Written by FREDRICK A.S OKAGUA a guest writer, and a 500 Level Final
Year Law Student of the Faculty of Law, University of Benin.

Image result for cyber crime
A computer as well as cyber survey was conducted
recently by the Global Computer Crime and Security Experts has observed
Nigeria as the most
fraudulent country in Africa in terms of cyber
related activities. The same report further revealed that the giant of
Africa is ranked third amongst other countries identified with cyber
fraud in the world. Because cyber technology provides many advantages,
people have used it to
conduct and shield illicit and unlawful activities on the internet
such as infringement of copyright child pornography, stealing etc. In
innocent citizens have become the prime targets of these internet
fraudsters businesses and personal profiles, and reputations have
ultimately being shattered by this malicious act.

The devastating effects of this criminal industry
on the banking sector are matched by the apparent unpreparedness of
the very institutions that are vested with the responsibility of
combating the problem. Regulators such as
The Central Bank of Nigeria, Police Departments, Lawyers, The EFCC, ICPC
and Judges of Courts appear to have been caught
on the wrong foot by the sheer speed and criminal efficiency of the
Nigerian chapter of what is known globally as “Operation High Roller”.
These cyber internet scammers just sit on an arm chair with their
laptops and control their Elite groups of multi – tiered criminal net
workers and literally, overnight siphon mind boggling amounts of money
from their unsuspecting victims. This astounding feat of criminal
ingenuity is only possible in view of the wonders of internet banking
transactions which is a modern day convenience made possible by the
wonders of banking and globalization of finance.

This article therefore seeks to discuss the
contributing factors of cyber crimes, its effects on the Nigerian
society with a view to the
limitations or constraints on the enactment of
cyber laws that will combat this crime and whether a proper legal
framework has been set in place or put in motion as a regulatory
mechanism against the widespread of this heinous crime.

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According to a national daily column, cyber crime is broadly defined as criminal activity
involving an information technology infrastructure, including illegal
access (unauthorized access) through illegal interceptions (by technical means of non
– public transmissions of computer data to, from or within a computer
system), data interference (unauthorized
damaging, deletion, deterioration, alteration or
suppression of computer data), systems interference (interfering with
the functioning of a computer system by inputting, transmitting,
damaging, deleting, deteriorating, altering or suppressing computer
data), misuse of devices, forgery (ID theft), and electronic fraud.

Cyber crime is a heinous offence. It is also an
unlawful act of using the computer as either a tool or target or both
(Toyin Adebiyi: Internet Crime Capital Market- Law and Economic).
Cyber crimes are like every other crime, the only distinction is with
the use of computer and internet facility. Like an English Philosopher
posits that “a crime is always a byproduct of an innovation or
invention”. (Baron, Verulam of Verulam and viscount of ST. Albans 1561
– 1626). A broader definition was given in the
Telecommunications and Postal Offences Decree (S.2A (H), 1995) “Any
person who inter alia engages in computer fraud or does anything
relating to fake payments, whether or not the payment is credited to
the account of an
operator or the account of the subscriber is guilty of an offence”.

Image result for cyber crime

Furthermore, cybercrime has also been regarded
as computer mediated activities which are either illegal or considered
illicit by certain parties and which can be conducted through global
electronic nets (Dr. Gupta and Agrawal Cyber Laws Pg. 54). The
Canadian Law Enforcement Agencies defined cyber crimes as a criminal
offence involving a computer as the object of the offences (Sola
Fananwopa, Federal Government move to enforce cybercrime Laws in
Nigeria). It has replaced gun and knives as the weapon of crime of
many criminals, and has become a major concern for all. Also, the
Nigerian cyber-crime working group defined the Nigerian cybercrime as
a computer – aided crime originating from Nigeria. They explained it
as having three parts viz:- computer aided crime committed by
Nigerians internationally; Non – Nigerian computer aided  crime given
the semblance of a Nigerian origin and crimes committed against
information and Telecommunications asset (Social ethnical and legal
Aspects, on cybercrime, theme commissions WITFOR, 200).

Cyber crimes in Nigeria are caused by a
number of factors;

1. POVERTY: Comrade Aliyu Adams Oshiomole (Adams Oshiomole is the
present Governor of Edo State.) once said that “Poverty anywhere is a
threat to prosperity everywhere”. In order words, when prosperity is
under threat, there is no guarantee for  peace, security and an
egalitarian society that is relatively harmonious. Poverty is one of
the major factors why most Nigerians engage in illicit activities like
stealing and defrauding people of their money and other valuable
assets through cyber electronic media.

2. CORRUPTION: Nigeria is ranked the third most corrupt Nation in the
world today. The reason for this is not farfetched as most Nigerians
themselves have constantly developed the habits of enriching
themselves through dishonest and illegal means. Corruption is an
epidemic cankerworm, a parasitic fungi that has eaten deep into the
moral fabrics of the entire Nation. It is a viral infection that has
dented the image and philosophy of our society. Since our criminal
justice system is fraught with the cankerworm called corruption, there
is every tendency that it may frustrate the prosecution and conviction
of arrested criminals.

However, one of the under graduate arrested for
the Union Bank electronic heist (Inger Marie Sunde Research Fello
crime) has yielded to the EFCC;  furniture’s worth
N10M in a one bedroom apartment in Yaba, Lagos, four vehicles, landed
properties in Kano and Kaduna and another four bedroom duplex worth
N45M in Lagos were some of the spoils that was in his possession.

Thus, the adverse economic impact of this crime on the nation cannot
be underestimated. Despite the effort of the EFCC and the Nigerian
Police, the situation has not been abated as suspected
criminals either have successfully fled the country or are wallowing
with the money looted. Therefore, as a matter of superlative
necessity, the situation calls for an accelerated treatment of the
dedicated cybercrime law that will put an end to its practices in
Nigeria. There is already a de facto state of emergency which must be
recognized by all stakeholders. One hopes that the Mohammed Buhari-led
administration will nip the pin in the board.

3. ABSENCE OF LEGAL FRAME WORK: Legal frame work include; Legislative
Infrastructure: The inability to enact proper laws that will not just
punish the perpetrators of this crime, but that will serve as an
indispensable restraint to cyber criminal activities in the country is
glaringly missing in our laws. The failure on the part of the National
Assembly to enact proper legislations for the regulation and
punishment of the crime is one of the root causes in the country.

In Nigeria, despite the awareness of the lawmakers and the business
community of the dangers posed by cyber crime there still exist a
laxity on the part of the legislatures to give it the
necessary urgent attention it requires. The solace that could have
been sought for in the criminal
code only covers offences relating to post and
telecommunications. This shows that while drafting the section of the
law, the legislators never imagined the revolutions of technological
change with its attendant social malaise in the telecommunication
industry. It is also alarming to know that the Nigerian legal system
has not put in place any legislative mechanism to regulate the
activities of information technology providers, usage, nor criminalize
the unwholesome cyber activities in the country in line with the
global trend.

The effects of Cybercrime in Nigeria is mostly
imminent in the banking sector and other various sectors of the
economy. Again, the Central Bank of Nigeria reported recently that the
banking sector lost over N20 billion through
internet fraud and the impact on the nation’s cashless policy is
significant. With the reported theft of N2 billion from the Union Bank
of Nigeria last year by three young under graduates of a Federal
University leaves the banking sector and economy in a bereaved state.
Criminals have already succeeded in siphoning more than 60 million
Euros in fraudulent transfers from at least 60 banks globally in the
last few years according to a leading financial industry study. The
Central Bank of Nigeria reported that banks lost N20 billion in 2012
through internet fraud. Cyber research experts have estimated that
going by the current trend, banks in Nigeria may lose up to 15 million
dollars in 2020 on cyber crimes. Nigeria is ranked 56th out of 60
countries embracing internet usage but 3rd in the following

– Annual global loss of $1.5 billion in 2000
– 6% of global internet scam in 2005
– 1.5.5% of total reported FBI fraud in 2001
– Highest media loss of all EBI internet fraud of
– Verisign Incorporation ranked Nigeria 3rd in total number of
internet fraud transactions, accounting for 4.8% of global internet
– American National Fraud Information Centre
reported Nigeria Money offers as the fastest growing on line scam in 2001
– American National Fraud Information Centre also ranked Nigeria money
offers as 3rd largest internet fraud in 2002, at 4% Nigeria cybercrime
impact per capital is exceptionally high (M C Connell International
Combating Cybercrimes: A proactive Approach Feb
2001 (web) ).

Image result for bad government

In fact, Nigeria has been marked internationally as a nation with
plethora of cyber fraudsters. Other activities on this crime also
ranges from service disruptions, reputational damage to hacked
companies, reduced trust
on line, military security problems and internet
stalking and harassment. The severity and effect of cybercrime on
business society and government is unquantifiable. Annually, over $1.6
trillion is lost to cyber criminals. It
has attracted lots of attention by the authorities
for various unspecified reasons.

The Nigerian government has not put in place any serious regulatory
mechanism for the eradication of cyber crimes in the Country.
Unfortunately, Nigeria’s best legislative response to this modern
problem is as of now non- existent since it is still in the form of
the draft Cyber Security Bill 2011. The proposed bill was sponsored by
Hon. Bassey Etim. The bill
hopefully will provide an effective, unified and
comprehensive legal frame work for the prohibition, prevention,
detection, prosecution and punishment of cyber criminals in Nigeria
and address the challenge of international cooperation. There is a
lack of wide stakeholder
integration to support the Nigeria Government. The reason for this is
that both the public and private sector is inherently distrustful of
government regulation in this area.

Thus, we are only left with the entire gamut of the Nigerian criminal
law which is unwieldy and perhaps out dated. Apart from the provisions
of the Criminal Code on stealing, prosecutors must frame their charges
from inexact provision like obtaining property by false presences,
offences relating to post and telecommunications;
treachery and disclosure of official secrets or abstracting document
(for security breaches). Other relevant instruments containing
pertinent sections include the Money Laundering Act (1995) and The
Advance Fee Fraud And other Related Offences Act. Even the 1999
Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria  (S. 37 CFRN 1999 (as
amended) ) has useful provisions regarding a privacy right which is
against illegal computer hacking or online stalking by private or
official persons. The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC)
Act 2000 and of course the Economic and Financial Crime Commission
(EFCC) Act, 2004. However, capacity development in these agencies is
however, not fast paced and most of them apart from the Police Force
are less than a decade old. The closest provision of our law closely
related to this Act is in S. 419(a) of the Criminal Code which
provides inter alia: “Any person who by false presence or by means of
any other fraud obtains
credit for himself or any other person incurring
any debt or liability; or by means of an entry in a debtor and
creditor account between the person
giving and the person receiving credit, is guilty of a felony….”

The truth is that even this section cannot successfully nail a cyber
criminal in view of the intricacies involved in electronic commerce.
The new Evidence Act 2011 deserves separate
mention. This Act repeals the old Evidence Act, Cap E14, laws of the
Federation of
Nigeria (2004),  and it applies to all judicial proceedings in or
before courts in Nigeria. The
major challenge here in terms of improving the
ability of the prosecution to secure a conviction is that for the
first time, Nigerian Law of Evidence
expressly permits the introduction of electronic
evidence in court trials and civil cases. Accordingly, the Act is
replete with provisions on validity of electronic records and even
electronic signatures. The new Act, for instance, allows a court to
presume that an electronic message forwarded by the originator through
the electronic mail server to the addressee corresponds with the
message as fed into his
computer for transmission: but the court will not make any presumption
as to the person to whom such message was sent.

Cyber crime is a major threat to the growth of
internet based commerce and globalization. With over $1.6 billion lost
to cyber crime every year, the least our nation can do is to
proactively enact laws on internet transaction regulation.

A fit for purpose criminal justice system and up to date,
sophisticated system of laws are sine qua non to the attraction of
foreign direct investment (FDI).  It is expedient therefore, to note
that the quick completion of a dedicated Cyber Crime Act is the best
way forward for Nigeria.
Also, law enforcement agency such as EFCC,
ICPC, SSS and the Nigerian Police must come together to fight this
trend and social vices. There
should be adequate man power skill acquisition for cyber crime
detection and increase in intelligence unit.

Image result for effc
The information security expert together with
other law enforcement agency owe a duty of care to the public to
identify computer security
threats and protect both internal and external
threats to people.
The ISE, ICT, ICPC, EFCC, should together promote global best
practices; information campaign against cyber crime conducts and
annual survey on information security.


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