ALTHOUGH Nigeria is eons apart from the United Kingdom and the United States in terms of development and strong institutions, it is however befuddling that it rivals these advanced countries in terms of internet crimes! The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) expressed its displeasure during the recently concluded Annual General Meeting and Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) where its Chief Executive Officer, Professor Umar Danbatta, revealed that Nigeria ranks third in the world, next to the UK and the USA, in internet crimes.
At a breakout session with the sub-theme, ‘The Business of Cyber Law, Internet Policy and Privacy Rights’ moderated by a former president of the NBA, Mr. Augustine Alegeh (SAN), Danbatta revealed that the number of internet users in Nigeria had hit 91.6 million. He noted: “About N127 billion was the estimated loss to cybercrime in 2015. Nigeria ranks third in global internet crimes behind the UK and USA. A critical factor militating against Africa’s economic resurgence is the weakness of its institutions. Nigeria ranks 169th out of 199 on the World Bank’s ease of doing business rankings. We are in the middle of a revolution and the rise of what we call a networked society.”
Cynics may indeed draw some sarcastic mirth from this untoward development by insisting that it is a proud showing, an improvement for a country that shows promise only in the wrong things. But there is bound to be a feeling of perplexity when the implications of Nigeria’s global reckoning and the consequences are considered, especially because of the lack of capacity in apprehending internet crimes on the part of the various security agencies. In both the UK and the USA with which Nigeria shares a podium of notoriety, the security agencies are clearly ahead of the internet fraudsters and the certainty of being apprehended is almost inviolable. On the contrary, in Nigeria, the security agencies have often been complicit in the burgeoning internet crimes as they go only after any youth carrying a backpack.
Internet crimes can hardly be checked with such crude methods that can only guarantee bribes obtained through intimidation. Harried youths or their parents would part with any available money for their freedom, but this would not stop the scammers who are clearly savvy and ahead of the security agents. The position occupied by Nigeria in the global ranking of cyber crime is totally unacceptable considering its weak institutions. The NCC as a regulatory body should lead the offensive in apprehending internet fraudsters by developing and constantly upgrading the protective software that can anticipate and stop the internet criminals. Now that Nigeria is next in rank to the UK and the USA, it has become imperative to acquire equal capacity in checking the crime if the country aspires to respect in the global field.
If its cyberspace remains unsafe, the Nigerian state should expect dire consequences, including the loss of basic trust and investments. We expect that the relevant committees in the National Assembly are abreast of this untoward development. There must be appropriate legislation to recommend the correct punishment for the different internet crimes in order to discourage the fraudsters who obviously have been cashing in on the country’s lack of capacity to increase their heists. Frankly, Nigeria’s ranking in internet crimes is quite unsettling considering the fast rate at which crimes spiral out of control in the country. The establishment must see the quick reversal of this ignoble reputation as top priority.