In our increasingly connected world, the digital age has brought forth numerous benefits, transforming the way we communicate, work, and access information. Nigeria, like many countries in the digital age, has equally witnessed a rapid transformation in its technological landscape. However, these rapid technological advancements have also given rise to a host of legal challenges, particularly in the realm of cybercrimes and internet regulations. As our lives become more entwined with the digital realm, it is crucial to address these challenges to ensure a safe and secure online environment. It is against this background that this piece aims to explore the unique legal landscape in Nigeria concerning cybercrimes and internet regulations and the measures taken to address these challenges.
CYBERCRIMES IN NIGERIA AND ASSOCIATED CHALLENGES
According to the Draft International Convention to Enhance Protection from Cyber Crime and Terrorism1, cybercrime refers to conduct with respect to computer systems that is classified as an offense punishable by the convention.
Although not defined under the Cybercrimes Act, cybercrime is an act that covers the entire range of crimes that involves computers, computer networks, cell phones, etc either as its target or as an instrumentality or associate.2 Therefore, it goes to say that any criminal activity perpetrated with the aid of or against such electronic equipment and on the internet is cybercrime.
One of the challenges that has permeated the digital space in Nigeria is cybercrimes. These range from a number of crimes such as identity theft, phishing, cyberstalking, advance fee fraud, etc. More disappointing and dangerous is the fact that the perpetrators not only target unsuspecting Nigerians but have also transcended their sphere of operations beyond the Nigerian borders with cases often reported of white men and women falling victim to these crimes.3
According to a report by the Guardian Newspaper on August 3, 2022, the peril of cybercrimes in Africa recorded a massive rise in the first six months of 2022, "with phishing and scams hitting 438 percent and 174 percent in Kenya and Nigeria, respectively".4 With the glowing rise in cybercrimes, one is left to wonder if there are no laws to cushion its effects as well as punish erring offenders in order to reduce its growing popularity.
It is imperative to at this point state that as part of efforts by the federal government of Nigeria to combat cybercrimes, the Cybercrimes Act, 20155 was enacted by the National Assembly to ensure an effective, unified, and comprehensive legal, regulatory and institutional framework for the prohibition, prevention, detection, prosecution, and punishment of cybercrimes in Nigeria.
The Act punishes cyber crimes such as cyber terrorism, identity theft, impersonation, phishing, spamming, cybersquatting, cyberstalking, child pornography, and related offenses, etc. Although law enforcement and anti-graft agencies have been on the prowl of these internet fraudsters with several arraignments6 and some convictions recorded, the tide is still rising with news outlets reporting cases of arrest, arrest, or convictions of these cybercriminals. While the Cybercrimes Act with its very commendable provisions has been helpful in fighting cybercrimes, it has been argued in some quarters that the implementation level is still low and that Nigeria still has a long way to go in its fight against cybercrimes.
The Cybercrimes Act not only criminalizes cybercrimes but also contains provisions for the compensation of cybercrime victims. In appropriate cases, the court may order the convict to:
- Pay the victim an amount equivalent to the loss sustained;
- Return the property to the victim or person designated by him; or
- Pay an amount equal to the value of the property, where the return of the property is impossible.7
Additionally, the order of restitution may be enforced by the victim or by the prosecutor on behalf of the victim in the same manner as a valid judgment of the court in a civil action.
A victim of cybercrime may also institute civil actions in addition to the criminal action. Such civil action includes but is not limited to defamation, invasion of privacy, negligence, breach of contract, misrepresentation, breach of confidence, damages, etc.
The digital age has brought about a host of legal challenges in Nigeria, particularly in the areas of cybercrimes and internet regulations. While the country has made significant strides in enacting relevant legislation and regulations, challenges persist in enforcement, jurisdiction, and maintaining a balance between privacy and security.
To successfully navigate these challenges, Nigeria must continue to adapt its legal framework, enhance international collaboration, and invest in cybersecurity education and awareness. By doing so, Nigeria can build a safer and more secure digital environment for its citizens and contribute to the global efforts to combat cybercrimes in the digital age.
1 See Article 1 of the Draft International Convention to Enhance Protection from Cyber Crime and Terrorism
2 Akinkunmi Akinwunmi "The Nigerian Internet Law" 2019 P. 109
3 See https://www.vanguardngr.com/2023/04/nigerian-woman-21-dupes-german-lover-n101m-in-romance-scam/ (Accessed on September 12, 2023) at 5:10 pm. See also https://punchng.com/nigerian-prevents-white-woman-from-getting-scammed-of-32000/ (Accessed on September 12, 2023) at 5:50 pm
4 https://businessday.ng/news/article/nigeria-recorded-a-174-increase-in-cybercrimes-in-six-months-heres-why-you-should-be-bothered/ (Accessed on September 13, 2023) at 2:10 pm
5 Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc) Act, 2015
6 See https://www.pressreader.com/nigeria/thisday/20160504/282278139534581 (Accessed on September 11, 2023 at 10:55 am) See also https://www.facebook.com/officialefcc/photos/a.510716818950813/2102462823109530/?type=3 (Accessed on September 11, 2023) at 10:50 am
7 See Section 49 of the Cybercrimes Act
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