, we will see more attacks and this is why we have to be prepared. Internet penetration is also growing in the country, we must realise that the more people go online, the more they are exposed to cyber attacks. Therefore, as we push for broadband penetration, we must also push for cyber security” he said.

 

He added that aside the full implementation of the Cybercrime Act; there is now a need for actions by both formal and informal educational systems with respect to cyber security. “On the formal sector, the youths must be thought the basics of cyber security as an integral part of the educational curriculum. The risk posed by cyber criminals’ affects every member of the society hence being cyber security literate is a key component in building a progressive society”.

 

He noted that Cyber security needs to be demystified so the current mindset that it can only be understood by those with expertise in the sciences need to be reversed. “Industry specific subject matter experts need to be trained to ensure that the appropriate security needed for each sub sector of the society is put in place”.

 

Speaking recently, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Prof Umar Danbatta, also emphasised the need for the implementation of the Cybercrime Act to keep Nigerians safe online. According to him, the proliferation of the e-payment system, following Federal Government’s adoption of the cashless policy, had led to massive increase in mobile and online transactions in recent times and that came with a resultant increase in financially related cybercrimes.

 

Danbatta noted that cyber criminals had continued to develop new strategies to circumvent cyber- security models, regardless of their sophistication, but expressed hope that full implementation of the Act would help to reduce the crime.

 

 

Last line

 

While calling for proper and full implementation of the Act, which they strongly believe would go a long way in curbing cybercrime; stakeholders have also urged the government to raise cyber security awareness among Nigerians. They also called for the establishment of centres where people could go to seek redress, should they have any cyber issue complaints.

 

Again, there is also the need for a collective effort by all stakeholders to end cyber problems in the country through constant dissemination of information to the general public on best cyber security practices, which is essential to keeping the populace safe and will minimize impact of consistent cyber attacks.

 

 



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