Understanding the Nigeria Cybercrime Law (2)

By Bakwo Ademu

Interception of electronic messages, email, and electronic money transfers

This provision aims to protect a person’s wire and electronic communications from being intercepted by another private individual. The law bars wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping, possession of wiretapping or electronic eavesdropping equipment, and the use or disclosure of information unlawfully obtained through wiretapping or electronic eavesdropping. To unlawfully destroy or abort electronic mails or processes through which money and valuable information is being conveyed warrants imprisonment of seven years and on a second conviction, the offender shall be liable to 14 years imprisonment.

Tampering with critical infrastructure

Any person while in employment in Government of Nigeria, private organization or financial institution who has a duty to maintain, work with or keep custody or is entrusted with critical infrastructure, electronic mails, and commits any act which he is not authorized to do by virtue of his contract of service or intentionally permits, tampers with such computer system, has committed an offence and is expected to be jailed or fined.   This offence receives weight of N2million fine or imprisonment for two years or both.

Willful misdirection of electronic messages

A willful misdirection of electronic messages is indulged in with the intention to fraudulently obtain financial gains or to obstruct the process which the message was meant to achieve.  This may be by way of interception by technical means, non-public transmissions of computer data, content, or traffic data.

In the same vein, when a false pretense is used to induce any person employed by or under the Government of the federal, state or local government of Nigeria or any person in charge of electronic devices so as to deliver any electronic messages which includes e-mail, credit and debit cards information, facsimile messages etc, without due authorization, such person is guilty of this offence..  The penalty is hree years imprisonment or a fine of N1million in consequence of this breach.

Computer- related forgery

This has to do with, alteration, input, erasure or suppression of computer data or computer programmes, to counterfeit or cause falsification of messages/documents.  In this regard, the impression is created that what has been transmitted or fed to victims were genuine information.  If found guilty of this offence, be set to receive a term not less than three years or a fine not less than N7million  or both where necessary.

 Computer-related fraud

With the advent of internet, millions of people have been swindled of their hard-earned money and property all over the world. This is done by criminals altering; erasing, inputting or suppressing data held in computer, for the purpose of conferring economic benefits on themselves or another person.

Another way of computer-related fraud is by sending, franks electronic messages, instructions, super scribes or any electronic message to misrepresents fact for which people suffer damage or loss.  Manipulating computer or other electronic payment devices with the intent to short-pay or overpay any employee of the public or private sector falls under this category of offence too.

The consequence of this crimes ranges from three to seven years imprisonment or fines from N7million to N10million or both as offences are diverse under this provision.

Theft of electronic devices

This has to do with stealing or attempting to steal information infrastructure of institutions like Automated Teller Machine (ATM) or Public Information Infrastructure Terminal. Whoever indulges in this nature of crime shall be liable on conviction to a term of three years imprisonment or a fine of N1million or both.

Unauthorized modification of computer systems, network data and system interference

Modification of any data held in any computer system or network, by altering or erasing the data/programmes held in it, thereby impairing normal operations of computer system or network concerned, is cybercrime.  Any person found guilty of this offence is liable to a conviction for a term of not more than three years or imprisonment or a fine N7million or both.

Electronic signatures

Electronic signature in respect of purchases of goods, and any other transactions shall be binding. The offence is committed by misrepresenting, forging through electronic devices another person’s signature or company mandate.  The punishment is a jail of not more than 7 years or fine of N10million or both.

 Cyber terrorism

Terrorism involves bombing, violence and terror campaign. The use of computer network system for promotion of this act falls into this category of this offence and the punishment is as contained in the Terrorism (Prevention) Act of 2011, in degrees.

 Fraudulent issuance of e-instructions

Computer or other electronic devices are used in financial institutions for posting debit and credit, issuance of electronic instructions as regards electronic debit and credit messages, confirmation of electronic fund transfer.  In the cause of this assignment, anyone who unlawfully issues false electronic or verbal messages as relates this has committed a cybercrime.  For those found guilty, the criminal responsibility for this act is seven years imprisonment.

 Refusal or negligence to report cyber threats

Consequent upon the enormity of the effect of the cybercrime on persons and economy of the nation, persons or institutions that utilized computer system or network for public or private purposes are expected to report to the National Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) Coordination Center to take necessary measure to avert the tragedy of computer network disruption.  This will help in the immediate isolation of the computer network until solution has been found.  The refusal of any person/institution to report the incident within seven clear days shall not only be liable to a denial of internet service but payment of a mandatory fine of  N2million into the coffers of the National Cyber Security Fund.

 Identity theft and impersonation

In most cases, persons engaged in the services of financial institutions commit identity theft of employers, staff, service providers and consultants, as a result of special knowledge, with the intent to steal.  They utilize the electronic signature, password of their victims to perpetrate their nefarious act.  The punishments for this act range from five to seven years imprisonment or a fine to the tune of N5million to N7million, or both, based on gravity but punishment weightier where property is appropriated.

 Child pornography and related offences

Producing, distributing or transmitting child pornography through computer system or on a computer data storage medium. Coercion, inducement, force or threats; to propose, groom or solicit, through any computer system or network, to meet a child for the purpose of engaging in sexual activities and sale of pornographic materials through the systems network are frowned at in Nigeria.   Unsolicited distribution of pornographic images to another computer warrants guilt and liability.  The punishment for these crimes ranges from one to a term not more than 15 years imprisonment and a fine from N10million to N25million.  A child or minor under this provision means a person below the age of 18.


It is the conduct of threatening, obstruction, insolent, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, annoying, or harassing a person or people through multiple e-mail messages. It might aim to confront a competitor in business aimed to scare him away from a business location through anonymous message using the computer network. It might also be in a form to bully, threaten or harass another person and communication which places another person in fear of death, violence or bodily harm.   These offences are in categories and those found guilty under this provision are liable to three to five years imprisonment or a fine of  N7million to N25million as the case may be, or, of both imprisonment and fine.


This is the act of reserving a name that will be associated with a distinct trademark on the computer network, with the aim of selling or licensing same to the highest bidder to profit from; to with, preserving a trademark or name for sale.  This has to do with those working with the institutions of government or other corporate bodies.  As simple as the offence looks, anybody caught in this act and found guilty shall be liable on conviction to a term of not more than two years in prison or a fine of not more than N5million or both.

 Racist and xenophobic offences

Distribution of racist or xenophobic material, promoting same or recruiting groups to carry out racist attack through a computer system or network is an offence.  This could also be in the form of mobilization or campaign for annihilation of a race.  This is a common sight in Africa during elections. Those found guilty of this crime are liable upon conviction to a term of five years imprisonment or a fine of not more than N10million or both.

 Conspiracy, aiding and abetting

This is a cybercrime indulged in by a group of people with concerted efforts to achieve their aim against innocent people and organizations using the cyberspace or system.  It is frowned at by the law.  This conduct thrives in the financial industry.  Those found guilty of this crime are liable upon conviction to a term of not more than seven years imprisonment.

Phishing, spamming, spreading of computer virus

Phishing is simply the theft of an identity.  It involves stealing personal information from unsuspecting users and it is also an act of fraud against the authentic, authorized businesses and financial institutions that are victimized. It has become one of the fastest growing cybercrimes in Nigeria.

Spamming is done through sending unauthorized advert with intent to disrupt the operations of a computer, be it public, private or financial institutions. While spreading of computer virus in most cases is malicious, thereby causing damage to critical information in public, private or financial institutions’ computers, other are aimed at defrauding people and agencies.

Three years imprisonment or option of fine of N3million is punishment for these offences, or both.

Importation and fabrication of e-tools

Unlawfully producing, supplying, distributing, sale of computer programmes or a component designed for the purpose of committing cybercrime. Technology installations can be used to obtain computer password, access code or similar data by which the whole or any part of a computer system or network can be reached.  Design and generation of programmes to overcome security measure in a computer system or network to commit a cybercrime are also part of the offence under this head. The offences here are diverse as well as the punishments which range from two to seven years jail or a fine of N5million to N10million, as the case might be.

*Ademu works in Procurement Department of Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA).