Challenges of Combating Cybercrime In Nigeria With Solutions
Nigeria now has a global image as being at the centre of Cybercrime. In fact, in the Wikipedia article about the Advance-fee scam, every single paragraph mentions Nigeria. The several definitions given to Cybercrime and most terminologies used in describing it originated in Nigeria. These include 419, Yahoo Boys, Nigerian Prince Scam, and others.
This poses an alarming challenge to the nation and its citizens on global frontiers. For example, in his International Bestseller, Four Hour Workweek, a book that has gained so much popularity among 21st-century entrepreneurs, author Tim Ferriss, spoke against Americans doing business with anyone from Nigeria because we are known for cyber-related crimes.
One can only imagine the number of international opportunities Nigerians have lost because of this ill reputation and everyone is bemoaning. But as much as noise is being made daily, the prevalence of Cybercrime in Nigeria seems to only get worse.
What exactly is the reason behind this? In this article, I will be identifying 7 challenges of combating cybercrime in Nigeria and proffer solutions to them.
What is Cybercrime?
For basics, any criminal activity carried out via computers and the Internet is referred to as cybercrime. Anything from downloading unlicensed music to stealing huge amounts of money from online bank accounts falls under this category.
Cybercrime also encompasses non-financial violations like developing and disseminating viruses on other computers or publishing private company data online. Identity theft, in which criminals exploit the Internet to steal people’s personal information, is arguably the most well-known type of cybercrime in Nigeria.
The Challenges of Combating Cybercrime In Nigeria with Solutions
- Lack of Adequate Infrastructure
- Unemployment and Poverty
- Unfiltered Spread of Information
- No Enforcement of Laws
- Porous Information-Sharing Systems
- Lack of a Comprehensive National Database
1. Lack of Adequate Infrastructure
This is the foundational challenge in combating cybercrime in Nigeria. There is no known body in Nigeria dedicated to combating cybercrime. The only organisation that has been seen in the space is the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) but as we have seen, financial-related crimes are only one of several cybercrimes that happen daily.
There is no coverage for other cyber crimes like Cyber Stalking, Cyber Bullying, distribution of Child Pornography or Child sexually abusive material (CSAM), Spamming, Online Sextortion, and several others that have an ingrained negative impact on Nigerian citizens.
If a deliberate effort is not made by the Nigerian government to combat these other aspects of cybercrime, there is no hope for Nigeria that things will get better.
Solution: The government should set up an independent commission dedicated solely to combating cybercrime in Nigeria. This commission should include tech-savvy Nigerian youths (not the old and regular politicians) who will be trained by external cybersecurity experts and equipped with cutting-edge technologies to do the job.
Setting up this commission will provide the basis for overcoming the other challenges in combating cybercrime in Nigeria. Also because setting it up means employing youths, it will directly contribute to overcoming the second challenge below.
2. Unemployment and Poverty
The majority, if not all, of the criminals engaged in cybercrimes are youths and they do it primarily for money. Trying to combat cybercrime without taking care of the root cause is an effort in futility. Because even after establishing the regulating body and sanctioning culprits, many more will be pushed into it out of frustration.
With the consistent devaluation of the Naira and daily hikes in the price of basic commodities, the poverty density in Nigeria is only getting higher. The high unemployment rate on the other hand is also worsening the situation. The youths are not only hungry, they are equally idle.
It is natural in the survival instinct of humans to seek alternative ways of meeting basic needs and engaging in cybercrime is almost always the next logical thing to do after being frustrated for so long and seeing people who engage in it live luxurious lives without any punishment.
Solution: The government must make conscious and strategic efforts to revamp the economy of the nation and provide jobs. We are aware of the fact that there are only so many jobs that can be created but the government can also champion skills acquisition programmes.
Unlike the current wave we are seeing where public and private institutions are organising skill acquisition programmes in skills like shoe making and tie & dye, those efforts should be channelled towards the skills the youth are more inclined to, which are digital skills.
Training youths with digital skills not only gets the attention of the youth by giving them what they want, but it is also a surefire way to alleviate poverty fast. Because most digital skills are high-paying and can cover basic needs without hassle.
Everyone knows Nigeria is battling corruption but I don’t think everyone sees how corruption in the systems of the nation is also contributing to the prevalence of cybercrimes in Nigeria. I’ll be pointing out just two here.
Firstly, the average Nigerian is comfortable with seeing someone cut corners to get what they want. That is not seen as corruption. It is simply being smart, they’ll say.
Right from school, it is now normal for students to cheat in exams (teachers support it). It is normal to disobey traffic rules in the name of “beating traffic.” It is normal to give bribes to get a job and nobody frowns at these things.
All of a sudden, a child who has been cultured in an environment where everyone is beating the system is now expected to stop “beating” when he’s in front of a computer system. It just cannot work.
Secondly, the governmental systems that are meant to sanction culprits (at least EFCC says they are sanctioning) are also corrupting themselves and will let people who are caught go free for a fee.
Solution: Corruption must be ruthlessly dealt with from the very basic structures of the nation— the homes, schools, religious institutions, local communities, and so on. Nigerians must be made to begin to see corrupt practices in whatever form, no matter how little, as corrupt practices, not smartness.
Once corruption can be dealt with in the minds of citizens, it will die a natural death in the system. This can be achieved through active, strategic, and consistent campaigns.
4. Unfiltered Spread of Information
We just talked about using strategic campaigns to uproot corrupt mindsets from citizens. But it should also be known that there is another unannounced campaign going on in Nigeria promoting cybercrimes. This is another major challenge in combating cybercrime in Nigeria, with social media being the main actor in the scene.
More and more people, even children as young as 6 are getting to know about cybercrimes and are knowing them as an alternative (and better way) to conventional careers and social norms. Another factor is the entertainment industry, especially music. Musicians are actively promoting cyber crimes through their songs and social media posts.
Terms like Yahoo Boy, Maga, and Client, have been given secondary meanings and are now used in day-to-day communication making cybercrime look very normal. There are also bloggers teaching how to engage in cybercrimes.
Solution: While there is freedom of speech and the government cannot control the information people spread, the government can control the information they spread.
Through the use of the educational system, children should be elaborately taught about cybercrimes right from the cradle the same way sex education is gaining prominence. This way their first exposure to the knowledge of it will be a cautionary one as against one promoting it. Parents should also join in educating their children against cybercrime.
5. No Enforcement of Laws
It may interest you to know that the popular term “419” is coined from Section 419 of the Criminal Code Act in Nigeria where the punishment to be meted out to those who defraud people by pretence is spelt out. As stated earlier, the laws do not fully cater to cybercrime in all its forms, but the awareness of the presence of the Criminal Code Act in Nigeria raises questions.
Of all the aspects of cybercrimes covered under the Criminal Code Act, to what degree have the laws been enforced? Not so much. If this is so, making more laws and including other cyber crimes still doesn’t make any difference because there is no commitment to the enforcement of laws.
The combating of cyber crimes in Nigeria is centred around effectively sanctioning culprits and reducing the cases of occurrence. Therefore, if there is no enforcement, there is no combat; we are only keeping ourselves with minute activities.
Solution: More power and autonomy should be given to the judicial system of Nigeria, which is in charge of enforcing laws. Since we have called attention to the place of getting corruption out of the system, the other adjustment that needs to be made for the judiciary to effectively function is to reduce the influence other arms of government have on her.
No person should be above the law. Once the judiciary becomes more brutal in enforcing existing laws, new laws concerning cyber crimes can then be enacted and implemented, reducing cybercrime in Nigeria.
6. Porous Information Sharing Systems
One common cybercrime in Nigeria today is identity and other sensitive information theft. Apart from the basic calling of individuals and asking for sensitive information like their debit card numbers, more advanced cybercriminals are hacking into information software and stealing data.
Several government websites were developed by developers who didn’t pay attention to the cyber security aspect of building the site. Such was the case during the #EndSARS protest in 2020 where top government websites like that of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) were allegedly hacked by international hacktivist, Anonymous.
Now, this is only the case of the one who came out to publicly declare that they hacked the websites. It wouldn’t be surprising if several other groups or individuals are secretly stealing or padding information both in public and private databases. The porosity of our online information systems is another challenge to combatting cybercrime in Nigeria.
Solution: Cybersecurity experts should be trained and brought on board across all sectors of the nation to heighten the security of our systems. Cryptography (encoding information while sharing) should be used when sending sensitive information from one network to another to prevent cyber criminals’ illegal access to them.
7. Lack of Comprehensive National Database
The last challenge to combatting cybercrime in Nigeria I will be considering is the fact that Nigeria as a nation does not have a comprehensive database of its citizens.
To successfully implement laws and apprehend culprits, law enforcement agencies must possess adequate information about their suspects to be able to trace them and conduct a proper investigation. But this is lacking in Nigeria.
As a result of this, unscrupulous Nigerians can engage in cyber crimes and remain in the nation without any cue that can be used to trace them. This presence of a comprehensive database is what makes the activities of law enforcers in more developed countries effective.
Solution: The government should invest heavily in building a database of the nation’s citizens. The drive with the National Identification Number (NIN) and Bank Verification Number (BVN) should be good ideas if they are effectively followed up. Currently, compromises are already being made and wrong information is provided.
Challenges are standing against the combat of cybercrime in Nigeria but they are not beyond intervention. With intentionality and strategic and collective efforts championed by the government, Nigeria can overcome the menace of Cybercrime.
The government should establish an independent body to be in charge of enacting and enforcing laws against the various forms of cybercrime. A comprehensive national database should be compiled and cryptography employed in the sharing of sensitive data, while jobs are created and digital skills taught. Consistent campaigns should be initiated targeted at making citizens collectively work against corruption in its most basic form, and the circulation of information sensitising citizens, especially the younger generation, against all forms of cyber crimes.