Cybercrimes and the Laws that Govern them in Nigeria

With the coming of the age of technology and the plethora of opportunities it presented, it was inevitable that all sorts of people would be looking to take advantage of it effectiveness. As every year passes by, reports of illegal acts being perpetrated on the internet increases and unfortunately not many get the satisfaction of having justice come to their rescue as it is hard to track and identify where the act is originating from. Just some months back, Ecuador discovered that almost everybody in the country had their personal e-information hacked and put on display for anyone to access. This included employment information, home addresses, bank account numbers and more. However in recent years, more efforts have been put into creating a safer cyberspace as the hunt for the perpetrators intensifies. Earlier this year, the Federal Bureau of Investigations FBI deported and released the names of 80 people who were involved in fraudulent dealings on the internet. Recently the EFCC announced that they arrested a popular instagram figure named Ismailia Mustapha aka Mompha for engaging in internet related fraud. There are many more of such people hiding under legitimate names and phony websites trying to lure unsuspecting persons into their trap. It is in light of this situation that this article is being written.

Cybercrimes

What are Cybercrimes? It is not specifically defined by any of the laws of Nigeria, therefore, in order to get the definition we have to consider what Cyber and Crimes connote.

Cyber can be said to refer to the space that contains the internet while Crimes can be said to be illegal acts. Cybercrimes can therefore be said to illegal acts carried out with the aid of a computer for the purpose of affecting either the computer or the data contained in it or affecting a target that is independent of the computer. 

Governing Laws in Nigeria:

  1. Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention) Act, 2015 Cyber Crime Act  
  2. Criminal Code
  3. National Identity Commission Act, 2007
  4. Child Rights Act, 2003
  5. The 1999 Constitution 
  6. The Economic and Financial Crime Commission Act, 2004
  7. Advance Fee Fraud and Related Offences Act, 2006 The AFF Act etc. 

The Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention) Act 2015 did not define cybercrimes but listed out in PART 3 S.5-36 offences or acts that fall under this category. Some examples are phishing S.32, cyber stalking S.24, computer related frauds S.14, cyber terrorism S.18 and the use of fraudulent device or attached emails and websites S.36

Due to the nature of its offences, other laws and legislations can also have some effect when it comes to regulating cybercrimes. Some of which are as follows; the Criminal Code – Section 419 which deals with stealing under false pretences can come into effect. Section 418 – states that any representation made by words, writing or conduct of a matter of fact, either past or present, which representation is false in fact, and which the person making it knows to be false or does not believe to be true, is a false pretence. The Economic and Financial Crime Commission Act, 2004 has been granted the power to investigate Financial Crimes, the Coordination and Enforcement of all laws against Economic and Financial Crimes etc. Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution which talks about our Fundamental Human Rights, one of them being Right to Privacy is breached in the event of a Cyber Crime. The National Identity Commission Act 2007 etc.

It is clear that although Nigeria has, strictly speaking, only the Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention) Act 2015, there are other laws which crisscross Cyber Crime and can be understood in relation to the laws regulating it. 

Definition of Terms

  • Phishing – the criminal and fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication through e- mails or instant messaging either in the form of an email from what appears from your bank asking a user to change his or her password or reveal his or her identity so that such information can later be used to defraud the user.
  • Cyber Stalking – a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. 

Cybercrimes are dangerous because they do not only affect the victims but the society at large. It breeds mistrust and sets wrong examples as to how to utilize the power of the internet. In Nigeria, it is a growing menace which is helped by the dwindling economy and the desire to get rich quick. It is therefore paramount that as Nigeria looks to catch up with a fast evolving technological world, its citizens should be more aware of the dangers of cybercrimes by educating themselves and reporting any suspicious act to the relevant parties and the legislative is urged to create more laws regulating Cyber Crime.

Written by Usha

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