Cybercrime and Nigeria's external image: a critical assessment.

Author:Abdul-Rasheed, Sulaiman L.


Information and communication technology (ICT) systems are embraced in all facets of life. They are utilized virtually in all households, associations, organizations and governments. Hence, information and communication technology can be said to be an indispensable material as it appears that all human associations, organizations, institutions, governments etc., rely heavily on it to carry out their operations (Onwubiko, 2010). The deluge of the information and communication technology (ICT) system is not only for ease, efficiency and pleasure, but is also an important drive behind innovation and economic growth.

Nigeria is an exemplar of trends in telecommunications development. Nigeria witnessed a great escalation in cell phone ownership, soaring from 13,000 subscribers in 1995 to over 9 million in 2004; internet users rose from under 10,000 in 1995 to 1.7 million in 2004 (OpenNet Initiative, n.d.). The number according to NCC (2015) grew to 81, 892,840 in January 2015. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2013) unveils that:

Globally, in 2011, at least 2.3 billion people, the equivalent of more than one third of the world's total population, had access to the internet. Over 60 per cent of all internet users are in developing countries. By the year 2017, it is estimated that mobile broadband subscriptions will approach 70 per cent of the world's total population. By the year 2020, the number of networked devices will outnumber people by six to one, transforming current conceptions of the internet. In the hyper-connected world of tomorrow, it will become hard to imagine a 'computer crime', and perhaps any crime, that does not involve electronic evidence linked with internet protocol (IP) connectivity. The growth of the information society is accompanied by new and serious threats. The information and telecommunication revolution is changing the face of crime in many fundamental ways. Advances in technology have provided exciting new opportunities and benefits, but they also heighten vulnerability to crime. Cybercrime, therefore, represents an extension of the conventional criminal behaviour alongside some novel illegal activities (Dennis, 2014). This phenomenon is one of the most serious social problems in our society today. It has threatened the credibility and sabotaged the external image of the country which invariably has a greater effect on the society as a whole. Most efforts to understand cybercrime have focused on the causes of cybercrime and the nature of cybercrime in the country. Yet it is equally important to understand the effect of this crime on Nigeria's external image. Thus, this lacuna is what this paper intends to fill.

Conceptualizing Cybercrime and External image


There is no commonly agreed single definition of cybercrime. There has been controversy on the criteria been used to determine the definition of the term cybercrime or e-crime or computer crimes. Some IT experts, Criminologists, police, security analysts etc., argued that cybercrime is a crime aided by the computer, or a crime in which the computer network plays a central role. More importantly, some have faulted the tag or label of cybercrime or e-crime. For instance: Don Gotternbarn cited in Javaid (n.d: 1) argued that:

There is nothing special on the crimes that happen to involve computers. Is it possible for a crime being categorized in accordance to a tool, equipment, mechanism or means through which it was committed? If that is so, how many categories of crime would there be? How about the crime committed through using a television, automobiles, scalpel, scissors, and other tools, can we categorize each of them as individual crimes?" In arguing against this assertion, Magalla (2013: 8) contends that it is true that, we may not categorize other crimes in accordance to tools, equipment, mechanism or means through which they were committed. However, the nature and features of cybercrime clearly make the crime a unique and distinct crime and this compels the concept of these crimes being categorized as e-crimes or cybercrimes. Therefore, let cybercrime be cybercrime.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (2009) cited in House of Commons (2013) defines cybercrime as "the use of networked computers or internet technology to perpetrate crime". In the same vein, the Home Office and the SOCA-led Cyber Threat Reduction Board (TRB) also cited in House of Common (2013) defined e-crime by using a three-fold categorization:

* Pure online crimes, where a digital system is the target as well as the means of attack. These include attacks on computer systems to disrupt IT infrastructure, and stealing data over a network using malware (the purpose of the data theft is usually to enable further crime);

* Existing crimes that have been transformed in scale or form by use of the internet. The growth of the internet has allowed these crimes to be carried out on an industrial scale; and

* Use of the internet to facilitate drug dealing, people smuggling and many other 'traditional' types of crime.

These two definitions as House of Commons (2013) put it,

Recognise the transformational effect of the internet and computer systems in existing crimes. However, these definitions could be problematic for law enforcement agencies as they risk referring to all crimes whose perpetrators use the internet to organise themselves as 'e-crime' or 'cybercrime'. It is possible that this type of definition could therefore blur the distinction between crimes carried out using the internet and crimes carried out offline where the internet is used only as an accessory. Also, other aspects of cybercrime may not be covered within the definitions of cybercrime used by law enforcement agencies. The two definitions appeared to exclude the use of computers to carry out frauds which do not involve networks, the acquisition of illegal material such as child or extreme pornography and the deployment of techniques to generate forged documents. Therefore, it is imperative for organization to review the features that constituted the definitions of e-crime or cybercrime if organisations wish to attempt to define the dynamic nature of the cybercrime menace. However, cybercrime is becoming difficult to...

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