The Nigerian Cybercrime Conundrum

In our contemporary Nigeria, several internet assisted crimes known as cybercrimes are committed daily in various forms such as fraudulent electronic mails, pornography, identity theft, hacking, cyber harassment, spamming, Automated Teller Machine spoofing, piracy and phishing.

Cybercriminals always opt for an easy way to make big money. They target rich people or rich organizations like banks, casinos and financial firms where a huge amount of money flows daily and hack sensitive information.

However, the Nigerian Cybercrime Act 2015 prescribes the death penalty for an offence committed against a system or network that has been designated critical national infrastructure of Nigeria that results in the death of an individual (amongst other punishments for lesser crimes).

Under the Cybercrime Act 2015 in Nigeria, hackers, if found guilty, of unlawfully accessing a computer system or network, are liable to a fine of up to N10 million or a term of imprisonment of 5 years (depending on the purpose of the hack). The same punishment is also meted out to Internet fraudsters who perpetuate their acts either by sending electronic messages or accessing and using data stored on computer systems.

A cybercrime prevention expert, Dr Mohamed Chawki, who also doubles as President of the International Association of Cybercrime Prevention, explains that the term 419 “is coined from section 419 of the Nigerian criminal code dealing with fraud. Nowadays, the axiom ‘419’ generally refers to a complex list of offences which in ordinary parlance are related to stealing, cheating, falsification, impersonation, counterfeiting, forgery and fraudulent representation of facts.”

It is no more news that there is a long-standing demonization of Nigeria as being a country of cyber-criminals and internet fraudsters among other vices. As worrisome as unfortunate the generalisation, mostly in the media, there are many Nigerians that engage in the use of ICT to advance common good.

Therefore, the stigma of generalisation has a far-reaching negative impact on the overall image of Nigeria as a nation. It’s become the prism with which most Nigerians are viewed and judged globally.

Majority of Nigerians have relayed the negative experiences they have undergone in foreign nations due to a prejudicial opinion of coming from a nation of fraudsters. There are many references in popular culture to the “Nigerian Prince Email Scam”, leaving many who encounter such media to assume the worst of Nigeria and her citizens.

The rate of arrests carried out by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in recent months related to cybercrime is nothing short of alarming. Hundreds of individuals have been taken into custody for crimes relating to various forms of internet related schemes and frauds.

Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo urges stakeholders in Nigeria’s cyberspace to help curtail cybercrime in the country by sharing cybersecurity best practices and ensuring speedy implementation of requisite policies.

The truth of the situation is that no Nigerian is immune to both the victimisation of cybercrime and the reputational damage that ensues from it. We must put heads together as a nation to tackle this issue from its root and rebrand our nation to be seen as full of people of integrity, honour and good-faith practices.

The government must provide necessary infrastructure and supportive environment for the youth to enable them establish and practice legitimate business ventures. There must also be active reorientation of the mind of the young ones on the values of patiently building sustainable income as opposed to aiming to amass wealth through any means possible including the illegitimate.

As a current practice, legislators should move to establish very harsh punishments for citizens who are found to be in breach of cybercrime laws. This move should serve as a reliable deterrent to anyone who considers turning to cybercrime in its many forms to deprive innocent people of their hard-earned money.

Emmanuel Otiotio Jnr is an intern with PRNigeria and can be reached on otiotioemmanuel@gmail.com