Understanding the Nigeria Cybercrime Law

By Bakwo Ademu

The development of technology has gone a long way in reducing the entire world to a global village.  People can easily communicate, transact business, access information and services even from the remote corners of the world. 

Obviously so many people have taken advantage of the accessibility brought by Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to indulge in crime.

Whenever the word “cyber” is used, it is connected with electronic communications network like internet. Indeed, cybercrime is a crime that is committed by using the internet.  

In other words, it is an offence that is committed against a person or persons, corporate organizations such as government institutions or companies with a criminal motive to harm, steal or destroy reputation, wealth or resources of the victims or cause physical or mental harm to the victims directly or indirectly, using modern telecommunication networks which is internet-based through networks using computer and mobile phones. 

Cybercrime threatens persons or a nation’s security infrastructure and financial houses. It is reported that as at April, 2018, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda, together lost $3.5 billion to cyber crooks.  This crime is international and transnational. 

On the international scale, the Group of Eight (G8) countries comprising the United States (U.S.), the United Kingdom (UK), Russia, France, Italy, Japan, Germany, and Canada  released a “Ministers’ Communiqué”  that includes an action plan and principles to combat cybercrime and protect data and systems from unauthorized impairment in the year 1997. It also enjoined that all law enforcement personnel be trained and equipped to deal with cybercrime within the group.  The body also designates all member countries to have a point of contact on a daily basis as relates to these growing offences.

In the same vein, the United Nations General Assembly, in 1990, adopted a resolution dealing with computer crime legislation and subsequently, adopted a resolution on combating the criminal misuse of IT in 2000.

Consequently, it is imperative for people to know the implications of their acts and omissions while relishing the internet, whether on the phone or computers.  This is because ignorance of the law is not an excuse.  It is imperative for Nigerian citizens to know the implications of their acts and omission while using the internet to avoid devastating consequences of cybercrime laws.  This discussion is, however, limited to the offences recognized by our laws specifically Part III, sections 5-36 of the Cybercrimes (prohibition, Prevention, etc) act, 2015 as follows:

1.Offences against Critical National Information Infrastructure

The Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) is a major asset for the nation. Its damage through being a target for terrorism or from other causes would be potentially serious. The information necessary for the operation and preservation of infrastructure in areas of Communication, Emergency Services, Energy, Finance, Health, Transport, Water, Government and Public Service, Public Safety, are considered critical and expected to be preserved and protected. Hacking and vandalism could affect and disrupt the operations of the government in these areas, thereby leading to instability. Anyone convicted of this offence is liable to imprisonment for a term of more than 10 years without an option of fine but where a bodily harm is suffered by anybody in this regard, the imprisonment is 15 years without an option of fine.

2.Unlawful Access to a Computer

When a person who without the consent of the owner, accesses  computer software, computer program, data, computer system or computer network, thereby executing a scheme to defraud, obtain money, property, or services for themselves by means of false or fraudulent manner, such commit this offence.  The motive of the access to the computer may be to destroy the information infrastructure of an institution. Anyone found guilty of this offence shall be liable to five (5) years or to a fine of not more than N5 million or to both fine and imprisonment.  But where it is commercial or industrial secret, the punishment becomes weightier of seven years imprisonment or a fine of not more than N7 million or to both fine and imprisonment.

3.Registration of Cybercafé:

To curtail the effect of unauthorized access to information aimed at perpetrating cybercrime, operators of cybercafé are expected to maintain register of users through a sign-in register.  This register shall be available to law enforcement agents for necessary check and tracking.  Carrying out cybercafé business or activities without ensuring compliance with this stipulation is dangerous and criminal.  A breach of this provision is liable to a jail term of three (3) years or fine of N2 million or both.

4.System Interference:

This is done by criminally interfering with a computer system by inputting, transmitting, damaging, deleting, deteriorating, altering, or suppressing computer data.  The two most common causes of interference are transmitters and electrical equipment. The modus operandi is that the criminals use communication systems that transmit signals to generate interference.  Through this means radio and television broadcasts are disrupted.  On conviction, whoever commits this nature of offence is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years or a fine of not more than N5 million or both.

*Ademu works in the Procurement Department of Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCDA).

To be contd. next week…

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