The authorities should do well and enforce the law
While cyber criminals in some other countries are using their negative skills for espionage and technology theft, their Nigerian counterparts are using their skills to defraud individuals and companies mostly to show off. But it is not only abroad that these people perpetrate their criminal activities, they also do it at home. So endemic is the problem that the Senate recently disclosed that Nigeria has lost about $450 million to 3,500 cyber-attacks on its Information and Communications Technology (ICT) space, representing about 70 per cent of hacking attempts in the country. Many bank customers in Nigeria are increasingly becoming victims of this menace.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Director of Payment Systems Management, Musa Jimoh, who is also the Chairman of Nigeria Electronic Fraud Forum (NeFF), disclosed last week that accumulated Electronic Fraud (E-Fraud) within the banking sector and payment systems network has led to a loss of N9.5 billion this year. “If we don’t combat the cyber criminals, they will take us down and disrupt the entire system. So, we all need to work together to see how we can make life extremely difficult for cybercriminals,” Musa warned at the meeting of NeFF in Lagos, where stakeholders converged to discuss new techniques to tackle the growing challenge.
Some of the tactics used by cybercriminals include phone calls purportedly from a victim’s banks and One-Time-Password (OTP) requests. Many Nigerians have also fallen victims to scammers who request PIN numbers of ATM cards. Indeed, cybercrime has been projected to worsen as e-payment transactions gain more patronage. In 2018, for instance, commercial banks in the country lost a cumulative N15 billion ($39 million) to electronic fraud and cybercrime–a 537 per cent increase on the N2.37 billion losses recorded the previous year.
Cybercrime, as most people are already aware, refers to criminal acts such as identity theft and bank frauds facilitated using the internet. But as most Nigerians also know, some of our citizens have become notorious for these crimes. What marks out the Nigerian fraud gangs operating internationally is their predominantly financial and economic focus. For instance, in June 2019, a damning statement by the American Department of Justice (DoJ) said, “Foreign citizens perpetrate many BEC scams. Those individuals are often members of transnational criminal organisations, which originated in Nigeria but have spread throughout the world.”
In 2015, the Cybercrime Act was passed into law to address the challenges. The law criminalises a variety of offences – from ATM card skimming and identity theft to possession of child pornography. It imposes, for instance, seven-year imprisonment for offenders of all kinds and additional seven years for online crimes that result in physical harm, and life imprisonment for those that lead to death. Yet, most experts believe that the Cybercrime Act 2015 is not strong enough to deal with the challenge of a crime that is growing both in numbers and sophistication. Besides, like almost every law in the country, there is also the problem of enforcement.
Committed mostly by the young, often called ‘Yahoo Boys’, a precursor of the infamous ‘419’ email scammers, the fraudsters are increasingly taking advantage of the rise in online transactions, electronic shopping, e-commerce and the electronic messaging systems to engage in all manner of crimes that have sullied the image of Nigeria abroad. We endorse the efforts of Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) in Nigeria to stop the rising cyber fraud in the country by launching an enlightenment campaign. But there is also an urgent need to improve the capacity of cyber security officials and the sharing of cyber security best practices from across the globe. In addition, we must build the capacity for local law enforcement.