The massive invasion of the internet by fraudsters remains phenomenal globally. Nigeria is, particularly, prone to these swindlers, money launderers and drug barons, due to its convoluted system, infrastructural deficiencies and endemic corruption in the corridors of power, writes ADEZE OJUKWU
The result is the incredulous display of criminality in its cyber space, spearheaded mostly by its army of jobless youth populace aided by unscrupulous elements in banks and corporate organizations.
Stakeholders and security experts have intensified advocacy for a holistic approach towards addressing this menace, which is not unconnected to the nation’s general malaise, youth unemployment, injustice and bad governance.
It is time for the authorities to demystify this malfeasance, by confronting its major drivers, given its negative consequences on the image of the nation and its economy.
In 2017 alone, Nigeria lost over N100 billion to internet crimes, while many businesses and individuals continue to lose billions to these scammers.
It is imperative for the ruling class to focus on these underlying issues, while seeking practical solutions to cybercrime and lawlessness in society.
To successively curb this ugly trend, investing massively in education, job creation and good governance is pivotal and imperative.
For instance, the rage against SARS is part of the nationwide anger against all forms of brutalities and vices in the polity.
The protests and resultant wanton destruction of lives, properties and massive looting reflect the vehemence against government’s failure to provide safety nets and basic amenities for the masses.
This national conflagration has exposed the urgency to prioritize youth empowerment programmes, because most web offenders, cite joblessness, hunger and hardship, as major reasons for plunging into these shady deals.
Indeed the web has become a new den for crooks, due to supposed quick proceeds from hacking and other nefarious actions.
A recent statistics revealed that about 28.9 percent of Nigeria’s 200 million people, has access to the internet.
This number continues to grow astronomically, with the convergence of the financial sector and internet services.
Rapid advancement in technology, the rise of crypto currency and the anonymity of transactions are also exacerbating the volatility of online transactions.
Indisputably, the nation’s financial stability and security require a safe and resilient cyberspace.
The authorities need to ensure that regulatory agencies are well furnished with forensic facilities.
Also the personnel must be credible, competent and abreast of web developments.
Furthermore to mount a formidable onslaught against these shenanigans, governments need to synergize with security operatives, corporate entities, media and the public.
These recommendations, formed the fulcrum of a webinar tagged: ‘Tackling Cybercrimes Among Nigerian Youths.’
The virtual conference was organized by Devcomradar.org magazine, published by award-winning journalist and Fellow of Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship, Mrs. Adeze Ojukwu.
The event was executed in partnership with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime(UNODC) and Association for Peace and Development Initiative(APDI). Other supporters included Africa Vision Tract House Society(AVTHS), Flood and Erosion Services Ltd and a financial expert, Mr Benjamin Eze.
Ace broadcaster and advertising practitioner, Mr. Soni Irabor was the moderator at the programme, which had a wide representation from Nigeria, Africa, United States(US), Canada and other parts of the world.
UNODC Country Representative, Dr. Oliver Stolpe, as well as eminent security and IT professionals offered practical steps, on how to reset the nation, revive the police and promote governance ideals.
The speakers included Dr. Uwaoma, Founder APDI and public health physician, Assistant Police Commissioner (ACP) Monday Agbonika, Mr. Chijioke Ojukwu, a computer expert, as well Mr. Polycarp Mbah and Dr. Mrs Nneka Igboeli of Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Nigeria Nsukka.
The perspectives shared during the summit were quite extensive and incisive.
The various views and strategies extrapolated by the eminent personalities that graced the occasion are delineated below.
Dr. Oliver Stolpe, UNODC Country Representative
Since the initial outbreak of COVID-19, much of our lives have moved into the virtual space and so have criminals. Therefore amidst growing concerns about the stark rise of cybercrime, UNODC Nigeria dedicates the month of October to raise cyber security awareness.
In August 2020 Under Secretary General Vladimir Voronkov of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office warned that there had been a 350 percent increase in phishing websites during the first quarter of 2020 alone, primarily targeting hospitals and health care systems thereby hindering their swift response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In September, Interpol published its report on child sexual exploitation and abuse in the wake of COVID 19 raising alarm about the dramatic increase of online sexual offences committed against children.
‘Interpol has recorded a very significant drop in the activity by law enforcement related to the countering of online child sexual exploitation and abuse.
Law enforcement agencies and other NGOs have expressed great concerns that due to #COVID_19 lockdown, sexual exploitation and abuse have greatly increased with children spending more time online.’
School closures and other COVID-19 related restrictions have massively increased the amount of time that children spend online for educational, entertainment and social purposes.
This has also increased dramatically the vulnerability of children to fall victim to sexual exploitation by predators operating online.
Specific measures for governments to consider include the creation of prevention and awareness campaigns for potential victims and their guardians relating to the risk of Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (CSEA) online.
It should also ensure that capacities to investigate CSEA offences are maintained at least at pre-COVID-19 levels.
Technology companies and telecoms providers should do everything they can to keep children safe online given the heightened risks of online harm.
This is of particular relevance, as social media providers as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are increasingly reliant on artificial intelligence and automated tools for the detection of illegal content on their platforms, due to staff facing restrictions whilst working from home.
Such software has limitations and may not be as accurate as human review.
We should do everything to raise awareness in particular among children, their guardians policy makers and law enforcement personnel to take the necessary actions to tackle these risks and to keep our children safe online.
Assistant Commissioner of Police(ACP) Monday Agbonika, Area Commander Ota, Ogun State
Child pornography is an area we should pay attention to when discussing cybercrime. Many children due to their gullibility have fallen victim to the perpetrators of this act.
There is a lot of cyber terrorism going on in the Internet. We must watch out.
Mr. Chijioke Ojukwu, IT Expert
The computer sphere has been flooded by deception and graft, notably such as phishing, bank verification number scams, fraudulent emails and hacking.
Spamming, harassment, ATM spoofing, social media hijacking and identity theft also rife. They exploit vulnerabilities of both electronic devices and their users.
In 2017, the Cyber Security Experts Association of Nigeria (CSEAN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) estimated that Nigeria loses about N127 billion annually to cybercrime.
Studies have shown a 35 percent increase in the losses, which stood at N198 billion as at 2019, while the banking and the telecommunication sectors are the worst hit.
Sadly such incidences are usually under reported and more than 60 percent of financial institutions in Nigeria have experienced cyber-attacks, which they do not report because they believe it would lead to reputation issues that could lead to customer panic.
‘The most popular form of cybercrimes in Nigeria is phishing, which is the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information or data from unsuspecting users.
Spamming and ATM Spoofing also contribute significantly to financial losses, but phishing is the most notorious, accounting for one-third of cybercrimes in Nigeria.
Major targets include usernames, passwords, credit card details, by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.
Apart from these atrocious deficits and damage to the image of the nation and its citizens, internet fraud discourages Foreign Direct Investments(FDIs), and undermines the credibility of affected companies.
This menace, which often leads to increase in operational costs of firms, is fuelled by inordinate quest for wealth, high rate of unemployment, lack of strong cyber laws, lackluster investigations and inability of the law enforcement agents to bring perpetrators to book.
Combating this vice remains challenging due to lack of effective reporting, seeming anonymity of the criminals, inadequate legislation, investigation and enforcement by the authorities.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission(ICPC), Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit(NFIU) as well as the police should adopt hi-tech forensic investigative facilities to obtain evidence, instead of using brutal force and sporadic arrest of suspects.
A collaboration of enforcement agencies with telecommunication and financial institutions would yield appreciable result, because most illegal fund transfers are perpetuated through bank accounts, which are linked to BVN and mobile numbers of specific users.
Relevant agencies have a huge role to play by funding public education, social services, mass sensitization campaigns and effective enforcement of relevant legislations.
Youths should also shun greed and embrace legitimate means of wealth creation and social interactions over the internet.
They include online retail outlets, social media marketing, blogging, forex trading, digital skill and acquisition.
Other viable options include training and educational opportunities, such as digital courses.
Dr. Godwin Uwaoma Public Health Physician and Founder, APDI
Cyber crimes, #EndSARS protests and all forms of youth restiveness are the consequences of the collective failure of government and leaders.
The widespread unemployment and poverty, in the midst of stupendous wealth being flaunted by politicians and their cronies provide breeding ground for crime and violence.
Nigeria really needs a total reform, starting with the politicians, in order to eradicate the evil and decay in virtually every sector.
Meanwhile teenagers need to acquire specialized trainings, in order to harvest the plethora of opportunities the internet offers.
Such laudable vocations include blogging, drama, comedy, essays, arts, singing, advocacy and marketing.
Web-based innovative entrepreneurial ventures and social networking are also highly recommended, as worthy and profitable businesses that can be explored.
Dr. Temitope Aladesanmi, Research Partner, Cyber Security Research Laboratory, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
It requires a multi-faceted and pyramidal approach. At the base of the pyramid is the need to create awareness through widespread user education for the populace. In addition, build relevant skills to protect information assets and respond to cyber threats.
Review of policies and laws is necessary for proper prosecution offenders respectively. At the top of the pyramid is the need to address underlying issues that make cybercrime an alternative.
This ranges from poverty to loss of societal values and insane flaunting v of wealth by the political class. While these conditions are not legitimate reasons for engaging in crime, financial gains are known to be strong motives in the dark world of digital racket.
Polycarp Mbah, Pharmacist and Head of Mission, Africa Vision Tract House Society(AVTHS).
With the free fall in societal value system, the crave for wealth ‘at all means’ has affected the new generation. The cyberspace, being virtual and impersonal provides a green garden for criminal harvests of wealth.
The consciences of these swindlers are not easily perturbed because of the lame excuse that their victims are careless, ignorant and sometimes greedy too.
Many adults and public functionaries have worsened the crises, by their ubiquitous opulence and wanton profligacy. Many children are terribly shortchanged by parents and executives.
In Nigeria merit has been replaced by mediocrity in admission into academic institutions, military academies or getting employment.
Diligence and integrity are neither upheld nor rewarded, hence many resort to wired banditry, which they view as a ready bloodless leeway out of deprivation.
A greater problem in fighting cybercrime is still steeped in corruption. Recruitment into security agencies are highly compromised. Merit is sacrificed while nepotism and bribery hold sway. The result is that intelligent youths, who are internet savvy and who can match cybercriminals, are not recruited into security agencies.
Government should employ computer-skilled graduates in their security agencies and also equip them with current technological tools to reduce delays and bureaucracies in investigations.
Furthermore, banks should be compelled to identify the account holders of suspects, because most of these illegal proceeds go through the banking system.
Also youths should embrace legitimate wealth producing online endeavours.
Dr. Nneka Igboeli, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Nigeria Nsukka(UNN)
To tackle cyber crime, our core values as a people need to be reevaluated for a better society. A new cultural and society should be promoted in order to to channel the minds of the youths, to embrace integrity, honesty and service as the bedrock of true wealth and nobility.
Dr. Ednah Madu, Assistant Professor, College of Nursing and Public Health Garden City New York
Providing promising job opportunities for the youth could help avert reliance on internet-based problems. Community awareness and poverty alleviation initiatives could help families discourage their youth rather than hailing bringing home such huge money.
Amb. Sunny Irakpo, Founder of Silec Initiatives and Campaigner Against Drug Abuse
Government should provide good facilities and opportunities for youths to receive qualitative education and technological skills to enable them to become economically productive and also participate excellently in international settings.
The authorities also need to establish an effective reward system, that encourages merit, creativity and hard work, in order to reduce the corruption and get-rich-quick syndrome across society.
Today most citizens, particularly young people are angry at the rising cost of living, escalating hunger and insensitivity of the administration to the plight of the populace.
The present crises, engulfing the country, demands a serious societal overhaul, in order for peace to reign.
The ruling class should lead by example by ridding the public space of corruption, avarice and nepotism.
The flagrant display of wealth and ostentatious lifestyles of government officials are also responsible for the decay and general restiveness in the polity.
The world is a global village now, hence the administration should entrench the benchmarks of democracy, good governance and human rights.
These ideals will help the nation to experience real peace and progress, as stated in the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs).
*Ojukwu, a journalist and Fellow Hubert Humphrey program wrote this treatise, as part of efforts to promote youth empowerment and implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in society. Kindly send feedback to email@example.com