Growing concern over national insecurity is creating openings for computer professionals to come up with technology solutions to address the problem, writes Emma Okonji
National insecurity, ranging from cybercrime to terrorism and kidnapping, has been a source of great concern to the federal government. The government therefore doing everything within its powers to curb the menace, yet the challenge still persists, threatening lives and property, and creating financial losses for government and several organisations in the private and public sectors of the economy.
Government has even gone to the extent of seeking international collaboration to address insecurity in the country. However, technology experts under the aegis of the Nigerian Computer Society (NCS), are saying that application of basic technology tools and solutions would go a long way in combating criminal activities in the country, rather that physically chasing of suspected criminals with guns and sophisticated ammunitions.
At the recently concluded 26th National Conference of the NCS, the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, who condemned the continued rise in cyber-attacks and financial losses, said there was need to address the issue, using technology tools, in order to avert further loss of lives, property and money to criminal activists.
He said recent statistics shows that Nigeria loses about N127 billion to cybercrime yearly, but insisted there was need to reduce such huge loss, using relevant technology tools.
National security threat
Although Nigeria has identified several areas of national security threats, such as cyber -attacks, terrorism, kidnapping and hired assassination, but the federal government is yet to find a lasting solution to the challenges.
Apart from global drop in oil prices, militants in the Niger Delta region are busy vandalising oil pipes and oils facilities, a situation that has further dropped the total output of the number of barrels of oil that the country produce for export, thus loosing huge amount of money to pipeline vandalism.
The same is applicable to cyber- attacks, where Nigeria is said to be losing over N127 billion to cybercrime yearly. The issue of kidnapping for the sake of placing ransom on victims of kidnap is also rampant in the society, and these are creating great fears among Nigerians.
The height of it all, is that those involved in such unholy act, go scot free and this is so because the enabling technology to trace, monitor and track down on the perpetrators, are yet to be put in their proper perspective.
Aside all of these vices, financial leakages in the private and public sectors of the Nigerian economy, are also on the increase, where people who are entrusted with government or organisational fund, steal them with impunity and still go unpunished.
The current government of President Muhammadu Buhari, has, however, put several machineries in place to fight financial corruption in the system, but the situation persists.
Combating the challenges
The federal government is currently using the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to address financial theft in the country, while deploying the services of the military to fight insurgency in the country.
Although the efforts are yielding results slowly, technology experts are of the view that the application and use of technology solutions, will better address national insecurity in the country.
The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) experts who gathered at the recent NCS conference in Abuja, therefore advised government to consider applying technology solutions in addressing the country’s insecurity.
Shittu, who was part of the conference, with the theme ‘Information Technology for National Safety and Security,” advised the federal government to support the initiative of making broadband access available to all Nigerians and affordable rate. According to him, broadband availability would increase access to internet facilities, and this would enable Nigerians transact business, campaign, communicate, learn, interact and relax, without thinks of perpetrating crime.
The minister, however, explained that 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 violent extremism, especially among the youth,” the minister said.
Proffering solution to the challenge, Shittu said government has set up computer emergency response teams through the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
“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,” the minister said.
The minister, however said that while the country is pushing through IT to improve national safety and security, Nigeria must ensure that there is considerable value addition through local content development, which he said, would foster revenue generation for the private and public sectors, grow the IT sector, create more jobs, facilitate global competitiveness and stimulate growth for the economy.
President of NCS, Professor Adesola Aderounmu, who also spoke on the increasing rate of cybercrime in the country, said the protection of lives and property remained the major function and responsibility of any government.
“All over the world, no nation is excluded from the challenges of insecurity. Murder, armed robbery, terrorism, cultism and other crimes abound, despite the best efforts of security and law enforcement agencies,” Aderounmu said, while calling for a more proactive Information Technology (IT) led approach to combating the menace of insecurity.
He said NCS has diligently, over the past few months, canvassed the use of IT towards resolving of national safety and security in Nigeria.
The Chief Executive Officer of Teledom Group, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem raised the alarm that the country borders are porous and that Nigeria needed to install more close circuit television (CCTV) cameras on major security check points. He also called for the need to train security personnel on the proper use security gadgets.
The Director General, Delta State Innovation Hub (DS-IHUB), Chris Uwaje, said security issues should be domesticated by using data to track movements of terrorists. He called for a national information security cyber bill that would help address the issue of insecurity in the country.
According to the views of ICT experts, without safety and security, growth is impossible. They were of the view that beyond military might, financial crimes and corruption were added burden to the national security challenges that threaten the very existence and development of the nation.
The Shittu, however called on NCS to step in by offering the nation an authentic platform to explore the role of ICT in national safety and security. “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,” Adebayo said.
Some ICT experts suggested the need to 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.
The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has a different approach to national security and has called for youth engagement and diversification of the nation’s economy, in order to address the issue of cybercrime.
The aching Director General of NITDA, Dr. Vincent Olatunji, who spoke on ‘NITDA’s Activities in ICT Towards Economic Diversification,’ said over-dependence on oil has caused Nigeria great harm than good. He said Nigeria was far above countries like Korea, Singapore and China, some years back in the areas of infrastructure and national development, explaining that the countries are now far ahead of Nigeria, because they diversified their economies, using ICT.
“NITDA’s role is to develop and implement IT policies for the country that will help reposition the country for global competitiveness and we will continue to do so in order to dissuade young Nigerians from indulging in crime of any kind, which remained a major set-back to the county’s growth and development,” he said.