President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed concern over the rising wave of the activities of cyber criminals, which is giving his administration some concerns.
The president said yesterday at the launch of the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy 2021 in Abuja that the growth and development of the internet had caused a rise in the threats posed by cyber criminals, online financial fraudsters and cyber terrorists.
He added that like several other countries, the growth and development of the internet is accompanied by significant problems.
He said: “We are witnessing a rise in threats posed by cybercriminals, online financial fraudsters, and cyber terrorists who use the Internet to cause apprehension. We are also observing a surge in the use of the internet and social media for the propagation of hate speech, fake news and seditious messages, as well as the risks of breaches to personal information and government sensitive data. It is almost impossible to overstate the challenges.”
According to him, Nigeria is blessed with a young and vibrant population, which has the potential to exploit the benefits of the current internet revolution to enhance the nation’s economic progression and improve national security.
He stated that the country is also witnessing a rapid surge in its adoption of the internet and social media for almost all aspects of its daily life, adding that the internet or cyberspace is now central and indispensable to national development.
The president said it was because of the importance of the internet that his administration in the recent past had focused its efforts on several Information and Communications Technology (ICT)-driven initiatives.
He listed some of the ICT initiatives to include the National Broadband Plan (NBP) 2020 – 2025 launched in March 2020 to increase internet broadband penetration across Nigeria, the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy 2020-2030, the National Identity Programme, Treasury Single Account (TSA), and Bank Verification Number (BVN).
Buhari explained that all the initiatives serve as enablers for tackling economic and security challenges facing the country while also providing it with the platform to improve accountability and transparency in the unwavering resolve to tackle corruption.
According to him, the federal government has been proactive, over the past years, in taking steps to ensure progressive use of the internet and cyberspace.
“In 2014, we developed our maiden National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy to provide us with the necessary roadmap for the realisation of our national cybersecurity programme. This national effort paved the way for Nigeria to reach numerous cybersecurity milestones over the past six years,” he said.
Buhari added that the need to reposition the nation for enhanced engagement in cyberspace, informed the need to review the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy 2014 and develop a comprehensive National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy 2021.
“The National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy 2021 will provide us with the necessary platform to effectively confront the dynamic nature of threats in our cyberspace. The document will also provide the framework that would enable us to harness the efforts of our private sector, academia, and industry towards progressive economic and national development.
“To this end, the document will provide the platform for technical education, digital skills acquisition and indigenous technology production, thereby creating job opportunities for our youths and supporting our resolve to alleviate poverty and boost our economy,” he stated.
Buhari said the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy 2021 signified the rejuvenation and renewal of his promise and commitment to Nigeria’s national security and economic prosperity and it would ensure that his administration would prioritise Nigeria’s national cybersecurity programme, among other national exigencies.
He commended the efforts of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd) and his staff as well as other stakeholders for “the remarkable work in developing the document and contributions towards strengthening the development of cybersecurity in Nigeria.”
He urged the NSA to continue to coordinate the efforts of all stakeholders to ensure that Nigeria’s internet and cyberspace are used for the enhancement of national security and economic progression.
Earlier in his remarks, the NSA had said that with the surge in digital transformation, the country’s cyberspace had become a centre-stage for governance, new business innovations, communications and social interactions.
Monguno said this trend had created an opportunity for Nigeria to redefine national objectives and address some of the major developmental challenges currently facing it.
According to him, the cyber revolution also creates the nexus for the country to effectively synchronise the efforts of security and law enforcement agencies towards curbing crime, irregular migration, human trafficking, and arms proliferation among others.
It will also help to improve road safety and border security and enhance ongoing anti-banditry, anti-militancy and counter-insurgency operations.
“Our country is now confronted with increasing threats of cyber attacks on critical national infrastructure, including our telecommunications systems, banking platforms, military networks, transportation systems, national databases, and other critical assets in the country.
“Furthermore, we are witnessing a rise in the spread of fake news and hate speech over the social media, as well as propagation of seditious messages by subversive elements looking to disrupt the unity and wellbeing of the country. Some of these threats were exemplified during the recent events of October of last year.
“We are also currently seeing an escalation in online financial scams and fraud perpetrated by some nefarious individuals and groups within and outside the country which is persistently denting our international image.
“These issues brought to fore the dire need to develop proactive measures to enhance the security of our cyberspace,” he said.
Monguno said the new National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy 2021 would “address the nation’s cybersecurity challenges, boost readiness for global cybersecurity collaborations, enhance national digital economic competitiveness, improve indigenous technology development, safeguard our critical national infrastructure, and ensure the protection of our cyberspace from cyber attacks, online fraud and other related illicit activities, including fake news and hate speech.”