Since the early 2000s, Nigerians have spent a considerable amount of time online. With the growth of digital platforms sprawling across the country, there is bound to be inevitable exposure to cybercrime activities.
Previously, cybercrime activities were regarded as either not punishable or, at the very least, a civil issue. Cybercrime thrived due to the inapplicability of criminal laws against it, which presented a challenge for victims seeking assistance. Nigeria made a strong demand for the Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention) Act, 2015 (the Act), as a result of these cybercrime abuses.
The Act serves as a line of defence for users of the internet, providing a secure environment for online activity in Nigeria. By allowing for the continued protection of victims and punishing cyber criminals who take advantage of cybercrime platforms, the Act aims to increase security in cyberspace.
This work seeks to explore the occurrence of cybercrime in Nigeria, its legal framework, and general actions to undertake to prevent becoming a victim.
Cybercrime occurrence in Nigeria
Cybercrime activities have surged globally in the past decade. Nigeria isn’t left out from these various attacks; in 2021, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ranked Nigeria 16th in the global cybercrime victims report. The alarming rate of growth in cybercrime activities in Nigeria cannot, therefore, be overemphasized.
Cybercrime comes in a variety of gimmicks and tactics. Privacy-related cybercrime is one of its main categories. Cybercrimes against privacy are offences designed to target users’ personal information or the victims’ properties in their online experience. Cybercrimes against privacy include attacks like the introduction of viruses into computer systems, hacking, copyright violations, intellectual property rights violations, computer vandalism, and others. This category of cybercrime is the most prevalent and least-implemented type of cybercrime activity in Nigeria today.
Cybercrime directed at a country’s government is another crucial type of cybercrime. The goal of this type of cybercrime is to undermine a country’s sovereignty. The threat of cybercrime against governments has gained more attention among countries worldwide, with over a billion dollars being spent to combat it.
The world’s largest spender on government-specific cyber security is the United States. Cyberterrorism, cyberwarfare, cyberattacks, cyberspying, cyberhacking of government institutions, malware infecting government platforms, etc. are a few examples of cybercrimes committed against the government.
For instance, the Australian Department of Defense’s platform was compromised in October 2022, exposing sensitive government defence data. Again, a Ukrainian newspaper published stolen information from the Russian defence ministry that same year. Russia accused the US of attacking its defence department.
Perhaps the most significant type of cybercrime occurring today is cybercrime against people. Over 60% of attacks worldwide are cybercrimes against individuals. The distribution of child pornography, credit card fraud, cyberbullying, stalking, cyberslander or libel, identity theft, retaliation pornography, human trafficking, etc. are examples of this type of cybercrime.
With romance scams and revenge pornography taking the lead in the fight against cybercrime, the rise of crimes against people online has attracted attention. The highly criticised distribution of child pornography between two minors at a Lagos school brought Nigerians face to face with the issue in July 2022. The Lagos State government condemned this distribution and warned that those who did it would face legal repercussions.
A makeup artist, Ufoma, was brutally murdered and dumped by the side of the road in September 2022 while traveling from Enugu to Imo to meet a client she had met online. These types of abuse are becoming more prevalent in today’s societies all over the world.
The Nigerian Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention) Act, 2015
The Act offers an effective legal framework for the protection of persons in Nigeria who have been abused by cybercriminals. The Act highlights a wide range of cybercrime abuse, from cyberbullying to cyberterrorism; it serves as a one-stop shop for everything related to online safety.
The Act’s provision for the regulation of cybercafés in Nigeria was one of its distinctive features. Since cybercafés have consistently been a source of funding for illicit online behaviour over the years, this legislation would put a stop to it.
According to the Act, the Attorney General of the Federation has the authority to strengthen and update Nigeria’s current cybercrime legislation. The National Security Adviser’s Office oversees and implements the Act’s requirements. Also, the Act stipulates that all law enforcement organizations are responsible for upholding its provisions.
Additionally, the Act establishes the Cybercrime Advisory Council (the Council), which is tasked with addressing and preventing problems with cyber-security. The Act aims to ensure a secure environment for all online activities, perform due diligence on cyberspace participants, improve the governance of the protection of individuals in cyberspace, safeguard each individual, government, and organization from cybercriminals’ interference, and so forth.
Other Nigerian legislation deals with cybercrime activities.
In Nigeria, there are additional laws that address cybercrime, including the Criminal Code, the Nigerian Evidence Act, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act (EFCC Act). We’ll try to investigate these laws.
- The Criminal Code: Before the 2015 Nigerian Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention) Act, victims of cybercrime used the infamous Section 419 of the Criminal Code to seek justice. Section 419 addresses obtaining property under false pretences, which is relevant to some of the tactics used by cybercriminals against their victims.
- The Evidence Act: Section 84 of the Evidence Act allows computer-generated evidence to be admitted. This law allows for the use of digital evidence in legal proceedings against online criminals.
- The EFCC Act: The EFCC is authorised by the EFCC Act to bring legal action against anyone found guilty of financial crimes. One such example is when cybercriminals steal money from victims under false pretences.
Nigeria has seen a tremendous increase in cybercrime. Nigeria loses 127 billion Naira annually to internet fraud-related offences, according to a report by Palo Alto Networks. If not checked, that number is predicted to double by the end of 2025. These various occurrences are intended to be avoided by the Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention) Act of 2015.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Yes, cybercrime prevention laws have been passed by the Commonwealth, ECOWAS, and African Union.