21st Century Crime Control: An Analysis of the Socio-economic Relevance of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition And Prevention) Act 2015

ABSTRACT

The world has become a global village since the creation of the internet. Undoubtedly, the internet has made both positive and negative impacts on human endeavours. On the positive side, jobs are created, business transactions are swiftly done, and academic research is carried out effortlessly. On the negative side, the internet has propelled various forms of criminal activities – in a nutshell, this is known as “CYBERCRIME”. In Nigeria, cybercrime has annihilated the country’s image globally and has vastly affected the country’s economy. Presently, Nigeria ranks 16th among the countries most affected by cybercrime. Thus, in a bid to forestall cybercrime, the National Assembly in 2015, passed into law the Cybercrimes( Prohibition and Prevention) Act 2015. Hence, we shall analyze the socio-economic relevance of the Cybercrime (Prohibition and Prevention) Act 2015 and thus, proffer solutions.

 

INTRODUCTION

Ostensibly, peer pressure, poverty and unemployment have pushed many Nigerian youths into cybercrime. On social media, many of these cybercriminals flaunt their illegal money and sadly, they are showered with encomiums and given accolades in society.

Consequently, the pressure to join is growing rapidly on those who refused to get involved in cybercrime. According to an online report by The Guardian Nigeria, “80% of EFCC’s 978 convictions are cybercrime-related.[1] In an FBI report, Nigeria was ranked 16th globally among the countries most affected by internet crime.[2]

This shows the astronomical rise of cybercrime in Nigeria. Furthermore, research has shown that cybercrime cost businesses, government agencies and consumers more than $1 trillion in 2020. Also, cyber security experts predicted that before the end of 2021, there will be a cyber-attack incident every 11 seconds. This is nearly twice that of the year 2011, which was every 19 seconds.[3]

At the Cyber Secure Nigeria Conference themed, ‘The Future of Cybersecurity in Nigeria’s Digital, organised by the Cyber Security Experts Association of Nigeria (CSEAN) in Lagos, the Acting Head of Department, Cybercrime Section, Lagos Zone, Suleiman Jijiwa who represented the EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, stated that about $945 billion was lost to cyber incidents; $145 billion was spent on cyber security.

Unfortunately, cybercrime has affected the country’s reputation to the extent that Nigerians find it difficult to obtain visas or travel to other countries without being seen as criminals. The visa officers tend to stereotype Nigerians as “corrupt” and “untrustworthy”.[4]

CONCEPTUALIZATION Of OPERATIVE TERMS

What is Cybercrime?

Symantec Corporation, the world’s biggest computer security company, defined cybercrime as any crime committed using a computer, network or hardware.[5]  In other words, cybercrime is a criminal activity that either targets or uses a computer, a computer network or a networked device.[6]

Simply, cybercrime is a type of crime that takes place in cyberspace or the realm of computers and the Internet.[7]

Types of cybercrime

We shall hereunder outline some specific examples of the different types of cybercrime

1) Email and internet fraud.[8]

2) Identity fraud (where personal information is stolen and used).[9]

3) Theft of financial or card payment data.[10]

4) Theft and sale of corporate data.[11]

5) Cyberextortion (demanding money to prevent a threatened attack).[12]

6) Ransomware attacks (a type of cyber extortion).[13]

7) Cryptojacking (where hackers mine cryptocurrency using resources they do not own).[14]

8) Cyberespionage (where hackers access government or company data).[15]

Categories of Cybercrime in Nigeria

1) Cybercrime against people: This category of cybercrime includes cyber harassment, stalking, email phishing, credit card fraud, human trafficking e.t.c.

2) Cybercrime against property: Hacking, virus transmission, computer vandalism, and copyright infringement are cybercrimes against a property.

3) Cybercrime against the government: This category of cybercrime is considered an attack on the sovereignty of a nation. Examples are hacking, gaining access to confidential information, cyber terrorism e.t.c.

What is Cyberlaw?

These are laws that deal primarily with issues relating inter alia to the internet and cyberspace. Cyberlaw tends to protect people against cybercrime, punish and prosecute cybercriminals. Notably, the punishment meted on cybercriminals vary on the nature of the cybercrime committed.

Cases of Cybercrime in Nigeria

The hunger and quest to make quick money and fame have become the order of the day amongst the Nigerian youths. There’s no day or week without news of an arrest made by EFFC in relation to cybercrime. Recently, Ramon Abbas, alias, Hushpuppi, was arrested in connection with Cybercrime.

The alleged internet fraudster is said to have accomplices in major countries in the world. It is alleged that the Internet fraudster defrauded many people, banks and companies. He attempted to defraud a premier league football club. The Hushpuppi case is well known all over the world.

Similarly, in the case of FRN vs Onoriode Joel Akpojivi,[16]  the Defendant was alleged to have been involved in various cyber crimes, which included the unlawful production, supply, procure for usage and distribution of a computer program (i.e a fake online banking link platform), which was designed to electronically defraud unsuspecting persons.

The trial judge convicted and sentenced him to six (6) months imprisonment with an option of an N500,000.00 fine. The convict was also ordered to forfeit to the Government, all the instruments used in the commission of the crime.

In the same vein, in the case of Mike Amadi vs the Federal Republic of Nigeria,[17] the Appellant(Mike Amadi) was charged before the High Court of Lagos State holden at Ikeja by EFCC, with inter alia, an attempt to obtain the sum of US$125,000.00 (One Hundred and Twenty-Five Thousand United States Dollars from one Fabian Fajans by fake e-mails through his mailbox [email protected]

The High Court found him guilty and sentenced him to 16 years imprisonment. Aggrieved with the judgment of the High Court, the Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of the High Court.

On further appeal to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment and sentences of the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

In the light of the above, we shall discuss the various causes of cybercrime in Nigeria.

Causes of Cybercrime in Nigeria

The various factors that have led to the rise of cybercrime in Nigeria, are:

Corruption: This is a major problem in Nigeria. Those who embezzle and illegally acquire wealth, are celebrated in society. This encourages the get rich quick mindset that can lead to cybercrime.

Greed: The majority of the victims of cybercrime are greedy. They make a small investment and expect huge profits; unfortunately, they get defrauded.

Poverty: The inability to afford life necessities like food, shelter and clothes can make an individual turn to crime for survival.

Unemployment: This is among the major problems that have bedevilled Nigerian society. An unemployed individual would easily resort to crime.

 

AN ANALYSIS OF THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC RELEVANCE OF THE CYBERCRIMES (PROHIBITION AND PREVENTION) ACT 2015

A vast number of crimes being committed in the 21st century are through the Internet. According to internet security statistics, hackers attack people worldwide roughly every half a minute. This translates to a cybercrime being committed an average of 2,244 times per day.[18]

In a bid to forestall this menace, various countries in the world have taken steps to enact laws to regulate, punish and prosecute cybercriminals.

In Nigeria, on 15th May 2015 former president Goodluck Jonathan signed the Cybercrime Act into law. We shall proceed to analyse the socio-economic relevance of the Act.

The Nigerian Banking System and Financial Institutions

The Nigerian banking system is largely computer-based, and this makes it susceptible to cybercrime.

The cybercrime Act may not totally eradicate all cybercrime which targets consumers that use banking and payment channels, however, the cybercrime Act has to a large extent protected financial transactions in banks and other financial institutions.

Thus, Section 8 of the Act provides against system interference. The section prevents banks, bank staff, financial institutions and their employees from inputting, transmitting, damaging, deleting, deteriorating, altering or suppressing computer data or any other form of interference with the computer system or any part thereof.

A term of imprisonment not more than 2years or a fine of not more than N5,000,000.00 or both fine and imprisonment is prescribed as punishment.

In addition, Section 20 prohibits the unlawful issuance of an electronic banking instruction by the staff of a bank or financial institution where there is an intent to defraud.

For instance, where a customer’s account has been debited without authorization by the staff of a bank or financial institution with the intent of defrauding the customer, the staff/institution commits an offence under the Act.

Furthermore, Section 30 provides against unlawful manipulation of ATMs and POS machines. As reported by Daily Post, EFCC arraigned petrol station MD, First Bank staff for N900m POS fraud.

The suspect, Naankang Dawan (first defendant), who inherited companies including a petrol station from his family, allegedly connived with some staff of First Bank, including Olukanmi (fourth defendant), to defraud customers using a Point of Sale (POS) terminal allocated to him.[19]

The Individual and Society

The Act provides against child pornography which is harmful to the individual and society.

In ordinary parlance, Section 23 provides that any person who intentionally uses any computer system or network in or for producing child pornography, making available child pornography, distributing, transmitting child pornography, or procuring child pornography for oneself or another person.

Also, if such a person possesses child pornography in a computer system or on a computer data storage medium, such person commits an offence.

Thus, in combating child pornography, the operatives of the Nigeria Police Interpol National Central Bureau arrested two suspects for allegedly engaging in international child pornography. The suspects, based in Kano, are identified as Ibrahim Mohammad Aminu and Mohammad Tahir Umar.[20]

In the same regard, Section 24 provides against cyberstalking. Thus, any person who knowingly or intentionally sends a message using computer systems or networks that is grossly offensive,  pornographic or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character or causes any such message or matter to be so sent; or he knows to be false, to annoy, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult,  injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another or causes such a message to be sent, commits an offence under this Act.

Additionally, Section 26 provides against racism and xenophobia.

The Nigerian Economy

The cybercrime Act has been a legal tool used in curtailing the loss of money and properties to cybercriminals. This has been achieved through court ordering cybercriminals to forfeit their money and properties etc gotten through cybercrime.

In FRN vs Onoriode Joel Akpojivi (Supra), the convict was ordered to forfeit to the Government, all the instruments used in the commission of the crime.

Further, Section 7 provides for the registration of cybercafes, which is a means of generating money for the government and boosting the economy.

Undeniably, the Act has played a significant role in combating cybercrime in Nigeria. However, it is still faced with challenges. The Act lacks adequate implementation, poor public awareness, corruption, etc.

RECOMMENDATIONS

As a way forward, the Act needs to be constantly reviewed so that it can meet up with the dynamic nature of the cyber environment, thereby accommodating and tackling more cybercrimes.

The government should educate the public on the dangers of cybercrime. They should enact more cyber laws and ensure that there is an adequate implementation of those laws.

On the other hand, companies should consistently train their personnel on cybersecurity, they should consistently update and upgrade their computer software and applications, and also insure their computer system.

CONCLUSION

This literacy work has extensively discussed the meaning of cybercrime, its types and its categories.

Also, the author went further to analyse the socio-economic relevance of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention) Act 2015 and further made recommendations on how the hydra-headed monster(Cybercrime) should be crushed and kept out of existence.

 

REFERENCE

[1] https://guardian.ng/news/80-of-efccs-978-convictions-cybercrime-related/ Accessed 15th May 2022

[2] https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.thenationalnews.com/world/africa/2021/07/22/more-than-email-scams-the-evolution-of-nigerias-cyber-crime-threat/%3foutputType=amp&d=233 Accessed  15th May 2022

[3] Ibid

[4] https://www.studyinternational.com/news/visa-rejections-to-canada/ accessed 15th May 2022

[5] Theohary, C.A and Finklea, K (2015): Cybercrime: Conceptual Issues for Congress and U.S Law Enforcement. Congressional Research Service Report.

[6] https://www.kaspersky.com/resource-center/threats/what-is-cybercrime Accessed  15th May 2022

[7] https://www.mondaq.com/nigeria/security/1088292/cybercrimes-and-cyber-laws-in-nigeria-all-you-need-to-know#:~:text=The%20%22Cybercrimes%20(Prohibition%20and%20Prevention,%2C%20prosecute%2C%20and%20punish%20cybercrime. Accessed 15th may 2022

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid

[10] Ibid

[11] Ibid

[12] Ibid

[13] Ibid

[14] Ibid

[15] Ibid

[16] FRN vs Onoriode Joel Akpojivi(Unreported)

[17] Mike Amadi vs the Federal Republic of Nigeria(2008) 12 SC (pt.III) 55 or 36.2 NSCQR 1127

[18] https://legaljobs.io/blog/cyber-crime-statistics/#:~:text=Hackers%20attack%20people%20worldwide%20roughly,rate%20at%201%20in%20323. Accessed  19th May 2022

[19] https://www.google.com/amp/s/dailypost.ng/2021/07/12/efcc-arraigns-petrol-station-md-first-bank-staff-for-n900m-pos-fraud/%3famp=1 Accessed 21st May 2022

[20] https://saharareporters.com/2021/01/31/police-arrest-two-international-child-pornography-kano Accessed 21st May 2022

 

About the Author

Oringo Bamidele Gabriel is a student of the Faculty of Law, University of Calabar.

He is a legal researcher, writer, and seasoned scholar. He currently serves as the Director of Litigation, Roots Associate, a student Chamber at the University of Calabar. He was formerly the Director of Public Prosecution in the Ministry of Justice, Students` Union Government, University of Calabar, Calabar.

He has an interest in Entertainment Law, Environmental Law, Criminal Law, Intellectual Property Law, amongst other areas of law.

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