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Wednesday, 7 October 2015


By Emmanuel Onwubiko
No doubt the activities of cyber fraudsters have over the last two decades given Nigeria bad image globally. It got to a crescendo when crime statisticians adopted the phrase 419 to describe the crime of obtaining money by tricks. The number 419 is the section of the criminal code in Nigeria that out laws obtaining money through false pretences and fraudulent means.
There is hardly any Nigeria adult that can claim not to have encountered this internet rats who are on rampage and using different dubious techniques to hood wink unsuspecting members of the public to part with their hard earned money. It was a big relief then when in the year 2003 or so when the then Nigerian President set up the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and followed it up with the appointment of the born police state officer Mr. Nuhu Ribadu as the First Executive Chairman of the Agency. Ribadu went to work primarily to dethrone advanced fees’ Fraudsters from their diabolical thrones of destroying other people genuine business.
The proactive measures and modus operandi adopted by the then Chairman of EFCC send fears into the spines of major fraudsters just as the crack team headed by this cops made successful; raids which destroyed many evil enterprise set up by leading fraudsters who had even penetrate the political space and some of them bribed their ways to become legislators in both the sub regional and national legislature.
However, the exit of Mr. Nuhu Ribadu has left a yawning gap because of the credibility deficits of the holding forte as the leadership of EFCC. EFCC has therefore unraveled and has become mired in the widening spectra of allegations of bribery and fraudulent conversion of confiscated exhibits and cash kept in their custody.
Following the declining efficiency and effectiveness of the current hierarchy of the Efcc, the fraudsters who had taken flight whilst the Nuhu Ribadu-led board lasted, have powerfully returned back to their old ways. The resurgence of the widespread activities of the internet fraudsters made most Nigerian to clamor for the making of strict Cyber Crime Act that could be used as a tool by all law Enforcement Agencies to check the dare devilry of internet fraud kingpins in Nigeria. The immediate past Federal Administration, therefore heard the cries of worried Nigerian and decided to partner with the National Assembly which resulted in the Emergence of the year2015 Cyber Crime Act which to all intents and purposes is set to work as a unified and comprehensive legal, regulatory and institutional framework for the prohibition prevention, detection prosecution and punishment of Cyber Crimes in Nigeria.
Accordingly, the Cyber Crimes ( prohibition, prevention, etc ) Act of 2015 is put in place to also ensure the protection of critical national information infrastructure, and promotes cyber security and the protection of computer systems and networks, electronic communications, data and computer programs, intellectual property and privacy rights.
The move made successfully by the Nigerian Government to enact legislation against Cyber Crimes is in compliance with global expectations from nations to battle the rising economic damages done by the criminal activities of hackers and other cyber criminals to the national economy. Cyber security is widely becoming an important issue, so says experts. Writing under the title of “could hackers devastate the U.S economy?” Mr. Jacob Silverman said as follows: “cyber security is becoming an important issue. Many media organization and government officials rank it just as grave threat as terrorist attacks, nuclear proliferation and global warning. With so was Commercial, Government and Private systems connected to the internet, the concern fees warranted”
Putting all the prevailing factors together regarding the extensive and economic devastation unleashed by Cyber Terrorists and Criminals, the need for Nigeria to put into place a Cyber Crimes prevention law is overdue. But is doing this, there appears to be some hidden plots by officials of Government to include some obnoxious prevention that specifically target independent social media voices and writers and if these insidious and damaging potions are not eliminated and the law amended, the possibility of Nigeria evolving into a police state is not farfetched.
I will return back to the definition of the characters that makes for the police state to as to call on the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to quickly move to around the extant Cyber Crimes Prevention Act of 2015
Few weeks back, some social media communicators and bloggers were apprehended and arranged in the Lagos state High Court under this Cyber Crimes Act just for circulating opinions some big men felt was libelous or damaging to their institutional and reputational status in the society. One of the blogger spent over two weeks before public pressure compelled the judge of that Lagos state High Court to grant him bail.
The most disturbing portion of the Nigerian Cyber Crimes Prohibition, Prevention Act of 2015 is section 24 (2) (A) which provides thus; “ a person who knowingly or intentional transmit or causes the transmission of any communication through a computer system or network (a) to bully, threaten or harass another person, where such communication places another person in fear of death, violence or bodily harm to another” and (c) continuing any threat to harm property or reputation of the addresses or of other or the reputation of a deceased person or any threat to access the addresses or any other person of the a crime to extort from ant person, firm, association, or corporation, any money or other thing of value” if the accused is convicted he/she could face the following prospects; fine of #25,000,000.00 and in the case of paragraph (c) of thus subsection, to imprisonment for a term of 5 years or a minimum fine of #15,000,000.00.
Apart from the articles (b) of this subsection 2 of section 24 of the anti Cyber Crime Act of 2015 which rightly punishes severely the dastardly crime of the kidnapping for ransoms, the worry is the articles (A) and  (c) of that subsection which specifically serves as booby traps for “ rebellious” and anti-government social media communicator. These whole articles of this law offend relevant provisions of the fundamentals freedoms enshrined in chapter four of the Constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria and must be amended forthwith. Section 39 (1) of the Constitution says thus; “every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference”.
These obnoxious sections of the anti Cyber Crime Act, 2015 must be amended unless Nigeria wants to evolve into a police state.  says of police state thus, “The term "police state" was first used in Austria in 1851 to describe the creation of a national police force. Prior to that, order had been maintained at a local level and response was on a per-incident basis, as was the case in most societies. In 1865, the New England state of Massachusetts in the US, established a state police force, the first example of such in the United States.
Over time, however, as state and national police forces have become commonplace, the term has shifted. The connotation of police state now closely relates to totalitarianism, or at least extreme authoritarianism.
Dictionaries now define police state as "a state or country in which a repressive government maintains control through the police" or "a nation in which the police, especially a secret police, summarily suppresses any social, economic or political act that conflicts with governmental policy." From Merriam-Webster: "A political unit characterized by repressive governmental control of political, economic and social life usually by an arbitrary exercise of power by police and especially secret police in place of regular operation of administrative and judicial organs of the government according to publicly known procedures."

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and blogs;,

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