By Kayode Adebiyi
Recently, the Nigerian Senate issued a public hearing notice inviting stakeholders and the general public to contribute to the amendment of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act 2015.
The Senate Joint Committee on ICT & Cyber Security, and National Security & Intelligence said the planned amendment of the act was to enhance the national cyber security programme in Nigeria.
It also said the move was to improve the protection of Nigeria’s cyberspace and critical national economy infrastructure in line with extant national security and digital economy strategic policy directives.
Nigeria is one of the 114 national governments that have adopted cyber security strategies and 118 that have established national Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRTs).
The Cybercrime Act was enacted in 2015 to provide an effective, unified and comprehensive legal, regulatory and institutional framework for the prohibition, prevention, detection, prosecution and punishment of cybercrimes in Nigeria.
It also ensures the protection of critical national information infrastructure and promotes cyber security and the protection of computer systems and networks, electronic communications, data and computer programmes, intellectual property and privacy rights.
Cyber security experts have pointed out that protecting critical national information infrastructure is a key component of overall national security and that a robust digital economy relies heavily on cyber security.
To underscore the importance of cyber security, in 2021, between 800 and 1,500 businesses around the world were affected by a ransom ware attack centered on U.S. information technology firm Kaseya.
The company provides software tools to IT outsourcing shops – companies that typically handle back-office work for companies too small or modestly resourced to have their IT departments.
The hackers who claimed responsibility for the breach demanded 70 million dollars to restore all the affected businesses’ data.
Cyber attackers now target critical national infrastructure such as oil pipelines, communication installations, hospitals and military facilities. Because of this, cyber security has assumed an important national security dimension.
To ensure that Nigeria wades off cyber security threats, the Federal Government, through the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) also established the Nigerian Computer Emergency Response Team (ngCERT) and the National Digital Forensic Laboratory.
ONSA also launched and is implementing the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy (NCPS), especially in the area of developing a protection plan for Critical National Assets and Infrastructure (CNAI).
There is also the activation of the Cybercrime Advisory Council (CAC), which the National Security Adviser, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, chairs.
ONSA also organised sensitisation workshops across seven sectors to provide information, strengthen cybersecurity governance and coordination and build the capacity of relevant stakeholders on their responsibilities under the NCPS.
The sectors are telecommunications, defence and security, education, finance and capital market, energy, professional organisations, the private sector and judiciary.
Mr Jude Olabori, cyber security expert, said tapping Nigeria’s digital economic potential depends greatly on cyber security, which itself relies on collaboration and support.
“Section 41(2b) provides for conformity of the Nigerian cybercrime and cybersecurity laws and policies with regional as well as international standards.
“The objective is to support and be part of international cooperation in addressing the menace of cybercrime.”
He said considering the cross-border nature of cyber security threats, there is a need for synergy and effective collaboration with the international community to tackle the ever-increasing challenge.
The Nigerian government seems to be heeding that call for cooperation, as it achieved a milestone in cyber security and the fight against cybercrime by its accession to the Convention on Cybercrime in 2022 to enhance international cooperation.
The country has also actively participated in the development of the framework for responsible state behaviour in cyberspace through the UN Open Ended Working Group.
It is currently coordinating the Nigerian participation at the UN Adhoc Committee for the Development of Convention on Cybercrime.
ONSA anchored the first bilateral conversation on cyber security with the UK Government Departments as part of the Security and Defence Partnership.
In 2021, Nigeria facilitated the implementation of the Commonwealth Cyber Declaration with an ongoing effort in Critical National Information Infrastructure (CNII) protection, strategic communications, training on digital forensics, and development of tool kits for small and medium enterprises.
Stakeholders say the five pillars of the Strategic Agenda (2023-2027) of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy will only achieve the aim of boosting Nigeria’s economic growth if they are founded on adequate cyber security.
“The five pillars Dr Bosun Tijani wants to build the digital economy on are Knowledge; Policy; Infrastructure; Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Capital; and Trade.
“He has said he wants the ministry to emerge as a reputable public sector ecosystem that would enable Nigeria’s economic growth through enhanced productivity, facilitated by technological innovation.
“I can tell you that none of those pillars stands a chance in the absence of a strong and ever-evolving national cyber security,” Mr Charles Oluma, cyber security expert, said.
A 2020 Brief by the UNCDF put the economic cost of information and technology asset security breaches in 2020 at a staggering $4-6 trillion, an equivalent to about 4-6 per cent of global GDP.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda underscores the need to harness technology for socio-economic advancement.
To achieve that goal, experts say Nigeria must first tackle the challenge of increasingly becoming a focal point for cyber threats.
Indeed, a recent global study by Surfshark, an Amsterdam-based cyber security firm, ranked Nigeria as the 32nd most breached country in the first quarter of 2023.
Another report by Kaspersky indicated that Nigeria faced the second-highest number of cyber attacks in Africa and ranked 50th globally for online threats.
One estimate puts the global digital economy at over $11.5 trillion, or 15.5 per cent of global GDP.
The World Bank also said the sector has grown 2.5 times faster over the previous ten years than the GDP of the physical world.
However, as growth is experienced in the digital economy so is the cost of cybercrime, which has been projected to hit an annual $10.5 trillion by 2025, according to Cyber security Ventures.
Some experts commend the level of policy and legislative attention ONSA and the National Assembly are giving to the issue of cyber security.
They, however, warn that Nigeria’s journey towards maturity and competitiveness through the development of a digital economy based on the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy depends largely on progress in cyber security.
After all the vision of the NCPS is “a safe, secured, vibrant, resilient and trusted community that provides opportunities for its citizenry, safeguards national assets and interests, promotes peaceful interactions and proactive engagement in cyberspace for national prosperity.” (NANFeatures)