Home Big Story Buhari asked to offer ‘presidential amnesty’ for cybercrime

Buhari asked to offer ‘presidential amnesty’ for cybercrime

Buhari asked to offer ‘presidential amnesty’ for cybercrime
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President Mohammadu Buhari has been asked to offer presidential amnesty to cyber criminals towards stemming cybercrime and quickly recruiting a standing cyber army for Nigeria

Mr. Shina Badaru, Founder/CEO of Technology Times made the call at the National Cyber Security Awareness Month Conference (NASCAM), held last week at Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.

According to him, perpetrators of cybercrime in Nigeria, when granted amnesty, can be converted into forces of good and be used to reduce the rate of cyber crime in the country.

“I stand right in front of you with every sense of responsibility to say that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should grant amnesty to cybercriminals, and give them a particular time frame in which to convert from forces of evil to forces of good,” Badaru told attendees at the National Cyber Security Awareness Month Conference (NASCAM) in Lagos.

He said that these cybercrime perpetrators are already more exposed to the Internet world than policy makers and the existing law enforcement agencies, as such they stand better placed to be used to combat cybercrime effectively.

“The perpetrators of cyber criminality are always several steps ahead of the rest of us; several steps ahead of regulators; several steps ahead of the policy makers, and several thousands of kilometers ahead of the law enforcement agencies,” according to Badaru.

“I stand right in front of you with every sense of responsibility to say that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should grant amnesty to cybercriminals, and give them a particular time frame in which to convert from forces of evil to forces of good,” Badaru told attendees at the National Cyber Security Awareness Month Conference (NASCAM) in Lagos.

Mr. Shina Badaru, Founder/CEO of Technology Times seen in photo speaking at the National Cyber Security Awareness Month Conference (NASCAM) where he called for a presidential amnesty for cybercriminals to enable Nigeria quickly recruit her cyber army
Mr. Shina Badaru, Founder/CEO of Technology Times seen in photo speaking at the National Cyber Security Awareness Month Conference (NASCAM) where he called for a presidential amnesty for cybercriminals to enable Nigeria quickly recruit a standing cyber army

“It’s a very tough call. It might appear a very controversial recommendation to make. It does not in any way represent a national endorsement of criminality. It will just be a practical acknowledgement of the fact that in dealing with cyber criminality, we would have to be practical and we would have to be pragmatic”, Badaru explains underscoring the need for the amnesty.

“Just like the guys who decided to lay down their arms under the amnesty programme, if they are given a particular time frame, it could be done either overtly or covertly. We can quickly build up a fantastic team of cyber security army that Nigeria urgently needs. These guys have been in there, they know where the skeletons are buried”, he further told the cybersecurity conference.

He explained that long before the Nigerian policy makers could make the law against cybercrime, the cybercriminals have already gone far in their activities, and are also moving very fast in doing what they do.

He expressed concern that it took the Federal Government about 11 years before it could come up with the Cybercrime Act since after the recommendation for it in March 2004 by the Presidential Committee on 419 Activities set up by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Speaking on the report of the Committee, Badaru said: “The Committee submitted its report in March 2004. Part of the critical recommendation of the Committee Report back then in March 2004 was the call for an urgent need for the enactment of a law to be called the Nigerian Cybercrime Act to deal with a totally new area of criminality that the conventional law enforcement institutions were finding it difficult to deal with. And I do remember that the urgency was that a draft should have been ready two weeks after the submission of that Presidential report.”

“If you have a mobile phone connected to the Internet, go to the website www.voters.ng where every single registered voter’s card is available on the website of a private citizen. Rudimentary cyber criminality does not even require all of that information for the crime to happen. Now it is so terrible that all of this information is now publicly available in public domain. And that is where we are today,” Badaru said.

Since that March 2004 when the recommendation for a Cybercrime Act was made through the report of the Presidential Committee on 419 Activities, it was not until 2015 when Nigeria eventually got a Cybercrime Act, a process that took about 11 years, he noted.

He further that back then in 2004, Nigeria was dealing with “a small cyber-criminality called 419, and half a million phone lines.” Within that period of 11 years without a cybercrime law, cyber criminals have greatly improved their skills in the act, making them very skillful in what they do.

Mr. Badaru believed that the cyberspace is now a totally new frontier, a new space where criminals operate in an entirely new form, as such; there is a need to set up a new army dedicated to combat these criminals who are very much ahead of the existing law enforcement agencies.

“The way forward is very simple. If we agree that cybercrime and cybercriminality is a totally new frontier, like when Winston Churchill stood in front of his people then, he said that they were going to fight on land, they were going to fight on the sea, and they were going to fight in the air. Today, there is a new frontier called cyberspace, and we need a whole totally new army of those highway men that have been there much earlier than our conventional law enforcement agencies”, Badaru said.

“Why do I say so? We have an already overtaxed law enforcement infrastructure, architecture and institution. They are inadequate to fight conventional crime. Already, cybercriminals are several thousand kilometers ahead of our existing law enforcement system,” he explained.

Cross section of participants at the National Cyber Security Awareness Month Conference (NASCAM) held in Lagos
Cross section of participants at the National Cyber Security Awareness Month Conference (NASCAM) held in Lagos

The Technology Times CEO went further to explain how critical the need for Nigeria to build a cyber security body dedicated to combat cybercrime by revealing that the SIM registration records of most Nigerian telecom subscribers are in the possession of cybercriminals.

“When there was a rapid take up of mobile phones, there was a serious policy gap. We did not register most of the people that are today carrying mobile phones. So about 2012, the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) made a mandatory policy of SIM registration. SIM registration was done in two phases – the operators were to register existing subscribers, while regulator was equally to register the new subscribers.

“While trying to register the existing subscribers, the operators outsourced SIM registration to third parties. I stand here today with every sense of responsibility to let you know that your SIM registration records are in the hands of 419 perpetators,” he said.

He further revealed that all voters’ registration details of registered voters in the country can publicly be accessed on a website of a private citizen of Nigeria.

“If you have a mobile phone connected to the Internet, go to the website www.voters.ng where every single registered voter’s card is available on the website of a private citizen.

“Rudimentary cyber criminality does not even require all of that information for the crime to happen. Now it is so terrible that all of this information is now publicly available in public domain. And that is where we are today,” said Mr. Badaru.

Victor Phikparobo Idonor, DG Cyber Security Challenge Nigeria, who also spoke at the conference, said the cyberspace is a new environment where no organisation is immune to the threats, vulnerabilities, risks and challenges that its use entails.

While noting that government agencies, the military, corporations, financial institutions, hospitals, public, private agencies and other groups collect, process, and store a great deal of confidential information on computers and transmit that data across networks to other computers, Idonor also emphasised the need for a separate law enforcement agency particularly dedicated for cyber security in Nigeria.

According to him, cyber security has gone from being a diversion for amateur hackers to a legitimate business threat. Attacks on infrastructure now represent a major concern for organisations of all sizes.

Highlighting the gravity of the effect of cyber crime in Nigeria today, Idonor noted that Nigeria loses N127 billion annually to cyber-crime, a figure which represents 0.8% of the country’s GDP, and stated that this figure will continue to grow unless we act fast.

He also cited recent reports by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) which shows that the global economy suffers losses of about $445 billion annually to all kinds of cyber crimes on the internet.

The cyber security expert believes that cyber crime is not only a threat to the private sector, but also a big threat to the government at all level as “the government is susceptible to computer hackers trying to access sensitive government records, financial fraud, and cyber terrorism, to name only a few.”

In support of the call by Shina Badaru to convert the cyber crime perpetrators in Nigeria to form a team of cyber security force in the country, Idonor stressed the need to “identify Nigeria’s next generation of cyber security professionals, connecting Nigeria’s best and brightest to the cyber security industry. Then task them with the responsibility of protecting our National Critical IT Infrastructure.”

According to him, this team will be used to raise the level of cyber security defence in the public and private sectors, deter and disrupt malicious cyber activity aimed at the Nigerian Government or its allies, and effectively respond to and assist in recovering from cyber security incidents when they occur.

The NASCAM conference attracted various stakeholders in the ICT ecosystem such as Reverend Sunday Folayan, President, Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA); Mr Emeka Mba, former DG of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC); Tunde Coker, CEO of Rack Centre Ltd, represented by Olufemi Onabowale, Command Centre and Enterprise Technology Manager; Ikem Okuhu, Publisher, Brandish; Mr Collins Onuegbu, ECV of Signal Alliance, represented by Kelechi Agu, Head IT Security, Signal Alliance; and Colonel Uche Onwunle, Director Electronic Warfare, Nigerian Army, among others.

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Success Kafoi Journalist at Technology Times Media. Mobile: 08077671673 email: success.kafoi@technologytimes.ng

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