Cybercrooks steal N127b annually in Nigeria, says ComTech minister

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

Nigeria’s ComTech Minister, Barr Adebayo Shittu, has lamented that Nigeria loses N127 billion annually to cyber thieves, warning that if it is not addressed, it posed a great deal of threat to the national economy.

Shittu said without national safety and security, growth is national economic growth will be impossible, especially now that the economy is going the way of digital.

“National safety and security further encompasses securing the nation’s cyber space; our growing dependence on digital infrastructure introduces and poses grave threats to national security. It is quite shocking that Nigeria loses about N127 billion which is 0.08 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP), yearly to cybercrimes,” he told participants at an IT forum organised in Abuja, Nigeria’s political capital.

He said securing lives and properties is both an enabler and an imperative for growth and development, adding that threats emanate from local and global terrorism which strikes fear and shatters the much needed national peace and security. Nobody, no organisation can perform optimally under a cloud of fear, uncertainties and raised anxieties strain our economy and society, he said, adding however that the successes recorded so far in the fight against blood thirsty terrorist group, Boko Haram, was worthy of commendation.

“It is appropriate that the efforts of the armed forces and the significant achievements in the fight against Boko Haram are recognized. Though the Nigerian Army is already using some technology platforms, there may be some requiring close attention by the conference.  The Ministry is also engaging with the Nigerian Army on possible technology collaboration to tackle the activities of insurgents and other security challenges in the country.

“Beyond military might, financial crimes and corruption are added burden to the national security challenges that threaten the very existence and development of the nation. In Public finance, the electronic platforms used by the Nigerian government such as the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) have resulted in significant savings and elimination of waste in governance.

“Though great strides have been made in these areas, there is still a lot to do to secure our dear nation. Using ICT and Geographical Information System (GIS) to tackle Boko Haram, Niger Delta militancy and other security challenges with enhanced efficiency and professionalism has become a matter of paramount importance,” Shittu said.

He said many more Nigerians now have access to internet facilities, adding that the citizens now use the enormous opportunities this digital infrastructure brings to work, transact business, campaign, communicate, learn, interact and relax.

“Today, banking, commercial and other critical services are being provided online. Evidence however abounds of growing electronic fraud and threats to digital databases both private and government. In view of the critical nature of the economy and government activities, it is obvious that protection from different types of cyber and terrorist attacks is required. Software piracy, identity theft, electronic fraud, online spam, intellectual property theft and malware attacks can all lead to devastating and far reaching consequences. In addition to the activities of hackers and cyber bandits, we know cyber space is also being exploited to aid radicalisation and violent extremism, especially among the youth.

“To address emerging cyber threats, government has set up computer emergency response teams through the Office of the NSA and NITDA. Additionally, to further improve the nation’s preparedness to secure cyberspace, the Cybercrime Advisory Council has also been inaugurated. The council is expected to facilitate the implementation of the Cybercrime Act, 2015, as well as the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy.

“Essential to resolving security challenges in Nigeria is the IT imperative. Though dwindling oil revenues makes it essential to position the IT industry as a national revenue earner, it is also a security enabler. I in particular urge this gathering to view IT for national safety and security beyond a narrow focus on the usual security concerns.   We should expand the scope to see IT for national safety and security as an outstanding and indispensable revenue earner, job creator, youth developer, innovation enabler and growth stimulator. While pushing through IT to improve national safety and security, let us ensure that there is considerable value addition through local content development. This I believe will foster revenue generation for the private and public sectors, grow the IT sector, create more jobs, facilitate global competitiveness and stimulate growth in the economy.

“As at today, ICT is currently contributing up to 10 percent of Nigeria’s GDP and had created over 10 million jobs in the past 10 years. Developments in the ICT sector have provided well over $32 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) over the last 15 years. It is indeed one of the fastest growing sectors of the Nigerian economy which is the second largest ICT market in Africa.  The number of Internet subscribers in Nigeria also rose from less than one million in 2003 to over 80 million in November 2015,” he said.

The minister said however, there is still a need for accelerated ICT development to foster inclusive development and address rising youth unemployment and other developmental challenges, adding that while there have been gains in the ICT sector, a lot still needed to be done. “Attaining the Ministry’s core mandate has been through consolidating gains already made in the sector and adopting an inclusive, collaborative multi-stakeholder approach to power the sector. The Ministry is focused on ensuring this administration delivers on its promise to the citizens. Several stakeholder interactions, visits, consultations and retreat led to the development of a Roadmap for the sector and the SMART Digital Nigeria initiative.

“SMART Nigeria Initiative has received a lot of positive attention. If we are going to use IT to build a stronger, globally competitive, prosperous, job creating and investment-friendly economy, we must pay adequate attention to security. Let me suggest that we place great emphasis on local content and economic diversification. For example, data localisation and repatriation can create a significant number of jobs in the next few years, while at the same time ensuring the protection of sensitive data,” Shittu said.

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