Reviewing Nigeria’s Cybersecurity Act for National Development
By Inyene Ibanga
In the bid to address emerging cyber security challenges threatening Nigeria, the Federal Government announced that it has commenced work on the process of reviewing Nigeria’s Cyber Security Act.
This was made known by the minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, in a keynote address at the Security and Emergency Management Awards (SAEMA 2020) in Abuja, where he was conferred with the ‘Minister of the Year Award’ for initiatives in cyber security and the digital economy.
The minister who was represented by Mr. Emeka Okoye, director in charge of ICT in the Ministry, at the annual event organised by Emergency Digest, a subsidiary of Image Merchants Promotion Limited, noted that the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), has addressed the issue of cyber security, with focus on strengthening public confidence in the use of digital technologies and participation in the digital economy.
Speaking on “Enhancing Cybersecurity for National Development,” Pantami emphasised that the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) has set out standards and guidelines to secure and protect individuals as they navigate the digital space.
The minister therefore solicited for the contribution of stakeholders towards the successful implementation of the Digital Economy by developing the favourable environment to enable Nigerians to benefit as active players in the rapidly growing cyber security sector, which he said is currently estimated at $2.32 billion and is projected to grow to about $3.6 billion to $4.2 billion by 2023.
In a similar development, the national security adviser (NSA), Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd.), has expressed confidence that the new National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy (NCPS) 2020 for the surveillance and tracking of bandits in the North-West and insurgents in the North-East would address the spate of security challenges across different parts of the country.
Monguno stated this when he received the report of the committee set up to review the NCPS 2014 in the effort to further strengthen the cybersecurity architecture in the country by identifying and amending gaps, and collating relevant inputs from government, civil society organisations and international partners.
The NSA noted that the new policy document would also boost the country’s readiness to enter into mutually beneficial global cyber security collaborations on its cyberspace and provide the competitive edge necessary for active participation in the digital economic space.
There is no gainsaying that Nigeria is presently witnessing a surge in digital transformation. Many new activities are now migrating to the Internet, especially with the advent of the coronavirus pandemic. Consequently, Nigeria’s cyberspace has become a centre stage for new innovations, governance and social interactions.
The trend creates an opportunity for us to redefine our national objectives and address some of the major developmental challenges currently facing the country, including the emergence of new forms of criminality and terrorism perpetrated through the cyberspace.
These cyber threats are becoming more prominent every day, as even the Boko Haram insurgents/terrorists are increasingly invading the cyberspace to perpetrate their onslaught against the Nigerian state. Through the use of the Internet, these blood thirsty criminals have been receiving all forms of support from terrorist groups across the globe.
Cyber security principles are aimed at providing strategic guidance and capability on how public and private organisations can protect their systems and information from threats on the Internet, through the key activities of governing, protection and detection, when they occur.
More so, this involves the existence of effective standards and processes in organisations, which enable them and individuals to identify and manage security risks; to execute security controls in order to reduce risks; to detect and understand cyber security events and promptly respond to them; and to recover from cyber security incidents.
The government seems to understand that a proper cyber security approach needs to take different aspects of the cyberspace into account, and the efforts will therefore not only be local but also collaborate with relevant institutions around the globe and adopt international conventions such as the African Union Convention on Data Protection and Cyber Security, also known as the Malabo Convention.
Digital identity is essential to ensuring security and strengthening trust, whether in the public or private sector. While the Federal Government may be committed to harnessing the abundant digital economic opportunities available in cyberspace for national development, it should continually, in collaboration with stakeholders, finetune all necessary mechanisms put in place to mitigate the cyber risks and cyber threats that may arise.
One can understand the readiness of the Federal Government to ensure the sustainable protection and security of the nation’s active presence in cyberspace, but that can only be achieved through the implementation of a strategic approach and engagement roadmap that safeguards its digital economic interests.
Among other things, there is need for a coordinated partnerships involving the public and private sectors, multi-stakeholders’ engagements and international cooperation for addressing cyber threats to national security, which cover the economic, political and social spaces of Nigeria.
There is also the need to further increase the deployment of key public digital infrastructure, while strengthening the regulatory instruments that govern data protection and privacy by intensifying local and international collaborations.
Although cyber risks and attacks cannot be completely eliminated, relevant agencies of government must ensure the strict enforcement of compliance by organisations to share and report threats to the appropriate authorities, such as the National Information Development Technology Development Centre (NITDA)’s Computer Emergency Readiness and Response Team (CERRT) to promptly deploy necessary mitigation strategies.
Meanwhile, citizens should support the government and security agencies in the area of intelligence gathering to facilitate their efforts to deal with all forms of criminality and security threats.
Without doubt, the separate review of the National Cybersecurity Act 2015 and the National Cybersecurity Policy Strategy 2014 would go a long way in keeping Nigeria abreast of emerging forms of cyber criminality, while also bringing them up to par with current trends, international norms and practices to mitigate cyber threats.
Inyene Ibanga writes from Wuye District Abuja.