From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has raised alarm that the growth and development of the internet has caused a rise in the threats posed by cyber criminals, online financial fraudsters and cyber terrorists.
The Nigerian President made this observation Monday at the presidential villa, Abuja, while unveiling the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy 2021.
Noting that the development has raised apprehension in the country, President Buhari said that the country is currently at a turning point in its history, stating that Nigeria is blessed with a young and vibrant population with the potential to exploit the benefits of the Internet revolution to enhance the country’s economic progress and improve national security.
He further noted that the cyberspace is now central and indispensable to national development, hence the country is also witnessing a rapid surge in it adoption of the internet and social media for almost all aspects of its daily life.
President Buhari explained that over he past couple of years, his administration has focused its efforts on driving several Information and Communications Technology (ICT) initiatives.
He listed some of the 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 Program, Treasury Single Account (TSA) and Bank Verification Number (BVN) schemes, amongst others.
President Buhari explained that all these initiatives serve as enablers for tackling the myriad of economic and security challenges facing the country while also providing it with the platform to improve accountability and transparency in our unwavering resolve to tackle corruption.
‘However, like several other countries across the globe, the growth and development of the Internet is accompanied by significant problems,’ he added.
‘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 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.
‘Some global events such as the rapid emergence of new technologies, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the advent of 5G technology, have further widened the scope and diversification of these cyber threats.
‘In October 2020, we all witnessed an escalation in the use of the social media for dissemination of subversive messages and incitement of violence which played a part in heightening tensions, causing unrest and spurring widespread acts of looting and destruction across the country.
‘Therefore, in a bid to ensure that we effectively embrace and harness the benefits of the digital revolution while effectively combating the heightening risks of cyber threats, the federal government of Nigeria has been proactive, over the past couple of years, in taking steps to ensure progressive use of our 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 way for Nigeria to reach numerous cybersecurity milestones over the past 6 years.
‘Therefore, in order to build on this achievement and reposition ourselves for enhanced engagement in cyberspace, it became expedient to review the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy 2014 and develop a comprehensive National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy 2021 for the common good of the country.
‘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 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.
President Buhari noted that the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy 2021 signifies the rejuvenation and renewal of his promise and commitment to Nigeria’s national security and economic prosperity and it ensures that Nigeria’s National Cybersecurity Programme is prioritized among other national exigencies in my administration.
‘I, therefore, unveil the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy 2021 as the overarching policy and strategy framework for driving Nigeria’s cybersecurity efforts towards the attainment of our national objectives,’ the President declared.
He commended the efforts of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno, 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 progress.
‘I am confident that, together we can pave the path for the creation of new opportunities to usher Nigeria into a bright future driven by a prosperous cyberspace and digital economy,’ President Buhari stated.
In his remarks, Monguno noted that with the surge in digital transformation, the country’s cyberspace has become a centre stage for governance, new business innovations, communications and social interactions.
He said this trend has 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 amongst others while improving road safety and border security and enhancing ongoing anti-banditry, anti-militancy and counter-insurgency operations.
He affirmed that the ongoing rapid expansion of cyberspace, especially the Internet and social media, has widened the scope of cyber threats facing the country.
Monguno said: ‘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 threats are coupled with other risks ranging from defacement of government websites and social media platforms, to breaches of sensitive personal data and confidential government communications, as well as terrorists use of the Internet for recruitment and propaganda.
‘We have also observed a recent rise in the launch of online radio broadcasting stations by unscrupulous elements for disinformation and to incite violence and cause apprehension.
‘These issues brought to fore the dire need to develop proactive measures to enhance the security of our cyberspace.
He explained that new National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy 2021 is expected to ‘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.’