A Bill in Time Saves (Cyber) Crime!

Nigeria hasn’t always been in the news for the reasons her stakeholders desire but recent events have even made the bash-Nigeria-at-the-earliest-opportunity situation worse. An absent president – whose kitchen cabinet assumes that tens of millions of citizens are too resilient to react – and his namesake – who went way beyond even the wildest of criminal imaginations to put his fellow citizens in a corner they loathe – are near the top of the but-why list. Add the fact that the US-based Internet Crime Complaint Centre will soon release its popular annual Internet Crime Report which may have Nigeria retaining its #3 position after only the US and the UK, and we have a product that not even a foolhardy sales(wo)man will like to sell.

I have answered tons of questions about why we should bother about Nigeria’s position on the list since “the nations that should know better are even ahead of us in this crime”, and I’ll provide some data to support my fear. Nigeria has 11 million internet users compared to the UK’s 47 million and the US’ 228 million. If we look at the global picture, 0.63% of global internet users reside in Nigeria, compared to 2.69% in the UK and 13% in the US. Throw in the bandwidth, power, customer service and socio-economic limitations that Nigerian internet users face and you would expect Nigeria to be very far away from that unexalted position on the list. That gives everyone a reason to worry – and that includes those who are acting to curb the problem and those who have become experts at playing the blame game.

Not one to shy away from discussing my involvements, I am glad that Paradigm Initiative Nigeria has been able to forge ahead with an age-long desire to add value in this space. In partnership with Microsoft, we are implementing a social campaign that seeks to redirect the energy of young Nigerians who are involved in the shameful vice towards virtuous ideals. The project website has some updates that you should see, and you may also have heard about the ongoing effort towards using popular culture to say a word or two about the issue. One of our project ambassadors, Ohimai Amaeze, took the pop culture approach desire a step higher with the B.L.I.N.G. project. In February, Microsoft will host a series of events to present the song (which is now in its last stage of production) and video to the public. While you hold your breath in anticipation of what the collaboration between Cobhams, Banky W, Modele, MI, Omawumi, Rooftops MCs, Bez and Wordsmith will bring, just whisper: Maga no need pay!

Maga no need pay

Two other key elements of the campaign are the rehabilitation program and policy advocacy. It is a shame that Nigeria does not have any legislation that addresses the issue of cybercrime head-on. I have followed the ongoing discussions since the establishment of the Nigerian Cybercrime Working Group and got a little excited when stakeholders gathered to discuss one of the bills at the National Assembly sometime last year but discussions don’t empower any institution (where relevant ones exist, that is) to tackle challenges properly. There are at least two different bills making their way through the nation’s legislative chambers and I look forward to the day that one of them will become law that we can go to sleep knowing an efficient agency will take care of. The Cyber Security and Data Protection Agency (Establishment, etc) Bill, sponsored by Hon. Etim Bassey, is listed as HB. 154 in the House of Assembly while the Electronic Fraud Prohibition Bill, 2008 (SB. 185) has Senator Ayo Arise listed as sponsor in the Senate. More than at any other time in the history of Nigeria, now is the time for all stakeholders – government, private sector, civil society, media, academia, etc – to ask for accelerated passage of an acceptable (firm but fair) piece of legislation.

One contextual reason why a consolidated and acceptable cybercrime bill(s) needs accelerated passage is because the legislative window will close in May 2011 for another set of lawmakers to assume leadership of the assembly. Well, I trust that fresh faces will walk the hallways of the National Assembly come 2011, but I can’t deny the fact that work will slow down from April 2010. Why? Because the Anambra gubernatorial election of February 2010 will wake every intending legislator up and almost 100% of their attention will then be focused on who takes their seat – themselves, their proteges (I fear the many implications of the word god-son) or opposing parties. So, it only makes sense to galvanize action towards passage now if we don’t want the windows shut on this effort like we saw pre-2007.

This is why as part of the campaign, we will implement a 3-stage process through the first half of 2010:

  1. Online Petition: Today, we opened an online petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/9jacybil so that everyone can sign. When we are able to get 1,000 signatures (or by January 31), we will forward to the relevant institutions for appropriate action;
  2. Strategy Meeting: Paradigm Initiative Nigeria will host an appraisal meeting in March to discuss where we are at, and next steps. If by that time, legislative laziness continues, we will proceed with the appropriate option in stage 3;
  3. Protest: We will visit the National Assembly leadership to say thank you for the job well done – or to host a week-long peaceful protest within the hallowed compounds – with walk-ins, placards, free stickers for cars in the parking lot and a world press conference at the gate of the National Assembly.

If we act now, we will save our nation from this heinous crime. They say a stitch in time saves nine, and I believe a bill passed in time will save us from cyber crime.


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