More than seven years after a cybersecurity Bill was presented to the National Assembly, legislators have so far failed to pass the law, Cleopas Angaye, Director General of National Information Technology Development Agency, tells Eunice Oboh
Eunice Oboh: Cyber crime is a challenge not only in Nigeria but also all over the world. Is Nigeria ready to tackle the menace?
Cleopas Angaye: The government is cognisant of the fact that cybersecurity is a huge challenge to the country. Back in 2004, the National Information Technology Development Agency sent a Bill to assembly to combat this crime. This didn’t go through in that legislative session. During the last one, we tried again. It didn’t go through.
That Bill addressed several offenses that can damage any economy globally. Cyber criminals can knock out any security system or a financial organisation. They can even knock out an aeroplane infrastructure because most things are guided now by information technology. If that guidance is not taken care of, things can go wrong. These criminals can wipe out a server, which is actually monitoring a system.
The issue is most people are now in cyberspace and if you don’t have proper regulatory laws that can guide an institution or a country, then the criminals can attack these things maliciously. To see how badly the situation is, if you just Google ‘Nigeria crime’, 419 issues will come up. People have been deceived that there are large sums of money, which they can borrow. This may have been communicated to them through an email or text message. They can even use the financial systems.
We have got cases of our embassies writing to say that somewhere someone has attacked security systems outside the country using our IP address. Scam, 419 and other related offences are very serious and the more people are in cyberspace the more serious it becomes because many of them use the opportunity to actually test their software. It is very serious.
EO: What then can be done?
CA: It is something we in government alone cannot fight. When the cybersecurity Bill is passed into law, it will be a kind of safeguard against our cyber activities. Currently the National Security Adviser is also involved. Recently we had a workshop where we looked at all we had done in the past year. The Central Bank of Nigeria has been very active as well as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Back in 2009, we had a workshop in Lokoja [North Central Nigeria] where all the agencies within he security services were assembled to see how we could make our network system more secured than what we have right now.
EO: In comparison to other countries how can Nigeria be rated in cyber crime activities?
CA: If you look at it globally, in the United States cyber crimes are committed more there, then followed by China, Britain, Germany and maybe a couple of countries. Then Nigeria comes next. On the reverse, it shows that we are actually ready to use information technology in our activities. The more people are using it the more crimes will crop up. If you look at developed countries, one is not surprised.
We have to use our talents in other ways rather than try to carry out malicious acts in cyberspace. Internet penetration in Nigeria is now about 44million, a very high rate. Therefore, if proper precautions are not taken we will have more crimes. We are hoping that the law will be put into place very soon. All agencies are on it. We are working with them.
EO: How will Nigerians benefit from this law?
CA: Right now, if a crime is committed through cyberspace there is no law to prosecute the person. Not that the necessary things we want to do are not clear. They are clear but we cannot prosecute because there is no law covering these.
When we have this law in place other countries will now look at us as a country they can do business with through the internet. More businesses will come up. Now people are a bit not too sure of what it will be like. The judiciary will also pick up automatically.
Outsourcing will now come into play like what is happening in India. The market in India is getting very saturated. Investors look on countries that are fast growing and where labour is cheaper. So if we have laws governing our cyberspace, the economy will pick up.